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26 posts from March 2011

03/30/2011

~ Kitchen Encounters/WHVL Video Segment #19: Jesse's E-Z Spatini Lasagna (& Mrs. DiCindio) ~

6a0120a8551282970b0162ff5a0b7c970d-800wiYesterday I posted my recipe for ~ Jesse's E-Z Spatini Lasagan (& Mrs. Dicindio) ~.  You can find the detailed recipe, with all of my step-by-step directions and photos in Categories 3, 12, 14, 19, 20 or 22!

If you'd like to watch my Kitchen Encounters TV segment, just click on the following link:

Jesse's E-Z Spatini Lasagna ( & Mrs. DiCindio)

To watch all of my other Kitchen Encounters/WHVL-TV cooking segments, go to the listing found on the left side of the home page of this blog, and, click on the blue title of any one, or:

Tune in to WHVL-TV's Centre of It All Show, which airs every Sunday morning at 11:30AM on local Comcast channel 14!

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"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary, Photo & Video courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2011)

03/29/2011

~ Jesse's E-Z Spatini Lasagna (A Short Video/Slideshow, 01:00) ~

PICT0822 Well, it took a little doin', but, as promised, I FINALLY got my ~ Jesse's E-Z Lasagna ~ post out today!  For such an easy recipe to prepare, there were a lot of pictures to edit, not to mention, the day-to-day running of Melanie's Kitchen, which got a little crazy yesterday and today!

To view a short video/slideshow:

Download Jesse's E-Z Spatini Lasagna-Medium

To read the recipe with all of its step-by-step instructions and photographs, click into Categories 3, 12, 14, 19, 20 or 22 of this blog!

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary, Photos and Video courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2011)

~ Jesse's E-Z Spatini Lasagna (& Mrs. DiCindio) ~

PICT1019I don't know how many lasagna recipes one household is supposed to have, but I make four different kinds with four different sauces, and, yes, even homemade crespelle or pasta: Bolognese, Seafood, Vegetable and this really easy one!  I developed this recipe for my son Jesse when he was a law student at The University of Pittsburgh.  As with most college students, they eat at fast-food joints a lot, but, living in an apartment, Jess did occasionally cook for himself, because he did and still does like to cook.  His kitchen was tiny but mighty, meaning: mom equipped him with utensils and essentials like a cast-iron skillet, 3-quart casserole and a few Sabatier knives.  He would often call me on his "downtime" for quick "how to" directions about whatever ingredients he had picked up at the market.  I often found myself thinking about recipes to suggest to him for "good food fast". This is one of those recipes:

PICT1016Jesse liked lasagna, but did not care for renditions containing ricotta cheese.  I knew that Spatini spaghetti sauce mix was a staple in his pantry, and to this day it is one of his favorite culinary time-savers. Armed with this information I went to work on a special lasagna recipe just for him... one that he could quickly and easily put together.  The meat sauce recipe, using the Spatini, came out absolutely delicious, and from start to finish took less than 45 minutes to make. I originally used a combination of extra-lean ground beef and sweet sausage, because Jess likes both, but when I switched to ground sirloin and sweet sausage, the texture and consistency was just perfect!  

PICT0814As for the cheese, ricotta was obviously a "no no", so I decided to layer his lasagna with the same four cheeses I always put on my homemade four-cheese, Sicilian-style pizza:  Cooper CV sharp cheese, provolone, mozzarella and Parmigiano-Reggiano.  So far, so good, but I knew the noodles were going to be problematic.  Jesse probably would not want to take the time to cook noodles and I REALLY don't like the "no-boil"-type, which seemed my only alternative.  Luckily, that predicament got solved for me:   One evening, while watching Chef Emeril Lagasse (on The Food Network) prepare his lasagna without cooking the noodles (using conventional lasagna noodles, not the "no-boil" kind), I felt like the weight of the lasagna world just might be lifted from my shoulders.. and it was, because it worked perfectly!

PICT5132When it came time for Jesse's law school graduation, I prepared and froze four lasagne (lasagne being the plural of lasagna), unbaked, meaning I assembled them and froze them without cooking them.   We transported them to Pittsburgh in the trunk of our car, where the lasagna thawed themselves out during the three-hour drive and the two-hour graduation ceremony.  We baked all of them in his apartment oven afterwards.  It turned out to be a most memorable graduation party, with all of the graduates and family attending eating lasagna well into the wee hours of the morning. Nowadays, I almost always have two unbaked  E-Z Spatini lasagne in my freezer!

Because freezing this lasagna works so well, I always make two, and that is how this recipe is written:  to make two.  I'm here to tell you that in about one hour, you can have two lasagnas ready for the oven, the freezer, or both.  Now what's not to like about that!  I'm also here to tell you that if you don't live in a part of the country where Spatini spaghetti sauce mix is readily available, you can subsitute another brand, or:  omit it entirely and prepare the recipe using six cups of your favorite homemade or store-bought spaghetti sauce!

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6  tablespoons olive oil

1 1/2  pounds diced yellow or sweet onion

4  large, minced garlic cloves,  about 2 tablespoons

1  pound white button mushroom caps, thinly sliced or chopped (optional)

6  packets Spatini spaghetti sauce mix (2, 2.4-ounce boxes) (Note:  If you don't have or don't use Spatini, it can be omitted.  See my "underlined"  substitution instructions below.)

6  pounds ground sirloin (95% fat free)

1 1/2-2  pounds sweet Italian sausage, casings removed

2  28-ounce cans crushed tomatoes, or, if you don't have or don't use Spatini, substitute 6 cups of your favorite spaghetti sauce, homemade or store-bought

1/2  cup port wine (a sweet fortified red wine)

1  pound box ruffled-edge lasagna noodles, uncooked

1-1 1/2  pounds thinly-sliced Cooper CV sharp cheese, or white American cheese

1-1 1/2  pounds thinly-sliced provolone cheese

1-1 1/2  pounds thinly-sliced mozzarella cheese

1 1/2-2  cups finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

2  tablespoons Italian seasoning blend, or dried oregano

no-stick cooking spray

PICT0700A bit about Cooper CV cheese: This rectangular-shaped cheese is almost identical to square-shaped white American cheese, but it has a delightful sharp tang to its flavor.  I, personally, think it melts creamier too.  We here in the Northeast often use it in place of American cheese.

Note:  I do not like to use grated cheese when I make lasagna, mostly because sliced cheese eliminates airspace that grated cheese creates, which makes for a prettier lasagna.  Because the thickness of the cheese does matter, ask your deli-person to, "please slice the cheese as thinly as possible, without the slices breaking or crumbling, and, stack the slices neatly".  If the cheeses are sliced too thick, you will have a mess in your oven when the lasagna cooks!

PICT0718 ~ Step 1.  Place the olive oil in a 14" chef's pan or an 8-quart stockpot. Prep the onion, garlic and optional mushrooms as directed, placing them in the pan as you work.  

Place over low heat for 1-2 minutes, stirring constantly.  Increase the heat to saute, stirring frequently, until the onion softens, about 8-10 minutes, or, if using the optional mushrooms, about 14-16 minutes, until the mushrooms have lost almost all of their moisture.  If you are using an 8-quart stockpot, this process will take a little longer (which I why a recommend a wide-bottomed chef's pan).

PICT0724 ~ Step 2.  Stir in 4 packets of the Spatini and continue to saute for about 30-60 seconds.  The mixture will be thick and pasty, as well as red.

Note:  If you are using bottle sauce, omit this step.

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~ Step 3.  Add the ground sirloin and the sausage.  Cook mixture over medium-high heat, stirring frequently with a large spoon or spatula, breaking up the meat into small bits and pieces, until the meat has lost its red color, is steamed through and almost no moisture remains in the bottom of the pan, about 25-35 minutes.  Once again, this will take a little longer if you are using an 8-quart stockpot.

PICT0744 ~ Step 4.  Add and thoroughly stir in the crushed tomatoes, the remaining two packets of spatini and the wine.  If you are not using Spatini and are adding bottled sauce, stir it and the wine in.

Adjust the heat to a gentle, steady simmer, partially cover and continue to cook, until the mixture thickens and reduces slightly, about 30 minutes.

PICT0758 The meat sauce (which is also a great meat sauce for  is spaghetti... kids just love it) is technically ready to use.  That being said, I like to remove the pan from the heat, cover it and let it rest for about 30-60 minutes prior to assembling the lasagna, to give the flavors time to marry.  On occasion, I even prepare the meat sauce a day in advance and reheat it when I am ready to assemble the lasagna.  Reheating the refrigerated sause is a must.  

Note:  It is important to have the sauce warm when assembling the lasagna.  Besides making it easier to spread, it helps to pre-soften the noodles before the lasagna goes into the oven.

~ Step 5.  Assembly.  As I stated above, this recipe is written to make two lasagne.  The following pictures of the assembly process only picture one. Just place two, 13" x 9" x 2" casserole dishes side-by-side and assemble them both, simultaneously, as directed below:

PICT0764 Spoon a thin but even layer of meat sauce in bottom of casserole dish.

 

 

 

PICT0768 Arrange lasagna noodles, side by side, over the sauce.  Four noodles will fit lengthwise.  Break one noodle to fit in the remaining space.

 

 

PICT0771 Arrange a layer of Cooper CV cheese slices over the noodles.

 

 

 

PICT0776 Arrange a layer of provolone slices over the CV.

 

 

 

PICT0777 Arrange a layer of mozzarella slices over the provolone.

 

 

 

PICT0782 Spoon another layer of meat sauce over the cheeses.

 

 

 

PICT0784 Sprinkle/grate Parmigianno-Reggiano over meat sauce.

 

 

 

PICT0787 Arrange a second layer of lasagna noodles in the dish and repeat the above process (a second layer of cheeses, a third layer of meat sauce and a sprinkling of Parmigiano-Reggiano).  Sprinkle Italian seasoning blend over all.

 

PICT0795 The lasagna/lasagne are now ready for the oven or the freezer, or: they can be refrigerated overnight, returned to room temperature and baked the next day.

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~ Step 6.  Cover lasagna with a piece of aluminum foil that has been sprayed with no-stick cooking spray.  Place the foil, sprayed side down, over lasagna and cover tightly.

Bake on center rack of preheated 350 degree oven 45 minutes. Remove foil and continue to bake an additional 35-45 minutes, or until browned and bubbly.  Replace the foil at any time if necessary.  

Remove from oven and rest, about 30-60 minutes prior to slicing and serving... 30 minutes if you want to eat your lasagna at that "ooey-gooey" stage, or, 60 minutes if you want nicer, neater slices and a more refined presentation.  The picture at the very top of this page is lasagna after a 30 minute rest.  The following picture is lasagna after a 60 minute rest:

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Who is Mrs. DiCindio?

In 1974, for my bridal shower, I was given a 13" x 9" x 2" Pyrex baking pan, a metal spatula and a three-page handwritten recipe for lasagna from my girlfriend's grandmother, Mrs. DiCindio. One week after our wedding and getting settled into our new apartment, it was time for me to entertain my parents and in-laws.  Mrs. DiCindio's lasagna marked two milestones in my life:  the first time I ever entertained dinner guests and the first time I ever made lasagna.  I also learned something very important:  You can never provide too many instructions when writing a recipe. Mrs. DiCindio took a lot of time to write detailed instructions down for me.  This prideful, loving woman was intent on making certain that her recipe would be successful, meaning:  it would work for whoever was cooking it... a new bride or an accomplished cook.  Mrs. DiCindio's recipe worked perfectly and tasted wonderful.  Mrs. DiCindio, wherever you are, thank-you for setting the standard by which I write each and every one of my recipes:  with love and lots of details!!!  

Jesse's E-Z Spatini Lasagna:  Recipe yields 2 lasagne with 8-12 servings each.

Special Equipment List:  cutting board; chef's knife; 14" chef's pan w/straight, deep sides & lid, or 8-quart stockpot; large spoon or spatula; 2, 13" x 9" x 2" casserole dishes; aluminum foil

Cook's Note:  To freeze leftovers, refrigerate whatever is leftover overnight.  Slice into portions, wrap in plastic wrap and freeze.  Thaw each portion completely and reheat in the microwave:

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"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2011) 

03/25/2011

~ Culinary Q&A & Kitchen Therapy Too (3/25/11) ~

Culinary Q & A #2 What fun we had here at Kitchen Encounters this week, which we are now affectionately referring to as: Pizza Week.  Over the course of three days we made and posted Preschutti Pizza Sauce, Preschutti Pizza Crust and our favorite Preschutti Pizza Toppings!

You can find the recipe for all three in Categories 2, 5, 8, 12 & 19.

To view a short video/slideshow of each one:

Download Preschutti Pizza Sauce-Medium

Download Preschutti Pizza Crust-Medium

Download Preschutti Pizza Toppings-Medium

PICT0383 This morning, Melanie's Kitchen shot it's 5th cooking segment for WHVL's Centre of it All Show.  I made my ~ "Hail Caesar" Roasted Chicken Caesar Salad a la Mel ~.  This wonderful salad just added to our Pizza Week festivities, because pizza and Caesar salad pair perfectly together. The camera crew, Jeanne, Joe and myself all enjoyed the salad and the leftover pizzas for lunch after the shoot!  You can find the Caesar salad recipe in Categories 2, 3, & 19, or, to view a short video/slideshow:

Download %22Hail Caesar%22 Roasted Chicken Salad a la Mel-Medium

This current Kitchen Encounters w/Melanie Preschutti segment will air on WHVL's The Center of it All Show (channel 235) on Sunday April 3rd and Sunday April 10th at 11:30AM!

Kitchen Encounters also received a request to post a recipe from one of my Facebook friends, who sent me a personal message:

Q. Terrance asks:  Hey Mel.  I was on your blog looking for your lasagna recipe but I could not find it.  Could you please direct me to it?  I loved it so.  I also loved that salad dressing too.  Can I get that recipe too?

A.  Kitchen Encounters:  Terrance, this is your lucky week/weekend.  As I said above, I just finished the recipe for the Caesar salad and the Caesar Dressing, so, you can get that one immediately. I am planning to make the lasagna I served the night you and James were here on Sunday, so, you can plan on me getting it posted for you sometime on Monday evening or Tuesday morning.  Great to hear from you again and come back for a visit soon!

Enjoy your weekend everyone, and once again:  To leave a comment or ask a question, simply click on the blue title of any post, scroll to the end of it and type away!

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Photos, Commentary and Video/Slideshows courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2011)

03/23/2011

~ Preschutti Pizza, Part III: Our Favorite 4 Toppings (A Short Video/Slideshow, 00:50) ~

PICT0623 Well, here is is, the last of the Preschutti Pizza trilogy.  We've spend the past three days here at Kitchen Encounters blogging my recipe for Sicilian-Style Pizza. Monday we made pizza sauce, Tuesday we made pizza crust, and today's post is focused on our family's favorite toppings!

To view a short video/slideshow on how we Preschutti's top our favorite Sicilian-style pizza:

Download Preschutti Pizza Toppings-Medium

To read the recipe:  ~ Preschutti Pizza, Part III:  Our Favorite 4 Toppings ~, can be found in Categories 2, 12 & 19.

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary, Photo and Video courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2011)

~ Preschutti Pizza, Part III: Our Favorite 4 Toppings ~

PICT0676 Welcome to Part III of Kitchen Enoucnter's first mini-series:  a three-part post, which has been posted over the last three days and is about my family's love for perfect pizza!  On Monday we made pizza sauce, on Tuesday we made pizza crust and today we are concentrating on toppings!

Over the years, I could not begin to count the number of times Joe and I have hosted pizza parties for our family and friends, or the friends of our sons.  Each of "my guys" has a favorite topping or topping combination, and if he is present at the party, he will have a pizza made just for him, but:  in all cases, made-to-order pizza in my house always starts with my Sicilian-Style Four-Cheese pizza recipe.  As it goes, in our family we also have a pepperoni lover, as well as a lover of the sausage, mushroom and onion combination.  Then, about 5-6 years ago while making pizzas, I asked myself, "if you could put anything on a pizza that was made just for you, what would you choose?"  I thought about it a bit and that day, my Rosemary-White "Ladies" Pizza was born.  Since I am always present at my pizza parties, I now always make one without exception and:  all of the ladies just love it!

As I've said in the two prior pizza posts, we take pizza seriously in our family and I just can't finish off pizza week at Kitchen Encounters without sharing my Family's "funnist" pizza story. About 33 years ago, when my son Jess was about 1 1/2-2 years old, I was making pizza for dinner.  Jesse was a really bright child, but he was still speaking in words, not sentences.  Pizza was no stranger to him or his older brothers and I admit to taking full advantage of the then newly opened Dominos Pizza in State College.  Well on this particular night I took two of my freshly-baked, rectangular-shaped, Sicilian-Style, four-cheese pizzas out of our oven.  I placed them on the table, around which all of "my guys" were seated with Jess in his booster seat next to me.  Joe was just about to cut into the first pizza when Jesse spoke his very first sentence. Loudly, clearly and eloquently he asked: "Is this pizza from earth?"  The crowd went wild!

As I've also previously said, I made the decision to post pizza in three parts, because in reality it is indeed three recipes and I want you to gain an appreciation for each one of them.  You can surely make one or two parts without the other(s), to use as you choose, but I highly recommend that you make all three all at the same time and make a couple of my Sicilian pizza pies before you do!  To read the other two parts of this post, go to:

~ Preschutti Pizza, Part I:  Our Favorite Sauce ~, found in Categories 8, 12 & 22, along with;

~ Preschutti Pizza, Part II:  Our Favorite Crust ~, found in Categories 5 & 12.

PICT0689Pictured above are all of the ingredients for all four of the four pizzas we are topping today, with the exception of sausage, mushrooms and onions which I'll give you instructions for making next.  Heres a listing of what I use:

3  cups Preschutti Pizza Sauce

4  tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

40  slices Cooper CV sharp cheese, or white American cheese

1 1/2  pounds grated provolone cheese

1 1/2 pounds grated mozzarella cheese

1  cup finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

dried spices:  cracked black pepper, garlic powder, Italian seasoning blend, red pepper flakes, rosemary leaves

30 thin slices of pepperoni, about 3-4 ounces

8-10 small, vine-ripened, Campari tomatoes, about 1 pound, or Roma tomatoes

PICT0700A bit about Cooper CV sharp cheese:  If you live near or in Amish country, the northeastern United States, or more specifically in the Lehigh Valley of Pennsylvania, you probably grew up like I did, eating Cooper CV instead of white American cheese.  It is very much like American cheese, although it melts creamier and its flavor has a delightful sharp tang to it.  In Melanie's Pennsylvania Kitchen, my refrigerator is never without a pound or two of it!

When it comes to pizza making, most people don't think about using CV or American cheese, but I am here to reveal to you:  this is my secret ingredient!  Politely ask your deli-person to: "slice it as thin as possible, without the slices breaking or crumbling, and, please stack it neatly!"

PICT0518If you plan to make the sausage, mushroom and onion topping, remember to:  MAKE IT BEFORE YOU MAKE YOUR CRUSTS, as it needs to cool to room temperature before topping your pizza.  You'll need:

4  tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1/2  pound sweet or hot sausage

1/2  pound sliced white button mushrooms

4  ounces chopped yellow or sweet onion

1/2 teaspoon each:   garlic powder, sea salt and cracked black pepper

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Remove and discard the casings from the sausage.  Prep and place all of the ingredients in a 12", preferably nonstick, skillet as you work.  Adjust heat to medium-high and saute for 12-15 minutes.  Using a spatula, stirring constantly, break sausage and mushrooms into small pieces as they cook.

Transfer the golden brown mixture to a paper towel lined plate and set aside to cool completely.

PICT0573 Prepare the pizza crusts as directed in my recipe for ~ Preschutti Pizza, Part II:  Our Favorite Crust ~.  

As directed, pat and press the dough into four 13" x 9" baking pans and brush the top of each one with olive oil.  

It is now time to top and bake the pizzas:

PICT0578 ~ Step 1.  On each crust, place 10 slices of Cooper CV cheese.

Note:  Each pizza is going to yield 10 slices, so imagine each piece of CV to be a slice of pizza!

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~ Step 2.  Spoon and spread 1 cup of pizza sauce over the cheese on THREE of the pizzas, leaving the fourth one without sauce.  

Note:  The fourth pizza is going to be my Rosemary-White "Ladies Pizza" and white pizza does not contain sauce.

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~ Step 3.  On the fourth pizza (the one without the sauce) sprinkle a light coating of garlic powder, rosemary leaves and red pepper flakes.

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~ Step 4.  Evenly distribute the grated provolone and mozzarella cheeses over all four of the crusts.

On ONE of the crusts that contains pizza sauce, sprinkle 1/4 cup of Parmigianno-Reggiano, followed by Italian seasoning blend and red pepper flakes.

Note:  This first pizza is now fully-topped and I refer to it as my plain, Four-Cheese, Sicilian-Style Pizza!

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~ Step 5.  On one of the two remaining pizzas that contain sauce, place the pepperoni slices.

Note:  Remember how I told you to imagine each slice of Cooper CV to be a slice of pizza?  Well, I like to arrange 3 slices of pepperoni on top of each slice of CV.  You will thank my when it comes time to cut the pizza... each slice will have 3 pretty pieces of pepperoni on it!

On top of this pizza, sprinkle 1/4 cup of Parmigiano-Reggiano, Italian seasoning blend and cracked black pepper.  The pepperoni pizza is now fully-topped and ready to be baked!

PICT0597 ~ Step 6.  On the last pizza containing sauce, distribute the cooled sausage, mushroom and onion mixture.

Sprinkle 1/4 cup of Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese over the top, followed by a sprinkling of Italian seasoning blend and some red pepper flakes.  The sausage, mushroom and onion pizza is now fully-topped and ready to be baked!

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~ Step 7.  Slice the Campari tomatoes into 1/4"-thick rounds, discarding the core-end slice.

On the fourth pizza, or the white pizza, arrange the tomato slices, just how the pepperoni was arranged, three slices of tomato per slice of pizza.  Again, you can thank me when it comes time to slice the pizza... three slices of succulent tomato on each slice of pizza!

 ~ Step 8.PICT0603  Bake the pizzas, one or two at a time on center rack of preheated 350 degree oven for 16-18 minutes. If you are baking them two at a time, make sure they are both on the center rack together.  I prefer to take my time and bake my pizzas one at a time...

PICT0604 ... Slip a metal spatula under one corner/end of the baking pizza and slide the pizza off the pan onto the oven rack.  If pizza does not slide off the pan easily, cook it for another minute or so. Continue to bake, 4-6 minutes, or until the bottom of the crust is a very light golden brown...

PICT0606 ... Using the same metal spatula, slide the pizza from the oven rack onto a cooling rack.  Set the pizza aside and let it cool about 10-15 minutes prior to slicing and serving. Continue this process until all pizzas are baked and sliced!

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#1)  Sicilian-Style, Four-Cheese!

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#2) Sicilian-Style, Four-Cheese w/Pepperoni!

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#3) Sicilian-Style, Four-Cheese w/Sausage, Mushrooms & Onions!

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#4) Mel's Rosemary-White, Sicilian-Style, "Ladies" Pizza!

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Preschutti Pizza, Part III:  Our Favorite 4 Toppings:  Recipe yields 4 pizzas w/10 slices each.

Special Equipment List:  4, 13" x 9" baking pans; cheese grater; cutting board; chef's knife; 12" skillet, preferably nonstick; large spoon; large metal spatula; 2-4, 13" x 9" cooling racks; pizza cutter

Cook's Note:  I have really great news for you!  These pizzas can be prebaked and frozen! Yep... prebaked and frozen!  Here is how you do it:  Skip the step where you slide the pizza from the pan onto the oven rack and slide it onto the cooling rack.  Cool completely.  Wrap in plastic wrap.  Refrigerate several hours or overnight.  Freeze.  Remove from freezer and thaw completely.  Place pizza on center rack of preheated 350 degree oven and bake for 4-6 minutes.

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2011) 

03/22/2011

~ Preschutti Pizza, Part II: Our Favorite Crust (A Short Video/Slideshow, 01:04 ) ~

PICT0650 It is day two of Pizza Week here at Kitchen Encounters and Melanie's Kitchen just posted (as promised) the recipe for my traditional, rectangular-shaped, thick-crust, Sicilian-style pizza crust!

To view a short video slideshow:

Download Preschutti Pizza Crust-Medium

To read the recipe w/step-by-step directions and photographs: ~ Preschutti Pizza, Part II:  Our Favorite Crust ~, can be found in Categories 5  & 12!

Tune in tomorrow for part three of this three-part post, Our Favorite Toppings, when we'll top 'em and bake 'em!

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary, Photo & Video courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2010) 

~ Preschutti Pizza, Part II: Our Favorite Crust ~

PICT0650 Welcome to part two of Kitchen Encounters first mini-series:  a three-part post, posted over three days (yesterday, today and tomorrow), about my family's love for perfect pizza!  Yesterday we made Our Favorite Preschutti Pizza Sauce, and today we area going to make Our Favorite Preschutti Pizza Crust.  Tomorrow we'll be concentrating on toppings!

Memories of our Happy Valley homes, our last one on Belmont Circle and our present one on Gaylord Lane, will doubtlessly include Friday night get-togethers at our rec room bar(s), both affectionately referred to as:  "The Preschutti Bar & Grille".  Over the years, we have acquired a regular clientele of close-knit friends (& family) who gather on an occasional basis, usually on Friday nights, for the "House Pizza & Caesar Salad".  Wide-ranging topics of conversation, unrepeatable at times, solve the immediate problems of our guests, ourselves and in extreme cases, the world.  Our "regulars" are always in the mood for homemade "pizza & Caesar", and for the most part, they can be called into and are ready for action at a moment's notice.  Their names have not been changed to protect the guilty, but, as it goes, what happens in The Preschutti Bar & Grille stays in The Preschutti Bar & Grille.

As I said yesterday, a great pizza crust and a great pizza sauce go hand-in-hand, and in our house, one without the other is just not acceptable.  Yesterday I made my pizza sauce (because you should always prepare your sauce before your crust) and today I'm making my unique Sicilian-style pizza crust.  Sicilian-style pizza is traditionally rectangular in shape.  It is a thick-crust pizza that is crispy on the outside and chewy in the center.  I refer to my crust as unique for one reason:  while it is quite popular, you won't find many home cooks who know enough about it to successfully make it.  It had its origin in Palermo, Sicily, and unlike Neapolitan pizza, it is typically square, and as I said above, it is a thick-crust pizza.  It is topped with a hearty, full-flavored, stovetop-simmered sauce and topped with lots of cheese(s).  Toppings often include pecorino cheese and bits of anchovies, but those are not requirements.  In the United States, Sicilian pizza crust is sometimes over an inch thick and foccacia-like, which is a bastardization of the traditional recipe and I won't be showing you how to make that today.

As I also said yesterday, I made the decision to post this pizza recipe in three parts, because in reality it is indeed three recipes and I want you to gain an appreciation for each one of them. You can surely make one or two parts without the other(s), to use as you choose, but I highly recommend that you make all three all at the same time and make a couple of my Sicilian pizza pies before you do!  To read the other two parts of this post, go to:

~ Preschutti Pizza, Part I:  Our Favorite Sauce ~, found in Categories 8, 12 & 22, along with;

~ Preschutti Pizza, Part III:  Our Favorite 4 Toppings ~, also found in Categories 2, 12 & 19.

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9  cups unbleached, all-purpose flour (2 3/4 pounds of unbleached flour)

6  packets granulated dry yeast, NOT rapid-rise

1 1/2  teaspoons garlic powder

1  1/2 teaspoons Italian seasoning blend

2  teaspoons sugar

2  teaspoons salt

3-3 1/2  cups hot tap water

4  tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, for preparing pans

4-8  tablespoons additional extra-virgin olive oil, for brushing crusts

olive-oil no-stick cooking spray

PICT0537 ~ Step 1.  In the work bowl of a large-capacity food processor fitted with the steel blade, place all of the flour, the yeast, garlic powder, Italian seasoning blend, sugar and salt.

Note:  If you do not have a large-capacity food processor, this recipe has been written to easily cut in half, which will make two Sicilian-style pizza crusts instead of four.

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~ Step 2.  Place the top/lid on the food processor and, using a series of 10-15 rapid on-off pulses combine the dry ingredients thoroughly, about 10-15 seconds.

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~ Step 3.  Measure and have ready 3 1/2 cups of very hot tap water.

With the motor of the food processor running, add the water, in a thin stream, through the feed tube.

Continue to add water until a large ball of dough forms.  This will take anywhere from 3-3 1/2 cups of hot water.  Stop adding water the moment the ball of dough forms.

Continue to knead dough in processor, with the motor running, for 30-45 more seconds.  This means, the dough will spin around in the processor for 30-45 seconds.

PICT0551 This is what the finished dough will look like.

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~ Step 4.  Spray the inside of a 2-gallon size food storage bag with no-stick cooking spray.  We are going to use this bag to rise our pizza dough in.  Yep.  We're going to put our dough in the bag and let it rise.  

Note:  This might seem odd to you, and it is indeed a unique way to rise pizza dough, but once you try it, you'll be using this method to rise all sorts of dough.  Wait until you see how easy/mess free this is...

PICT0557 ~ Step 5.  CAREFULLY remove the ball of dough from the food processor.  The steel blade of the processor is as sharp as a knife. Trust me, you do not want to cut your fingertips on this.

Form the dough into a round ball and place it in the bag.  Zip or twist the bag closed and set it aside to allow the dough to rise, until the dough is doubled in bulk, about 45 minutes...

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... Are you amazed?  It works every time!

What happens is this:  as the yeast grows, it generates heat.  Inside of a plastic bag, it also generates humidity.  The perfect environment for rising any type of dough!

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~ Step 6.  Using a pastry brush or a paper towel, oil each of 4, 13" x 9" baking pans with extra-virgin olive oil.

Remove the dough from the food storage bag and divide it into 4 equal parts.  Form each part into a ball and place each ball on an oiled pan.  Let the balls of dough rest for 10 minutes.

PICT0569 ~ Step 7.  To form each crust, pat and push each piece of dough evenly into the bottom and slightly up the sides of each pan.  This is really easy if you have a little bit of EVOO on your fingertips.

Note:  Do not form the crusts one at a time, meaning: alternate 1, 2, 3, & 4, working each one a bit at a time. You want them all to be formed and finished at about the same time.

PICT0571 ~ Step 8.  Using a pastry brush, brush the entire surface of each crust with olive oil, about 1-2 tablespoons per crust.

You now have four Sicilian-style pizza crusts waiting for toppings. Our Favorite Toppings will be tomorrows post, so... STAY TUNED!!!

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Preschutti Pizza, Part II:  Our Favorite Crust:  Recipe yields 4, 13" x 9" crusts, or 10 slices each.

Special Equipment List:  large-capacity food processor; 4-cup measuring container; 2-gallon food storage bag; pastry brush or paper towel; 4, 13" x 9" baking pans

Cook's Note:  I can't wait for you to read tomorrow's post, ~ Preschutti Pizza, Part III:  Our Favorite Toppings ~ !

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2011)

03/21/2011

~ Preschutti Pizza, Part I: Our Favorite Sauce (A Short Video/Slideshow, 00:39) ~

PICT0490 Over the course of the next three days, Melanie's Kitchen is going to be posting a very special family recipe here on Kitchen Encounters: Preschutti Pizza, which is rectangular-shaped, thick-crust, Sicilian-style pizza.

I was prompted to do this by one of my my local readers (who took my pizza class last Summer) to "PRETTY PLEASE" post the recipe, which I am quoting her in that class as saying, "I think this is the best pizza I ever tasted!"  Linda's new daughter-in-law in Los Angeles wants to learn how to make homemade pizza, so Linda called me and asked if I would consider blogging it.  I would have done it eventually anyway, but thanks to Linda, the process got speeded up!  I just love it when readers request recipes!!!

The recipe will be posted in three parts:  Our Favorite Sauce, Our Favorite Crust, and, Our Favorite Toppings!  I hope you will all enjoy Pizza Week here on Kitchen Encounters.  To view a short video slideshow on how to make Our Favorite Sauce (I posted the recipe earlier this evening):

Download Preschutti Pizza Sauce-Medium

To read the recipe: ~ Preschutti Pizza, Part I:  Our Favorite Sauce ~, can be found in Categories 8, 12 & 22.

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary, Photo and Video courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2010) 

~ Preschutti Pizza, Part I: Our Favorite Sauce ~

PICT0492Welcome to Kitchen Encounter's first mini-series:  a three-part post, which will be posted over three days, about my family's love for perfect pizza!  Today we are making pizza sauce, tomorrow we'll be making pizza crust and Wednesday we'll be concentrating on pizza toppings!  

Anyone who loves to eat pizza will tell you the secret to a great pizza is not just a great crust.  A great pizza crust must be topped with a great pizza sauce, and, in our house, one without the other is just not acceptable.  As the old folks say, "don't put your cart before your horse", and in pizzaland, the sauce is the horse, meaning:  always prepare your sauce before your crust.  My husband and I take pizza making very seriously and we make four distinctly different kinds of pizza, using four different crust recipes paired with crust-appropriate sauces:  1) Chicago-Style Deep-Dish (I previously posted this recipe back in October and it can be found in Categories 2, 17 & 19); 2) Pizza Margherita; 3) my son Jesse's Grilled Pizza, and our family favorite; 4) my rectangular-shaped, Sicilian-style, four-cheese pizza, which is what this three-part post is about.  No matter which one of the four I am making, I can tell you this:  everyone just loves being invited to our house on pizza night! 

I developed this particular thick, highly-flavored, sweet and spicy pizza sauce about 20 years ago to top my unique Sicilian-style crust.  I refer to it as unique because, while it is quite popular, you won't find many home cooks who know enough about it to make it.  It is a thick crust that is crispy on the outside and chewy in the center.  All pizza crusts are not created equal and this one holds up well to a thick, cooked sauce (rather than a thin, uncooked sauce which pairs better on a thin crust pizza), and you'll be reading all about it tomorrow in part two of this post.  In the late summer and fall, I make my pizza sauce using crushed garden tomatoes and fresh basil, but if I need it when tomatoes are out of season and basil is not available, I do not hesitate one bit to used crushed canned tomatoes and dried basil.  I also always make a pretty big batch of it and freeze it in 2 cup-size containers so I usually have some on hand!

I made the decision to post this pizza recipe in three parts, because in reality it is indeed three recipes and I want you to gain an appreciation for each one of them.  You can surely make one or two parts without the other(s), to use as you chose, but I highly recommend you make all three all at the same time and make a couple of my Sicilian pizza pies before you do!  To read the other two parts to this post, go to:

~ Preschutti Pizza, Part II:  Our Favorite Crust ~, found in Categories 5 & 12, along with;

~ Preschutti Pizza, Part III:  Our Favorite 4 Toppings ~, also found in Categories 2, 12 & 19. 

6a0120a8551282970b014e86d95907970d1/2  cup extra-virgin olive oil

1  pound diced yellow or sweet onion

4  ounces diced garlic cloves

1  tablespoon dried basil leaves

1  tablespoon sugar

1  tablespoon sea salt

1  tablespoon white pepper

1  6-ounce can tomato paste

4  28-ounce cans crushed tomatoes

1  cup port wine (a sweet fortified red wine)

2-2 1/2  ounces fresh basil chiffonade (thinly sliced fresh basil leaves)

1  teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)

PICT0439 ~ Step 1.  Place the olive oil in the bottom of a very large 14" chef's pan w/straight deep sides or an 8-quart stockpot.

Prep the onion and garlic as directed, placing them in the pan as you work.  

Add the dried basil, red pepper flakes, sugar, salt and white pepper.

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~ Step 2.  Stir the vegetable mixture until all of the ingredients are thoroughly combined.

Adjust heat to saute until the onion is soft and translucent, but not browned, about 10 minutes, stirring frequently.  Add the tomato paste.

Note:  While the vegetable mixture sautes, chiffonade the fresh basil and set aside.

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~ Step 3.  Combine the tomato paste with the sauteed vegetable mixture.  Continue to cook about 1 more minute, or just until the mixture is steaming and beginning to bubble.

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~ Step 4.  Add and stir in all of the crushed tomatoes, the wine, the fresh basil chiffonade and optional red pepper flakes.  Adjust the heat to a very gentle, steady simmer.

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~ Step 5.  Continue to cook, uncovered, until the sauce is reduced by about 1/3 and has a thick consistency.  This will take 1-1 1/2 hours depending upon the original consistency of your crushed tomatoes, meaning:  some brands are thinner (or more watery) than others, and they will take longer to cook.  Stir occasionally at the beginning of the simmering process and more frequently towards the end, to avoid scorching.

Note:  If at any time during the cooking process, the simmering pizza sauce starts to spew and spatter sauce on your stovetop, just partially cover the pan and continue with the process as directed.

PICT0479 ~ Step 6.  Remove the pan from the heat, cover and set aside to cool.  I like to let it cool completely, which takes about 4 hours.

Ladle the sauce into food storage containers, leaving about 1/2" of head space at the top of each container, as the sauce expands as it freezes.  I ladle about 1 1/2 cups of sauce into 2-cup size containers, and each one is enough to top one of my Sicilian-style pizzas!

PICT0498 Preschutti Pizza, Part  I:  Our Favorite Sauce:  Recipe yields about 3 quarts.

Special Equipment List:  14" chef's pan w/straight, deep sides & lid, or, 8-quart stockpot w/lid; cutting board; chef's knife; large spoon; 8, 2-cup size food storage containers, preferably glass; soup ladle

Cook's Note:  This sauce is really easy to make and once you taste it, I'm pretty certain you won't want to buy pizza sauce again.  In my family, we think it a little too thick to use as a pasta sauce, but, if you eliminate the tomato paste from the recipe, it transforms into a great tomato-basil sauce for any type of pasta!

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2011)

03/18/2011

~ Culinary Q&A & Kitchen Therapy Too (3/18/11) ~

Culinary Q & A #2 Spring is definitely in the air today here Central Pennsylvania, which is perfect timing because Sunday is the first day of Spring. It won't be long before I'm writing this blog with my doors and windows open and a warm breeze upon my back!

My St. Patricks Day posts got a lot of attention from you all (and I thank you), and, over the next month you can look forward to my posting some recipes geared towards the upcoming Easter holiday!

Yesterday, one of my Facebook readers, Les, returned again this week to my Friday Culinary Q&A and submitted two great comments and another question/request:

PICT0103 Q.  Les comments and asks:  I can't thank you enough for posting your baked potato soup recipe.  I made it for my wife's family and everyone loved it.  It is different than how I remember my grandmother's (I know she didn't use any bacon), but I think if she tasted yours she would change her recipe!  I know it took you a lot of time to write this post and I just wanted to let you know that I really appreciate your doing this for me.  Also, while I did not make your recipe for Caesar salad (yet), my wife roasted the chicken breasts the way you showed us to in the Caesar salad recipe and she said she will never cook chicken breasts any other way.  They were juicy and really delicious.  

Easter is coming up and I was wondering if you will be posting or would consider posting recipes for baked ham and roasted lamb?  My wife Marlene and I always end up drying out our ham and we have never cooked lamb at all.  Marlene says if she is going to try any new recipes she wants to try one of yours.  She also said to mention that she told her friends at the rehab facility (where she works) about your blog and they watched your new food/music videos over their lunch hour today (Thursday).

A.  Kitchen Encounters:  Les (and Marlene)... Flattery will get you everywhere... You have just made my day... Food blogging in general is hard work and feedback from folks like you is what keeps us bloggies blogging!!!

You and your wife make a good cooking team!  You can both count on me in the upcoming weeks for my recipes for Basic Baked Ham and The Best Boneless Lamb Roast.  Both recipes, while quite easy, produce perfectly cooked, moist, juicy, flavorful meat and lots of it, meaning: the leftovers make fantastic sandwiches.  Once again, thank you for your continued support and kind words!

Enjoy your weekend everyone, and once again:  To leave a comment or ask a question, simply click on the blue title of any post, scroll to the end of it and type away! 

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2011)

03/17/2011

~ Today is St. Patrick's Day (3/17/11)! ~

Irish Soda Bread While I personally am not Irish, I do enjoy this holiday and Kitchen Encounters has posted some wonderful Irish recipes guaranteed to make your St. Patrick's Day a tasty one.  We started off our day this morning with my recipe for: ~ Irish Eyes are Smilin' on Mary's Irish Soda Bread ~, found in Categories 5 & 11.  It is pictured here served in the traditional manner:  toasted w/butter and jam!

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For a warm and hearty lunch you might want to try some of my ~ Baked Potato, Roasted Garlic and Cheddar Soup ~, and you can find this recipe in Categories 2, 11 & 22. It is thick and rich and so full of the subtle flavors of bacon, garlic and cheddar everyone is going to want seconds.  I always make a big pot of this so I have plenty of leftovers for tomorrow!

Corned Beef #1 (Intro Picture) There is no question that my ~ Braised & Brown Sugar Crusted Corned Beef ~, recipe found in Categories 2, 3, 11, 19 & 20, will be on our dinner table tonight.  I'll be making deli-style sandwiches served on my ~ Crusty Caraway Seed Dinner/Sandwich Rolls ~, found in Categories 5 & 12.  I'm serving these with ~ My Favorite Potato & Egg Salad ~, which you can find in Categories 4 & 10!

"May you have warm words on a cold evening,

a full moon on a dark night,

and the road downhill all the way to your door."

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2011)

03/15/2011

~ Kitchen Encounters/WHVL Video Segment #5: "Hail Caesar" Roasted Chicken Salad a la Mel ~

6a0120a8551282970b014e5fda2408970c-800wiYesterday I posted my recipe for ~ "Hail Caesar" Roasted Chicken Salad a la Mel ~, which is a delicious spin on traditional Ceasar salad.  You can find the detailed recipe, along with all of my step-by-step directions and photos in Categories 2, 12 or 19!

If you'd like to watch my Kitchen Encounters TV segment, just click on the following link:

"Hail Caesar" Roasted Chicken Salad a la Mel

To watch all of my other Kitchen Encounters/WHVL-TV cooking segments, go to the listing found on the left side of the home page of this blog, and, click on the blue title of any one, or:

Tune in to WHVL-TV's Centre of It All Show, which airs every Sunday morning at 11:30AM on local Comast channel 14!

************

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary, Photo & Video courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2011)

03/14/2011

~ "Hail Caesar" Roasted Chicken Salad a la Mel (A Short Video/Slideshow, 01:07) ~

PICT0371 We all "sprung forward" yesterday and while Spring is definitely in the air, it is just not quite here in Central PA yet.  It looks a lot prettier outside today than it actually is!

While I'd really like to fire up the grill and cook my chicken breasts outdoors, I'm roasting them in the oven instead.  I'm serving them for dinner tonight with my all-time favorite Caesar salad recipe.  To view a short video slideshow on how to make this year-round, main-dish salad:

Download %22Hail Caesar%22 Roasted Chicken Salad a la Mel-Medium

To read the recipe, ~ "Hail Caesar" Roasted Chicken Salad a la Mel ~, can be found in Categories 2, 12 & 19.

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary, Photo and Video courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2011)

~ "Hail Caesar" Roasted Chicken Salad a la Mel ~

IMG_1075During the early 1980's, on one of our trips to California, my husband Joe and I visited with my Uncle Al and Aunt Claire in Vista.  I've had a lot of Uncles and Aunts in my life, and each one has played a part in making me the person I am today.  My Uncle Al's part in my life came when I was about 10.  He and Aunt Claire took me along on their two-week family vacation to Washington D.C and the surrounding area.  On that trip, I learned/absorbed more than any 10-year-old girl with an artistic flair could and developed my sense of color and style:

We started off with two days in Colonial Williamsburg, and continued on to Monticello, Mt. Vernon and The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington National Cemetery.  In Washington proper we visited the Lincoln and Jefferson Memorials, and, went to the top of the Washington Monument.  We walked through a couple of famous Russian Cathedrals, the halls of Congress and ate in The Senate Dining Room.  I left D.C. wanting to live in the White House and 31 years later (14 years ago), built my own version of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue right here in Happy Valley, PA.  Thanks Uncle Al (& Aunt Claire)!  Ok, back to the salad story...

Whirlwind sightseeing (Uncle Al's specialty) included a day in Tijuana, Mexico, the 1924 birthplace of the famous Caesar salad.  By the end of the day, I had acquired a gorgeous black leather coat, and, a taste for this famous salad. A great Caesar salad classically consists of: crisp romaine lettuce hearts tossed in a creamy garlic dressing (made with Worcestershire sauce and fresh lemon juice), grated Parmesan cheese, a raw or coddled egg, anchovies and freshly made croutons.  It just so happens that I adore shaved onion, sliced tomato and hard-cooked egg wedges added to the salad as well, which is what makes this recipe "a la Mel"!

IMG_1066Over the past 2 1/2 decades, this simple salad has:  #1) Became America's most popular main-dish salad; #2) Altered the lettuce industry, as the demand for romaine has skyrocketed, and: #3) Turned the chicken-topped Caesar salad into the chicken item most frequently found on restaurant menus -- even more than wings and chicken fingers.  Although it has become the All-American salad, it was actually invented in Mexico in 1924 by an Italian-born Mexican immigrant, Caesar Cardini (a co-owner in a Tijuana restaurant).

Cardini lived in San Diego, but worked in Tijuana where he avoided the restrictions of Prohibition.  He concocted the salad on the Fourth of July, for some Hollywood celebrities, after the holiday crowd had depleted his kitchen of many ingredients.  He used romaine lettuce (which doesn't impress us today, but back then it was an uncommon ingredient) and tossed it with a dressing made from just six ingredients:  garlic, olive oil, lemon juice, Worcestershire sauce and Parmesan cheese.  In the original salad, he used whole lettuce leaves, which were meant to be picked up by the stem and eaten with your fingers.  The original salad dressing contained no anchovies, but got its slight anchovy flavor from the Worcestershire sauce.  He tossed and served the salad at tableside, and as the story goes, posh restaurants in Hollywood and Los Angeles, who catered exclusively to the upper class, soon began offering it as well. Served with or without the fanfare of tableside preparation, a classic Caesar salad is one sure indicator of just how good a restaurant is!

DO NOT be intimidated by the following list of ingredients!  This salad is really easy to prepare.  While the chicken is in the oven roasting, you cook the eggs, make the croutons, prepare the dressing and prep the vegetables.  Five simple steps that result in one great meal!!!

For the chicken:

6  large, meaty chicken breasts, on bones with skin

2 ounces butter (1/2 stick)

coarse sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the salad and croutons:

2  whole heads romaine hearts, about 9-10 ounces each, cut chiffonade-style (1/4"-1/2" strips)

1/2-1   medium-sized yellow or sweet onion, peeled, quartered and shaved (very thinly sliced)

6  medium-sized, fresh, garden-ripe tomatoes, sliced or cut into chunks/wedges (2 cups of grape tomatoes that have been sliced in half will work just fine too)

4-6  jumbo eggs, hard-cooked, peeled and sliced into wedges

1/2  pound crusty, firm-textured, baguette- or rustic-shaped bread

4  ounces butter (1 stick)

1/2  teaspoon garlic powder

1/2  teaspoon white pepper

For the Caesar salad dressing and garnish:

1  2-ounce can anchovy fillets (preferably rolled w/capers), well-drained

4-6  medium- large-sized garlic cloves

2  tablespoons red wine vinegar

1  tablespoon sugar

1/4 cup Dijon mustard

2  teaspoons lemon juice, preferably fresh

2-3  teaspoons Worcestershire sauce 

1/2  teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper

2  jumbo eggs, at room temperature

6-8  tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

3/4-1  cup freshly and finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano Cheese, about 3-4 ounces of cheese, for topping salad

freshly ground black pepper, for garnishing salad

PICT0248 ~ Step 1.  To prepare the chicken, place the breasts, skin side up, side by side, in a 13" x 9" x 2" baking dish to which 1/4" of water and a rack has been added.

Place 3 thin slices of butter on the top of each breast and sprinkle all with coarse ground sea salt and a grinding of black pepper.

PICT0286 Roast the chicken, uncovered, on center rack of preheated 350 degree oven for 1 1/2 hours.

Note:  Water is placed in the bottom of the pan to keep dripping fat from burning and smoking.

While the chicken is roasting, cook the eggs, make the croutons, prepare the dressing and prep the vegetables as follows:

PICT0280 ~ Step 2.  Place the eggs in a 4-quart stockpot with of enough cold water to cover them by 1/2"-1".  

Over high heat, bring the water to a "shudder", or: barely simmering and bubbling.  Lower the heat to maintain the shuddering and cook for exactly 12 minutes.

Remove from heat, drain and fill pot of eggs with very cold tap water.

PICT0305 As soon as the eggs are cool enough to handle with your hands, gently crack and peel them.  Slice each egg into six wedges, place in a bowl and cover with plastic wrap until serving time.

Note:  These eggs are perfectly cooked.  Their yolks are bright yellow with creamy centers and no ugly green ring that notifies the entire world they have been overcooked.  The green ring on eggs is a pet peeve of mine.

PICT0261 ~ Step 3.  To prepare the croutons, cut the bread into 1/2"-3/4" cubes. In a 12" skillet, preferably nonstick, melt the butter over low heat and stir in the garlic powder and white pepper.  Increase the heat to medium and add the cubed bread. Using a large spoon or a spatula, vigorously toss the bread in the butter, to get the cubes coated in the butter mixture.

PICT0265 Increase the heat to medium-high. Using the same spoon or spatula, stir the bread cubes constantly until they are golden brown.  This will take about 10 minutes.  The bottom of the pan will be dry with a just a few browned bits in the bottom of it.

Remove the pan from the heat and set aside.  Allow croutons to cool in the pan, for 10 minutes. Transfer croutons to a paper-towel lined plate to cool completely.

PICT0323 ~ Step 4.  To prepare the Caesar salad dressing, in the workbowl of a food processor fitted with steel blade, place the anchovies and garlic. Using about 10 rapid on-off pulses, coarsely chop them.

Add all of the remaining ingredients, except for the EVOO. With the motor running, process until smooth and frothy, about 10 seconds.

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With the motor running, slowly drizzle the olive oil, in a thin stream, into the mixture  Continue to process for another 10 seconds.  

Transfer the salad dressing to a food storage container, cover and refrigerate until serving time.

Note:  You will have about 1 2/3 cups of dressing, which will be more than enough to top each portion of salad. If stored in the refrigerator, dressing keeps well for 3 days.  Remove it from the refrigerator about 15 minutes prior to tossing into or drizzling on salad. I prefer the latter.

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~ Step 5.  To prep the vegetables for the salad:  #1) chiffonade the lettuce (slice into 1/4"-1/2" strips); #2) quarter and shave the onion (slice as thinly as you possibly can), and; #3) slice, cube or wedge the tomatoes (your choice).

 

 

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Note:  Chiffonade is the French phrase meaning "made of rags". Culinarily it means to slice into thin shreds of vegetables that really do resemble rags.  It is the perfect technique for prepping lettuces, as it makes them easier to eat, or, user friendly!

 

 

 

~ Step 6.  It's time to assemble the salad!  On a large plate or platter, make a bed of lettuce.  In the following order, evenly distribute and layer:  the shaved onion, the sliced tomatoes, the egg wedges and about half of the croutons.  Using a microplane grater, grate a generous amount of Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese evenly over the top, followed by a generous grinding of black pepper.  This wonderful salad is now ready to serve, accompanied by the roasted chicken, remaining croutons and additional cheese for grating.  Serve the Caesar dressing at tableside, so each person can drizzle whatever amount they want onto their own portion.

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"Hail Caesar" Roasted Chicken Salad a la Mel:  Recipe yields 6 main-course salads and 1 2/3 cups dressing.

Special Equipment List:  13" x 9" x 2" baking dish; cooling rack (to insert in dish); 4-quart stockpot; cutting board; chef's knife; serrated bread knife; 12" skillet, preferably nonstick; large spoon or spatula; paper towels; food processor; 2-cup food storage container w/lid; microplane grater

Cook's Note:  Be creative.  Come up with your own combination for your favorite Caesar salad.  Sometimes I add crisp bacon pieces.  Sometimes I add blanched asparagus tips.  Sometimes I let my husband grill the chicken outdoors instead of roasting it in the oven.  This being said, while I encourage you to be as creative as possible, additions such as herbs, nuts, seeds and/or fruit do not compliment the Caesar dressing and should be avoided!

Extra Cook's Note:  While I like to serve Caesar salad as a main-dish salad, if you want to serve it as a side salad, roast just 3 chicken breasts.  When they've cooled a bit, remove the meat from the bones and chop it into bite-sized chunks.  When you are assembling the salad, layer it on after the shaved onions and continue with the assembly as directed above.

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2011) 

~ My Classic "Real Deal" Caesar Salad Dressing ~

IMG_1075It is sometimes said that a restaurant is only as good as its Caesar salad and a Caesar salad is only as good as its Caesar dressing.  I happen to be a lover of Caesar salad and I am proud to say that I am a Caesar salad dressing snob.  I want it garlic-y and creamy and I want it to get creamy by using the traditional raw egg.  I want it slightly sweet and savory and while I don't want to see anchovies, I want to taste them.  There is not a bottled version on the planet worth a hoot, don't try to tell me there is, and that includes the trademarked Cardini's brand (which is named after Caesar Cardini who invented the salad and the dressing in 1924.  This is not a criticism, I am just not a fan of any bottle salad dressings in general.  

A classic Caesar salad classically consists of:  crisp romaine lettuce hearts tossed in a creamy garlic dressing, grated Parmesan cheese, a raw or coddled egg, and freshly made croutons. The original salad was made using whole romaine lettuce leaves, which were meant to be picked up by the stem and eaten with your fingers.  The original salad dressing contained just six ingredients:  garlic, olive oil, lemon juice, Worcestershire sauce and Parmesan cheese... it did not contain anchovies, but got its slight anchovy flavor from the Worcestershire sauce.  To read more about the history of the Caesar salad and get my recipe for ~ "Hail Caesar" Roasted Chicken Salad a la Mel ~, go to Categories 2, 12 or 19.

Back in the 1980's and '90's, Lemont, a small community just outside of State College proper, had a lovely upscale restaurant named The Victorian Manor.  Let me tell you, "The Manor" made one of the best Casear salads anywhere (and I've tasted them pretty much everywhere). They even prepared the dressing and tossed the salad at tableside, a la Caesar Cardini.  I never once went there that I did not start my meal with their Caesar salad.  While my method of preparing the dressing is different than theirs, as I have no reason for the fanfare of tableside preparation, my recipe is modeled after theirs.  I've added "a little more of this" and "a little less of that", to suit my own taste, plus, I make it in a quantity to comfortably coat a Caesar salad that will feed eight people.  It is truly delicious, easy to make and even people who claim to not like anchovies have asked me to share the recipe with them.  Put down that bottle and give the "real deal" a try!

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1  2-ounce can anchovy fillets (preferably rolled w/capers), well-drained

4-6  medium- large-sized garlic cloves

2  tablespoons red wine vinegar

1  tablespoon sugar

1/4  cup Dijon mustard

2  teaspoons lemon juice, preferably fresh

2-3  teaspoons Worcestershire sauce

1/2  teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper

2  jumbo eggs, at room temperature

6-8  tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

PICT0315 ~ Step 1. In the workbowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade, place the drained anchovies and the whole garlic cloves.

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~ Step 2.  Using about 10-15 rapid on-off pulses, process until the anchovies are pasty and the garlic is chopped.

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~ Step 3.  Add all of  the remaining ingredients to the anchovy/garlic mixture except for the olive oil.  I repeat:  do not add the oil just yet. Add the:  red wine vinegar, sugar, Dijon, lemon juice, Worcestershire sauce, black pepper and eggs.

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~ Step 4.  With the motor of the processor running, process the ingredients until they are smooth and frothy, about 10-15 seconds.

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~ Step 5.  With the motor running, slowly drizzle all of the olive oil, in a thin stream, through the feed tube, into the mixture. Continue for process for about another 10 seconds.

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~ Step 6.  You will have about 1 2/3 cups of Caesar Salad dressing. You can use the dressing immediately but it is better if it has been refrigerated for at least 1 hour prior to serving.  

Transfer dressing to a food storage container and refrigerate until serving time, 1 hour to overnight. Remove it from the refrigerator about 15 minutes prior to tossing into or drizzling on salad. I prefer the latter.

 

My Classic "Real Deal" Caesar Salad Dressing":  Recipe yields 1 2/3 cups.   

Special Equipment List:  food processor; 2-cup food storage container w/lid

Cook's Note:  The Caesar salad dressing will keep well in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.  If you do not have a food processor, this dressing can be made just as easily, using the same method, in a blender.

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2011)

03/11/2011

~ Veal Stroganoff Casserole (A Video/Slideshow, 01:04) ~

PICT0215 What a hearty, warm, comforting meal to serve on a cold, wet, March Friday movie-night here in Happy Valley, PA!  To view a short video slideshow about how to make this great, family-style dinner:

Download Veal Stroganoff Casserole-Medium

To read the entire recipe: ~  Veal Stroganoff Casserole ~, can be found in Categories 3, 12 & 19!

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary, Photo and Video Courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2011)

~ Veal Stroganoff Casserole ~

PICT0234 Culinarily, the word "stroganoff" refers to a dish that consists of thin (shaved) slices of beef tenderloin, sliced onions and sometimes carrots, that are all quickly sauteed in butter and combined with a rich sour cream and wine sauce.  It is served accompanied by rice pilaf or atop egg noodles, although on occasion it is served wrapped in a crepe.  The dish is said to be named after the 19th century Russian diplomat, Count Pavel Stroganov, but an alternative explanation refers to the Russian verb "strogat", meaning "to shave".  After the fall of Imperial Russia, the recipe made its way to the outside world and was popularly served in hotels and restaurants around the globe, each putting forth their own interpretation, meaning:  tender proteins such as chicken breast, lamb and veal were substituted for the beef, and, they were sometimes coarsely ground or cut into cubes or strips (instead of thin slices).  Classic stroganoff of any variation is indeed an elegant recipe to have in your repertoire.

This being said, unless you are using expensive tenderloin, the quick-cooking method of preparation is disappointing.  Why?  Well, lesser cuts of meat get tough and chewy, and that is a variation on this elegant recipe that is completely unacceptable.  That being said, about 15-16 years ago, Joe and I were hosting a small dinner party in our dining room for a friend's birthday in mid-December.  He had eaten my veal stroganoff once before and asked me if I would mind making it again.  I was totally flattered and agreed to do so.  Unfortunately,  there were no veal tenderloins in any of our Happy Valley markets that week, I had to change the menu, he understood and life went on.

This situation played on my mind for a couple of weeks afterward.  Then one morning, while doing my meat marketing at our beloved O.W. Houts & Sons, I saw some beautiful veal cubes in the butcher case.  My friend and butcher Chris told me he had just finished trimming and cutting them from a veal top roast, plus he was just getting ready to feature them as that days "sale" item.  "I'll take 'em all", I said.  And off I went, with six pounds of veal cubes, two boxes of farfalle noodles, two containers of sour cream and an idea.  It was my plan to develop a version of this classic recipe that feeds more people for less money and tasted just as good... a hearty, comforting, family-style veal stroganoff casserole!

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6  pounds veal, cut into 3/4" cubes, not too big/not too small

8  tablespoons butter (1 stick)

1  teaspoon sea salt

1  teaspoon white pepper

2  pounds yellow or sweet onion, quartered and very thinly sliced/shaved

1 1/2  pounds carrots, peeled and cut into 1/4"-thick coins

2  pounds stemmed and sliced white button mushroom caps, sliced 1/4" thick

2  tablespoons dried dill weed

4  tablespoons Wondra Quick-Mixing Flour for Sauce and Gravy

2  cups sweet white wine (total throughout recipe)

3  cups sour cream

1  teaspoon additional sea salt

1  teaspoon additional white pepper

1 1/2  pounds farfalle noodles, plus, 2  sticks room temperature butter, for buttering noodles

minced, fresh dill, for garnishing casserole

freshly ground peppercorn blend, for serving at tableside

no-stick cooking spray, for preparing casserole

PICT0108  ~ Step 1.  If you are using vacuum-packed veal cubes, as I often do, rinse them under cold running water and pat them dry in paper towels.  Drying them is important so they will brown properly.  If any or all of them are too large, cut them in half.  In a 14" chef's pan, melt the butter and stir in the sea salt and white pepper.  Add the veal cubes.

PICT0120 ~ Step 2.  Adjust heat to medium-high to saute the veal.  Continue to cook, stirring frequently, until the veal is lightly browned, cooked through and almost no liquid remains in the bottom of the pan.  

This process will take about 25-30 minutes. Lower the heat as necessary, during the last 5-10 minutes, to avoid any scorching.

PICT0123 ~ Step 3.  Using a large slotted spoon, remove the veal from the pan and transfer it to a 4-quart casserole that has been sprayed with no-stick cooking spray.

Note:  The size of the casserole dish is very important.  It must be a 4-quart casserole in order for all of the ingredients to fit in at the end without leftovers!

Cover the casserole of veal with aluminum foil and set aside while deglazing the pan and preparing the vegetables and sauce.

PICT0126 ~ Step 4.  Add 1 cup of the wine to the hot pan of veal drippings and browned bits.  Be prepared for a lot of steam to billow up.

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~ Step 5.  Using a spatula, deglaze the pan by gently scraping the bottom of the pan and stirring the simmering wine, to loosen as many of the browned bits from the bottom of the pan as possible.

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~ Step 6.  Add the sliced onions, carrots and mushrooms to the skillet, along with the 1 teaspoon each of additional salt and white pepper.

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~ Step 7.  Adjust the heat to saute. Continue to cook until the onions are very soft, the carrots are fork tender, the mushrooms have lost their moisture and only a thin layer of liquid remains in the bottom of the pan, about 25-30 minutes.  

Turn the heat off.

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~ Step 8.  One at a time, slowly and thoroughly, add and stir in the dried dill weed, the flour and the remaining 1 cup of wine.

Stir in the the sour cream, until the mixture is uniformly cream-colored and creamy.

Adjust the heat to just steaming or barely simmering.  Remove from heat.

PICT0163 ~ Step 9.  Spoon and fold all of the vegetables and creamy sauce into the casserole with the veal.

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~ Step 10.  The casserole is ready to go into the oven!

Cover it with aluminum foil...

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... and bake on center rack of preheated 275 degree oven for 2 hours.  

Note:  275 degrees is not a typo, it is the correct temperature.

Remove from oven and set aside to rest, for about 30 minutes, while:

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~ Step 11.  In an 8-quart stockpot, cook the pasta according to directions, until al dente.  Drain thoroughly and return still hot pasta to still hot stockpot.  Return stockpot to still hot stovetop.  Cut the butter into pieces and toss into pasta. Continue to toss until butter is completely melted.  Cover and set aside for 5-10 minutes, to give pasta time to absorb all of the butter.

~ Step 12.  Portion pasta into the bottom of desired-sized bowls and top each with a generous spoonful or two of the veal mixture.  Garnish each portion with minced, fresh dill, freshly ground peppercorn blend and serve immediately!

PICT0215Veal Stroganoff Casserole:  Recipe yields 12-16 hearty servings.

Special Equipment List:  cutting board; chef's knife; paper towels; 14" chef's pan w/straight, deep sides; aluminum foil; spatula; 1-cup measuring container; large slotted spoon; 4-quart casserole; 8-quart stockpot w/lid; colander

Cook's Note:  While this hearty casserole feeds a lot of people, which makes it ideal for a large gathering, I have written the recipe so it is easy to cut in half or quartered to feed a smaller group or a family of four.  As with many casseroles, this one tastes even better reheated the next day, so, make the full recipe and enjoy the leftovers!

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschuti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2011)

03/08/2011

~ Old-Fashioned Sour Cream Doughnuts (A Short Video/Slideshow, 01:00) ~

PICT0079 Happy Doughnut Day!  For a short video slideshow to see how these wonderful doughnuts get made, click on the blue line below:

Download Old-Fashioned Sour Cream Doughnuts-Medium_2

To read the recipe:  ~ Old-Fashioned Sour Cream Doughnuts ~, can be found in Categories 5, 9 & 11.

I'm really excited about adding these new "shorts" to my Kitchen Encounters blog!

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary, Photo and Video courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2011)  

~ Old-Fashioned Sour Cream Doughnuts ~

PICT0079 Happy Doughnut Day, Fasnacht Day, Fat Tuesday or Shrove Tuesday everyone... all of this being said, and let me be clear, it is NOT National Doughnut Day (which is the first Friday of June each year and that will be another post)!  This is one of those fun days to have a food blog because who does not like doughnuts!  It was the Pennsylvania Dutch people (who immigrated from the Rhine regions of Germany to the territory in and around Lancaster, PA) who started the tradition of eating doughnuts (or fasnachts as they call them) on the day prior to the start of Lent. I grew up in Eastern Pennsylvania, where there is a very large PA Dutch community, so I am quite familiar with this holiday, and, in that area I will tell you it was always called Fasnacht Day!

This is a holiday that was invented to clear pantries of butter, fat, lard and sugar, which were/are traditionally "given up" or fasted from during Lent.  Fasnachts themselves are not round like doughnuts.  The ones I am familiar with are triangular in shape, which represents the Holy Trinity.  It is said that if you eat a fasnacht on Fasnacht Day, you will live to eat another one next year.  It is also said that if you bury a piece of a fasnacht in the ground, you will have a plentiful harvest.  I wonder what would happen if I put one in my jewelry box!?!  It is a fact, however, that the last person out of bed on Fasnacht Day is only allowed to eat one fasnacht and is called a "lazy fasnacht"!

The doughnut recipe I am sharing with you today, while not a triangular fasnacht, uses an almost identical dough and identical cooking process.  It is indeed Pennsylvania Dutch and it is the kind I grew up eating.  It is not a yeast or raised dough and truthfully, next to a great cream-filled yeast-dough doughnut, these are and always have been my favorite.  It is a batter-type dough, similar to a quick bread, that takes less than five minutes to mix together.  What is particularly nice about this humble recipe is you can mix the dough, which needs to rest in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours, the night before.  So, all you have to do on Doughnut Day itself is get up, roll them out and fry them in a skillet of oil (just like our grandmothers did)!

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3  large eggs, at room temperature

1  cup sugar

1  cup sour cream

1  teaspoon pure vanilla extract, not imitation

1 1/2  teaspoons, firmly-packed baking soda

3 1/4  cups unbleached, all-purpose flour, 1 cup additional bench flour for rolling and cutting doughnuts

1  teaspoon ground nutmeg

3/4  teaspoon salt

1 1/2-2  quarts vegetable oil, for frying doughnuts

2-4  tablespoons confectioners' sugar, for dusting doughnuts

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~ Step 1.  In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the eggs and sugar, about 10-15 seconds.  

Continue to whisk vigorously for 1-1 1/2 minutes, or until the eggs are frothy.

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~ Step 2.  In a small mixing bowl, using a spoon, thoroughly stir together the sour cream, vanilla extract and baking soda.

Add the sour cream mixture to the egg mixture and whisk until smooth and even in color.

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~ Step 3.  In a medium mixing bowl, using a fork, blend the flour, ground nutmeg and salt.

Using a large spoon, gradually stir and incorporate all of the flour into the sour cream/egg mixture.

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~ Step 4.  A wet, sticky dough will have formed.  Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 4 hours or overnight.

This is great because you can mix your doughnuts the night before and fry them fresh tomorrow morning!

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~ Step 5.  In a 6-quart stockpot, preferably wide-bottomed, add 2 1/2-3" of vegetable oil.  Do not fill the pot more than 1/2 full with oil.

Over medium low heat, slowly bring the oil to 365-370 degrees.  I like to use a candy thermometer to monitor the heat.  This will take about 15 minutes.

While the oil is heating:

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~ Step 6.  Place the ball of dough on a work surface that has been floured with about 4 tablespoons of bench flour, then, generously sprinkle about 2 tablespoons of additional flour over the dough.

Roll the dough to a thickness of about 1/2".  FYI:  This dough is very soft and easy to roll.

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 ~ Step 7.  Using a 2 1/2" round doughnut cutter, go across the top of the dough, stamping out the doughnuts and the doughnut holes.

You want to work as quickly as you can, but you also want to make sure you make a firm cut, so that each doughnut can be easily separated from its doughnut hole.

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~ Step 8.  Sprinkle a large kitchen towel with about 2 tablespoons of bench flour.  Using a spatula, transfer the doughnuts from the work surface to the towel, separating the holes from doughnuts as you work.

Cover the doughnuts with a second towel and allow them to rest, about 10-15 minutes.

PICT0045 ~ Step 9.  Using the same spatula, transfer the doughnuts, in batches of four, to the hot oil, sliding the doughnuts off the spatula into the oil.  Fry until golden brown, about 1 1/2 minutes on the first side and 1 minute on the second, turning only once.

Continue this process until all of the doughnuts are fried, then proceed to fry the doughnut holes in batches of 6-8.

~ Step 10.  Using a large slotted spoon, spatula or Asian spider, transfer each batch of doughnuts from the hot oil to a cooling rack that has been placed on top of 2 layers of paper towels.  The paper towels will catch any drips of oil.  When the doughnuts have cooled to room temperature, dust the tops with confectioner's sugar:

PICT0048 Old-Fashioned Sour Cream Doughnuts:  Recipe yields 16-18 doughnuts and 16-18 doughnut holes.

Special Equipment List:  3 mixing bowls; whisk; spoon; fork; large spoon; plastic wrap; 6-quart stockpot, preferably wide-bottomed; candy thermometer (optional but recommended); cutting board; rolling pin; 2 1/2" round doughnut cutter; 2 large kitchen towels, preferably flour sack; cooling rack; paper towels; fine mesh strainer (for dusting doughnuts with sugar)

Cook's Note:  Doughnuts keep well, uncovered, for up to 24 hours, so don't be afraid to make them a day in advance of serving them.  Arrange them in a pretty basket next to the coffee pot and let your family and friends help themselves!

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2011)

03/07/2011

~ Kitchen Encounters/WHVL Video Segment #22: Baked Potato, Roasted Garlic & Cheddar Soup ~

6a0120a8551282970b0147e30ec3e0970b-800wiEarlier today I posted my recipe for ~ Baked Potato, Roasted Garlic & Cheddar Soup ~.  To get my detailed recipe for this exceptional soup, along with all of my step-by-step directions and photos, just click into Categories 2, 11 or 22!

If you'd like to watch my Kitchen Encounters TV segment, just click on the following link:

Baked Potato, Roasted Garlic & Cheddar Soup

To watch all of my other Kitchen Encounters/WHVL-TV cooking segments, go to the listing found on the left side of the home page of this blog, and, click on the blue title of any one, or:

Tune in to WHVL-TV's Centre of It All Show, which airs every Sunday morning at 11:30AM on local Comcast channel 14!

************

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary, Photo & Video courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2011)

~ Baked Potato, Roasted Garlic & Cheddar Soup (A Short Video/Slideshow, 01:18) ~

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HANG ONTO YOUR HATS FOLKS!  Thanks to my new iMac computer, I am proud to show you my very own, very first advertisement for my very first iMac recipe!  I am hoping to post one of these with or in each and every recipe I post from here on out!

Download Baked Potato, Roasted Garlic & Cheddar Soup-Medium

To read the recipe:  ~ Baked Potato, Roasted Garlic & Cheddar Soup ~, can be found in Categories 2, 11 & 22.

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary, Photo & Video courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2011)

~ Baked Potato, Roasted Garlic & Cheddar Soup ~

PICT0094About 15 years ago, this soup was "all the rage", meaning:  very trendy.  Almost every eatery in our small "Happy Valley" community served up their own version of it and I admit to trying almost every one of them.  One version in particular was exceptional and it was made in The American Ale House & Grill's kitchen.  For several years it always appeared as one of their signature dishes on their fall/winter menu, and, was featured by them on St. Patrick's Day. Anyone who ate it would still tell you today it was exceptional... baked and smashed russet potatoes in a creamy broth made with roasted garlic, cheddar cheese, chicken stock and of course, cream!

PICT0085One such person was John McPherson.  John was Irish, a State College native and a retired Vice-President of Central Counties Bank. Thirty years ago I worked as a secretary at CCB's executive offices on South Atherton Street, which is where I struck up a friendship with John.  John and my boss, Leo Doriguzzi (also a Vice-President) were best friends, so, in a professional capacity, we three spent a lot of time together, often traveling to branch offices and eating lunches at small diners and local eateries along the way.

It came as no surprise to me when both John and Leo retired, that they spent summers together in State College playing golf at the Centre Hills Country Club and winters together boating and golfing in Florida.  It also also didn't surprise me that even after 30 years, whenever they returned to State College for the summer, they would invite me each year to at least one 3-hour, 3-martini lunch where we would reminisce about the good old days and catch up on family happenings and current events.  At one of those lunches, John found out that I was friends with both the owner and the chef of The Ale House.  John begged me to ask for their potato soup recipe, or come up with a version of the recipe for him to serve at his Yacht Club friends back in Florida.  Here is my version of that yummy soup:

6  pounds large-sized russet potatoes, as even in size as possible, about 7 potatoes

2-3  large heads garlic

1  pound grated white sharp cheddar cheese

8  ounces bacon, diced, preferably thick-sliced, as lean as possible (total throughout recipe)

1  pound yellow or sweet onion, cut into chunks

1/2  pound celery, cut into 2" lengths

1/2  pound carrots, peeled and cut into 2" lengths

2  ounces butter (1/2 stick)

4  packets instant chicken bouillon granules, about 4 teaspoons*

1  teaspoon nutmeg

2  teaspoons white pepper

sea salt, to taste

4  cups chicken stock, preferably homemade or canned broth

3  cups heavy or whipping cream

4  ounces grated sharp yellow cheddar cheese, for garnishing soup

1/2  cup fresh chives, for garnishing soup

*Note:  I use Herb-Ox, Chicken-Flavored, Instant Broth & Seasoning Bouillon.  Eight packets come in a 1.13 ounce green box.  I like this brand because it is gluten-free and contains no MSG.

PICT0004 ~ Step 1.  Using  a vegetable brush, scrub the potatoes to remove all dirt.  Using a fork, prick the skins in 4-5 spots.  Do not dry the potatoes.

Individually wrap and seal each potato in  piece of aluminum foil. Set aside.

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~ Step 2.  Using a sharp knife, cut the top off (about 1/4) of each garlic head and remove a few layers, but not all, of the loose papery skin.

Wrap and seal all of the heads together in a piece of aluminum foil.

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~ Step 3.  Arrange the potatoes and packet of garlic on a large baking pan.  Bake on center rack of preheated 350 degree oven, until the potatoes are soft when pierced with a fork or a knife, about 1 1/2 hours.  Remove from oven and allow to cool, about 1 hour.

PICT0017 ~ Step 4.  Dice the bacon as directed and set aside.

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~ Step 5.  Prep the onion, celery and carrot as directed.

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~ Step 6.  Place the bacon in an 8-quart stockpot over medium-high heat.  Fry the bacon until very crisp.

Using a large slotted spoon, transfer the bacon to a paper towel lined plate to drain and cool.

Turn the heat down to low.

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~ Step 7.  Add the butter, bouillon granules, nutmeg and white pepper to the stockpot.  Stir until the butter is melted and the bouillon and spices are thoroughly combined.

Turn the heat off.

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~ Step 8.  In the work bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade, mince the onion, then the celery, then the carrots, about 15-20 pulses each.

Transfer the vegetables to the stockpot as you work.

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~ Step 9.  Adjust the heat to a steady simmer. Cook the vegetables, stirring frequently, until the onion is soft and translucent, about 12-15 minutes.

Add the chicken stock and continue to simmer for 12-15 additional minutes.

Turn the heat off.

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~ Step 10.  Remove the potatoes from the aluminum foil.  Slice them in half lengthwise, and, using a large spoon, scoop out their soft centers, placing the scoops in a large bowl as you work.

Unwrap the garlic.  One at a time, holding each head at its base, squeeze as you would a tube of toothpaste, to press and add all of the roasted garlic to the bowl of potatoes.

PICT0063 ~ Step 11.  Add the grated white cheddar cheese to the bowl.  Using a large rubber spatula, combine all of the ingredients together.  Using a pastry blender, smash and chop the potatoes into large bite-sized chunks and pieces.

Note:  The chunks and pieces will get smaller when stirred into and heated in the soup, so error on the side of too big rather than too small.

PICT0076~ Step 11.  Add the potato/cheese mixture to the stockpot.  Gently stir in the cream, along with 1/2 of the fried bacon, reserving the second half of the bacon for garnishing each bowl of soup.  Over low heat, stirring frequently and gently, heat the soup until the cheese has melted and soup is steaming.  Do not allow soup to simmer or boil!

Technically, the soup is ready to serve, however, I like to cover the pot and let it rest for 1-2 hours prior to serving.  That being said, the soup is even better if refrigerated overnight and reheated the next day.  In either case, prior to serving, reheat the soup over low heat, stirring frequently, until the soup is steaming.  Do not allow soup to simmer or boil!  Taste and adjust seasoning with sea salt, only if necessary.  Ladle hot soup into warmed bowls and garnish each bowl with a sprinkling of grated yellow cheddar cheese, chives and the reserved bacon bits.

PICT0081Baked Potato, Roasted Garlic & Cheddar Soup:  Recipe yields 5-6 quarts of soup.

Special Equipment List:  vegetable brush; fork; aluminum foil; cutting board; chef's knife; vegetable peeler; 8-quart stockpot, preferably wide-bottomed, w/lid; slotted spoon; paper towels; food processor; large rubber spatula; pastry blender; soup ladle

Cook's Note:  This soup freezes quite nicely.  Thaw frozen soup to room temperature.  Reheat gently, on the stovetop or in the microwave, until steaming, and remember:  do not allow soup to simmer or boil!

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2011) 

03/04/2011

~ Culinary Q&A & Kitchen Therapy Too (3/4/11) ~

Culinary Q & A #2I guess I never quite realized how many people would be searching for recipes for the upcoming St. Patrick's Day holiday.  Thanks for all of your great comments and feedback, both here and over on Facebook, regarding my Irish Soda Bread and Braised & Brown Sugar Glazed Corned Beef recipes. Whether you are Irish or not, and, whether it is St. Patrick's Day or not, these are two easy and really delicious recipes that I'm sure will please your family and friends!

If you're one of my local readers and are planning on going out to celebrate St. Patricks Day, I'm also pleased to announce that both the soda bread and corned beef will be on the menu at The Philips 1921 Restaurant in Philipsburg, PA!  To prepare them for yourself:

~ Braised & Brown Sugar Glazed Corned Beef ~ can be found in Categories 2, 3, 11, 19 &  20.

~ Irish Eyes are Smilin' on Mary's Irish Soda Bread ~ can be found in Categories 5 & 11.

Late last night, I got a question/request from a friend who follows my posts over on Facebook and I think it is going to be of  interest to all of you too!

Q.  Les comments and asks:  When I was growing up, my grandmother used to make potato soup.  She didn't make it for St. Patrick's Day, she made it all year round.  I would like to make potato soup for my family for St. Patrick's Day this year.  Do you have a recipe you would share or perhaps give me some advice on how to make a great potato soup in general?

A.  Kitchen Encounters:  Les, how nice to hear from you!  I just happen to have a recipe I think you and yours will really, really enjoy.  My recipe for Baked Potato, Roasted Garlic & Cheddar Cheese Soup will be just perfect for your celebration and I'm pretty sure your grandmother would approve too!  Look for my recipe to be posted here on Kitchen Encounters early next week (Monday or Tuesday)!

NOTE TO ALL READERS:  My PC has finally given up the ship and died.  It was old and had been slowing down for quite some time, but it did not die of natural causes.  It died because of a virus that was inflicted upon it by some sick soul who has nothing better to do than sit around and infect PC's.  Luckily, my husband Joe was able to run it in "safe mode" long enough to retrieve ALL of my recipes and ALL of my photographs, meaning:  not just the ones that had been backed up, ALL of EVERYTHING.  Over the next couple of days, I will be transferring everything over to a new iMac, 21.5-inch LED 16:9 widescreen computer, where I am told I won't get any sick viruses from sickos anymore.  So, please bear with me. If a few days go by without any posts from me, it is all good news:

I'LL BE BACK AND BETTER THAN EVER!

Enjoy your weekend everyone, and once again:  To leave a comment or ask a question, simply click on the blue title of any post, scroll to the end of it and type away!

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Commentary and Photo courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2011) 

03/03/2011

~ Kitchen Encounters/WHVL Video Segment #4: Braised & Brown Sugar Glazed Corned Beef ~

6a0120a8551282970b014e8677490c970d-800wiEarlier today I posted my recipe for ~ Braised & Brown Sugar Glazed Corned Beef ~, which, if I do say so myself, makes the most awesome corned beef sandwich I have ever tasted (pictured below).  You can find the detailed recipe, along with all of my step-by-step directons and photos in Categories 2, 3, 11, 19 or 20!

If you'd like to watch my Kitchen Encounters TV segment, just click on the following link:

Braised & Sugar-Glazed Corned Beef

6a0120a8551282970b014e8679c646970d-800wiTo watch all of my other Kitchen Encounters/WHVL-TV cooking segments, go to the listing found on the left side of the home page of this blog, and, click on the blue title of any one, or:

Tune in to WHVL-TV's Centre of It All Show, which airs every Sunday morning at 11:30AM on local Comcast channel 14!

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"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary, Photos and Video courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2011)

03/02/2011

~ Crusty Caraway Seed Dinner/Sandwich Rolls ~

Crusty Caraway Seed Sandwich Rolls #1 (Intro Picture)

Nothing is more important to a sandwich than a great sandwich roll and my hearty, firm-textured caraway seed rolls are the perfect foil for all sorts of  deli-style sandwiches.  Their flavor pairs particularly well with cured or smoked luncheon meats like corned beef, ham and pastrami, but let me tell you they make for awesome turkey and roast beef sandwiches as well!

A bit about caraway seeds:  These aromatic, fragrant, flavorful seeds come from an herb in the parsley family.  They have a nutty, delicate anise flavor and are widely used in German, Austrian and Hungarian cooking.  They are added to and used to flavor all sorts of foods (cheese, breads, cakes, stews, meats, vegetables and the  liqueur kummel).  Growing up in an Eastern European (Russian Orthodox) family, I grew up eating the best rye bread with caraway seeds you can imagine, and, to this day I adore Denmark's Finest rich, buttery, caraway-studded Havarti cheese! 

Corned Beef Sandwich #3 (Closeup)I bake these really easy-to-make rolls several times each year, using my food processor method to mix the dough up in less than 5 minutes.  I developed this recipe about four years ago, to go specifically with my ~ Braised & Brown Sugar Glazed Corned Beef ~, recipe found in Categories 2, 3, 11 & 19, which I always make in March for St. Patrick's Day!

As with all dinner and sandwich rolls, it goes without saying they are best eaten the same day they are baked, but I must tell you, if you wrap these in foil and reheat them in a 300 degree oven, or, put them in a contact grill to make panini sandwiches,  you won't be a bit disappointed!

Crusty Caraway Seed Sandwich Rolls #3 (Ingredients) 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

6  cups unbleached, all-purpose flour

4  packets granulated dry yeast, NOT rapid-rise

1  generous tablespoon caraway seed

2  teaspoons sugar

2  teaspoons salt

2-2 1/4 cups very hot tap water

no-stick cooking spray, for spraying food storage bag and preparing  baking pan

1  extra-large egg white, vigorously beaten with 1 tablespoon water, for brushing tops of unbaked rolls

Crusty Caraway Seed Sandwich Rolls #4 (Dry Ingredients in Processor) ~ Step 1.  In the work bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade, pulse the flour, yeast, caraway seed, sugar and salt, 5-10 times.

Note:  When you are making any type of bread or pizza dough in a food processor, always pulse your dry ingredients together before adding any of the wet ingredients.

Crusty Caraway Seed Sandwich Rolls #6 (Water into Feed Tube)

 

 

 

 

~ Step 2.  With the motor of the food processor running, slowly pour the hot tap water through the feed tube into the dry ingredients.  Stop adding water the moment a large ball of dough forms.

Continue to knead the ball of dough for about 30-40 seconds.  This means the ball of dough will spin around in the processor.

Crusty Caraway Seed Sandwich Rolls #7 (Ball of Dough Formed)

 

 

 

 

~ Step 3.  This is what the finished dough will look like.

Spray the inside of a jumbo food storage bag with no-stick cooking spray.

Carefully, being careful not to cut yourself on the very sharp steel blade, remove the ball of dough from the processor, place it in the bag and twist or zip the bag closed.

Crusty Caraway Seed Sandwich Rolls #8 (Dough into Bag to Rise)

 

~ Step 4.  This is what the dough will look like when it is initially put into the bag.

Note:  As the dough rises, the yeast creates heat and humidity inside of the bag, making this a perfect environment to rise all sorts of bread and pizza doughs!

Crusty Caraway Seed Sandwich Rolls #9 (Dough Risen)

 

 

~ Step 5.  This is what the dough is going to look like after 35-45 minutes of rising time.  It will be doubled in bulk.  How easy was this!  And no mess to clean up!

Crusty Caraway Seed Sandwich Rolls #11 (Divide into 12 Pieces)

 

 

 

 

 

 

~ Step 6.  Using a pair of kitchen shears, cut the bag open across the top.  Punch the dough down, gather it up around the sides and form it into a ball.  Transfer the dough to a cutting board.  Using a very sharp chef's knife, cut the dough into 12 equal-sized portions.

Note:  If you put the dough onto a kitchen scale to weigh it, you would have approximately 52 ounces of dough, which will make 12 rolls, each made with just a little over 4 ounces of dough.

Crusty Caraway Seed Sandwich Rolls #12 (On Pan to Rise) ~ Step 7.  Line a large baking pan with parchment paper.  Spray the paper with no stick spray.  Using a paper towel, grease the paper with the oil.  Using the palms of your hands, form each section of dough into a round roll, placing them well-apart on the pan as you work.

Crusty Caraway Seed Sandwich Rolls #13 (On Pan and Risen) ~ Step 8.  Cover the pan of rolls with a large kitchen towel, preferably a white, flour sack-type towel.  Allow the rolls to rise until doubled in bulk, about 35-45 minutes.

The rolls will be touching or just touching each other.

Crusty Caraway Seed Sandwich Rolls #14 (Brush Tops with Egg Wash) ~ Step 9.  In a small bowl, using a fork, vigorously whisk together the egg white and water.

Using a pastry brush and a very light touch, brush the tops and any exposed surface of the rolls with the egg-white wash.

Crusty Caraway Seed Sandwich Rolls #15 (Rolls in Pan, Baked & Out of Oven)

 

 

 

~ Step 10.  Bake the rolls on center rack of preheated 400 degree oven 15-16 minutes.  The tops will be lightly golden brown and will sound hollow when tapped with your knuckle.  Remove from oven and using a gentle shake and a quick tug on the parchment paper, immediately transfer all of the rolls, as an attached group, from the pan to a large cooling rack.  Discard the parchment paper immediately after the transfer is complete... this is easy to do, it will just slide out from underneath.  Cool completely prior to cutting or separating the rolls.  Serve warm or at room temperature, using them as a basis for your favorite sandwich!

Corned Beef Sandwich #1 Crusty Caraway Seed Dinner/Sandwich Rolls:  Recipe yields 12, 3 1/2" round deli-style rolls.

Special Equipment List:  food processor; 2-cup measuring container; jumbo food storage bag; kitchen shears; 17 1/2" x 12 1/2" baking pan; parchment paper; paper towels; large kitchen towel, preferably a white, flour sack-type towel; small mixing bowl; fork; pastry brush; 17 1/2" x 12 1/2" cooling rack

Cook's Note:  While I adore these rolls made with caraway seeds, I have made them using fennel seeds, to serve with my Greek lamb and feta cheese sandwiches, and they turned out equally delicious!

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2011)