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18 posts from January 2012

01/29/2012

~ The Incredible, Edible Italian Meatball Sandwich ~

PICT1909It is Sunday afternoon in Melanie's Kitchen, and, this particular Sunday comes after a week of posting Italian food in general, including a lengthy post, found in Categories 3, 12 or 22 entitled: ~ "Wanna Husband?"  "Practice Your Meatballs!!!" ~.  I did not grow up in an Italian family, but I married into one, and, I would be an Italian housewife (by proxy), without a conscience, if I did not give equal time to the quintessential meatball sandwich.  That being said, you do not have to be Italian or marry into an Italian family to fall in love with this ooey-gooey cheesy, meaty, saucey sandwich.  A properly constructed meatball sandwich... meatballs, sauce and cheese on a great Italian roll... are a marriage made in Heaven!

There is no right or wrong recipe for an Italian meatball sandwich.  All I can do is share how I make them, which is how my husband and "his people" like them.  I have, however, on occasion, eaten a less than admirable meatball sandwich, and, it usually stems from someone using too soft-textured a roll, resulting in a soggy sandwich.  My other complaint is this:  often times the meatballs are hard, because the perpetrator is using an ill-conceived meat mixture, or, the meatballs haven't simmered in the sauce (which acts as a natural tenderizer) long enough!

PICT1869Here in Melanie's Kitchen, I make and fry meatballs in a huge batch, about once or twice a year.  I place them on disposable food-service trays that I buy at our local Sam's club, wrap each tray in plastic wrap, place them in food storage bags and stack them in my freezer.  I do not thaw my meatballs prior to removing the desired amount and dropping them into some of my simmering marinara sauce!

PICT1882For each sandwich:

1  7"-8" semi-firm Italian roll

2  slices provolone cheese

4  meatballs, simmered in sauce

3-4 tablespoons grated mozzarella cheese

1  tablespoon grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

fried peppers, packed in olive oil, for topping (optional)

PICT1936~ Secret 1.  If possible, buy rolls that are not pre-sliced and top-split them (this makes for a prettier presentation).  If your rolls are pre-sliced, usually side-split, don't worry, the sandwiches will be just as wonderful. 

Lightly toasting the inside of the roll goes a long way to keeping a meatball sandwich from getting soggy.  I use my indoor grill, but if you don't have one, place the split rolls in a toaster oven.

PICT1938~ Secret 2.  Placing cheese directly on the hot roll is going to accomplish two things:  

It is going to act as a buffer between the sauce and the roll, which is extra insurance that the roll will not get soggy.  It is also the glue that is going to keep your meatballs in one place while you eat the sandwich.  I place two slices of provolone cheese on each roll.  

Note:  I have cut each slice of cheese, somewhat into thirds, to fit the size of the roll.  This may or may not be necessary, depending upon the size of your roll.

To finish assembling:  Place four steaming hot meatballs on each sandwich, top with the grated mozzarella and Parmigiano-Reggianno.  Place sandwiches on a parchment lined baking pan. about 5"-6" under a preheated broiler (in the upper third of the oven), just until cheese is melted, but not browned.  Serve immediately topped with optional fried peppers:

PICT1928The Incredible, Edible Italian Meatball Sandwich:  Recipe yields instructions to make as many meatball sandwiches as you want.

Special Equipment List:  cutting board; serrated bread knife; baking pan; parchment paper

Cook's Note:  While all of the ingredients for meatball sandwiches can be prepped well in advance, for best results, assemble and broil just prior to serving.

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

(Recipe, commentary and photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2012)

01/27/2012

~ Culinary Q&A & Kitchen Therapy Too (1/27/12) ~

Culinary Q & A #2For those of you regulars to Kitchen Encounters, it is no secret that the past week here in Happy Valley has been one of the saddest in our University's history. We lost a great man in Joe Paterno.  It is not a stretch to say that Penn State has temporarily lost it's sense of identity, but even though our beloved Coach is gone, we will be back.  He'd want that. To read my memorial post:   ~ Sunday Dinner for JoePa ~, just click into Categories 16 or 17!

Over the course of the past week, Melanie's Kitchen has had more than the usual amount of activity.  Having lived in this community for over thirty-five years, we've made a lot of friends (who've moved away), met a lot of students (because our son graduated from Penn State), and, even welcomed football players and athletes from other sports into our home.  Many of all of the above were back in town for the memorial services and we were thrilled to hear from several.  Some called just to talk, others stopped by for their traditional "cocktail and spirited conversation" at my kitchen counter.  In the course of one of these visits, our "old" friend Lynn, whom we haven't visited with in about fifteen years asked a simple question, which is the premise for this Q&A:

How do you decide what recipes to post on your blog?

PICT1901Firstly, while I am relatively new to blogging, most people who don't know me personally probably don't know that I've been researching, developing, documenting and writing recipes for over 30 years. This makes me quite different from other bloggers in that I have over 700 meticulously tested recipes written and at my disposal.  I also have a continual stream of 100 or so "in progress", meaning:  once they pass the kitchen and taste tests each one will be added to my archives and eventually get published/posted.  So, folks, I'm in no danger of running out of my own material in my own lifetime.  Pictured here is just one of many, highly-organized stacks of Melanie's Kitchen recipes, each printed on my own signature "hearts 'n flowers" stationery. Those of you who take my classes and receive printed hand-outs of my recipes are familiar with it.  My dear friend of 32 years, Esther Del Rosso, an extremely talented local artist and graphic designer, hand-designed the border for my paper (as well as my business cards and notecards), just for me, over 20 years ago.  I've never changed it, nor will I.  I love it, and her, to this day! 

Now that I'm am a blogger, several criteria goes into which one of my recipes I decide to post and when.  These are in no particular order, because they are all very closely intertwined:

A recipe must be seasonally appropriate (Spring, Summer, Winter, Fall).

A recipe must be in keeping with a particular holiday or celebration.

A reader has specifially requested me to post a recipe.

A real life or current event occurs that spawns a creative culinary brainstorm.

I get so hungry for something I can't stand myself, so, I cook it and post it.

When all is said and done, I just do my best to keep it everyday real, always original, well-balanced, inspiring, informative and educational, for a wide-range of readers.  Everyone isn't a gourmet, everyone doesn't like everything, everyone can't cook like a chef, and, everyone doesn't have time to cook.  I even have a few readers who hate to cook.  More appropriately stated:  I can't please all of the people all of the time, but I sure try my best!

Enjoy the rest of your weekend, 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... or, email me directly!

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

(Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2012) 

01/25/2012

~ "Wanna Husband?" "Practice Your Meatballs!!!" ~

IMG_6597Meatballs are a universal food, and, almost every culture has their own name for them and way to serve them (they are acually a diminutive form of meatloaf).  They come in all sizes:  tiny, pop-in-your-mouth-sized ones served at cocktail parties or put into soups; medium-sized ones served as an accompaniment to pasta or put in a sandwich; and, large near baseball-sized ones served as a main course.  While meatballs aren't Italian per se, I'm pretty sure that when most of us think of meatballs, we associate the them with the pillowy-soft, melt-in-your-mouth, covered in red sauce/"gravy" Italian-American kind.  Italian immigrants brought their traditional family meatball recipes to America with them.  Meatballs were not initially served with spaghetti.  They were served alone, as was the pasta.  The two items began being served together in Italian restaurants to appease Americans who wanted meat served alongside their pasta.

PICT1741I don't think I've ever met a man, woman or child that didn't like meatballs, which is probably why every family cook or professional chef has at least one or two recipes for meatballs in their repertoire. I personally have several cultural versions (Asian, Middle Eastern, Spanish, Scandinavian, etc.).  My meatballs are pictured here with my recipe for ~ Making Manicotti Using Homemade Crespelle (Crepes) ~, found in Categories 3, 9, 12, 14 or 19.

PICT1892When I was growing up, our family ate spaghetti and meatballs every Tuesday night for dinner. Why?  My mom or dad grocery shopped on Tuesdays, and asked the butcher to freshly grind the meats.  One or the other, once home, would put the groceries away and immediately commence to making the meatballs and the sauce.  On Tuesdays, my brother and I would get off the school bus and practically run home in anticipation of this meal.

January 2012 078Our almost 5-year-old grandson, who lives in Pittsburgh, takes after his GrandMel where meatballs are concerned.  Whenever he's visiting us here in Happy Valley, next to "Dinosaur Chicken", spaghetti and meatballs are one of his favorites.   DJ's mom just e-mailed me this photo of him enjoying his after-school dinner tonight.  Thanks Melissa!  Give David a giant hug and kiss from GrandMel & JoePa.

WhatthehellcharlieMy husband Joe named this recipe for me.  "Practice your meatballs" is a line in one of his favorite movies, Prizzi's Honor.  It is a 1985, Academy Award winning, American black comedy, directed by John Huston.  It revels in the finagling of the members of a Brooklyn Mafia family, the Prizzi family, and rejoices in their everyday, family craziness and scams.   Charlie Partana (the clans enforcer/hit man, played by Jack Nicholson), in a scene with the elegant, but alas, husbandless family scandal Maerose Prizzi (played by Angelica Houston), listens to her bemoan her father's harsh criticisms of her. "Maerose", Charlie advises, "settle down, have a couple kids, a life... practice your meatballs".

Making the Meat Mixture

PICT1794For the basic meat mixture:

4  pounds ground sirloin (95/5)

4  pounds pork tenderloin

12  ounces finely diced onion

1  ounce finely diced garlic cloves

~ Step 1.  Place all ingredients in a very large bowl and thoroughly combine.  The best way to do this is with your hands.

PICT1771For the cheese:

8  ounces Parmigiano-Reggiano 

~ Step 1.  Coarsely chop and place cheese in a food processor fitted with a steel blade.  Using a series of about 30-45 rapid on-off pulses, process to coarse grains.  You will have about 2 total cups of grated cheese. Remove the cheese from the processor and set aside.

PICT1777For the wet mixture & seasonings:

12 ounces saltine crackers (6 crackers shy of 3 sleeves)

8  jumbo eggs

1  cup milk

2  teaspoons Italian seasoning blend

2  teaspoons sea salt

2  teaspoons coarsely ground black pepper

PICT1785~ Step 1.  Place crackers in a food processor fitted with a steel blade. Using a series of about 30 rapid on-off pulses, process to crumbs.

~ Step 2.  Open the lid of the processor and add the eggs, milk, Italian seasoning, salt and pepper.

Close the lid and with the motor running process until mixture is thick and pasty, about 15-20 seconds.

PICT1790~ Step 3.  Open the lid of the processor and add 1 cup of the grated Parmigianno-Reggiano.  

Note:  Reserve the remaining cheese for sprinkling on the finished meatballs and sauce.  I usually purchase 1 pound of cheese.  I grate it all and store it in the refrigerator for use in and on all sorts of other things!

Close the lid and process until the cheese is thoroughly incorporated, an additional 15-20 seconds.

PICT1802~ Step 4.  Transfer all of the wet mixture to the meat mixture.

PICT1811Using your hands, thoroughly combine the mixtures. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate, for 1 hour and up to overnight, to allow the flavors to marry/come together. Uncover and briefly remix.

How to Form & Fry & Even Freeze:

The above meatball mixture, which is pretty simple and straight-forward, makes a lot, about 12 dozen.  It takes no extra time to mix this big batch, just a bit of extra frying time, about 30 minutes extra, which is a small sacrifice considering the outcome.  Once the meatballs are fried and cooled, I portion and freeze a great deal of them (unsauced), enough for 6-8 more meals.  

My method for frying meatballs, however, requires one extra step... an old and authentic step.  It is a step so many American cooks don't know about, or skip.  The formed meatballs get rolled in breadcrumbs prior to frying.  This produces a lovely crisp, golden brown breadcrumb crust. These are indeed, moist, juicy, melt-in-your-mouth incredible meatballs.  Enjoy:  

PICT1816To form and fry:

1  24-ounce container plain, dry breadcrumbs

corn or peanut oil for frying

PICT1819

 

 

 

 

 

 

~ Step 1.  Using a 1 3/4" ice-cream scoop as a measure, place meatballs, side-by-side on 2 large, 17 1/2" x 12 1/2" baking pans.

Cover the pans with plastic wrap, and keep them covered until each batch is ready to be rolled in breadcrumbs and fried.  

Today, as pictured here, I got exactly 11 1/2 dozen meatballs!

PICT1826~ Step 2.  Place about 2 cups of breadcrumbs in the bottom of a 13" x 9" x 2" baking dish.

~ Step 3.  Place about 1/4" of oil in the bottom of an electric skillet and preheat to about 340 degrees.

Note:  In the case of my electric skillet, you can see that a 13" x 9" x 2" baking dish is the perfect gauge for how many meatballs to fry at one time.  Do not overcrowd the skillet!

PICT1831

 

~ Step 4.  Place about 28-36 meatballs in the breadcrumbs and roll to coat.  When all are coated, place them in the preheated skillet. Fry, until browned on both sides, but NOT completely cooked through, about 3 minutes per side. Do not overcook meatballs!  Using a pair of tongs remove from skillet and place on a paper towel lined plate to drain.

PICT1838Repeat this process until all meatballs are fried and drained, adding additional breadcrumbs to the baking dish and oil to the skillet, as necessary.  I will fry all of my meatballs in four batches today, and, it will only take me about 45 total minutes.  

PICT1882To cook freshly made or frozen (unthawed) meatballs, drop them into sauce simmering in a chef's pan or skillet (not a saucepan or stockpot) until they are just cooked through, 10-12 minutes for fresh ones or 22-25 minutes for frozen ones. Pictured here: 1 quart of sauce in a 3 1/2 quart chef's pan with 18 meatballs.  To find my recipe for ~ Mel's Fresh & Spicy Tomato-Basil Sauce (Marinara) ~, go to Categories 8, 12 or 22.

IMG_6643"Wanna Husband?"  "Practice Your Meatballs!!!":  Recipe yields about 11 1/2-12 dozen meatballs.

Special Equipment List:  cutting board; chef's knife; very large mixing bowl; food processor; 1-cup measuring container; large rubber spatula; plastic wrap; 2, 17 1/2" x 12 1/2" baking pans; parchment paper; 13" x 9" x 2" baking dish; electric skillet or large nonstick skillet; small fork; small spatula; tongs; paper towels

PICT1869Cook's Note:  I freeze my meatballs on parchment-lined baking pans for several hours or overnight. Next, I place them on inexpensive, disposable food service trays that I buy at our local Sam's club, cover each tray completely in plastic wrap and put each one in a food storage bag.  I then stack the trays neatly on top of each other in my freezer!

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

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2012)

01/23/2012

~ Making Manicotti Using Italian Crespelle (Crepes) ~

6a0120a8551282970b0162fffa07a9970d-800wiManicotti is one of the oldest shapes of pasta that is still prepared today much like is was originally.  In ancient times, the pasta dough was prepared, rolled into a large sheet, cut into good-sized squares, then boiled.  The pasta squares were then filled with a flavorful, savory cheese or meat mixture and rolled up.  After placing them in a baking vessel, they were/are usually topped with a tomato and/or bechamel sauce and baked in the oven.  Modern day manicotti are sold as dried, pre-formed pasta tubes, approximately 4" long and 1" in diameter, or:  the same size as the pasta squares after they are rolled up.  Dried manicotti shells are readily available in most grocery stores and all Italian specialty shops.  After the manicotti shells are boiled, they are stuffed, sauced and baked using the same filling mixtures and sauces as the more traditional, old-world style manicotti!

Pasta_shape_-_manicottiManicotti (singular and plural) means "sleeves" in Italian, and, whether you prefer or prepare the ancient-style or the modern-style: they are a delicious entree that is well-suited for all sorts of entertaining. (They hold up really well in a chafing dish and portion/present beautifully, which makes them perfect for a buffet supper.)  I like to prepare them in the traditional, old-world style, but replace the fresh pasta squares with Italian "crespelle". Crespelle, sometimes referred to as manicotti pancakes, are thin, Italian pancakes, very similar to French crepes and are commonly used in many regions throughout Italy.  It is probably worth mentioning that manicotti prepared using pasta squares or crepes, in certain regions of Italy, can be interchangeably referred to as cannelloni, which means "large reeds" in Italian.  That being said, cannelloni are never made using the pre-formed pasta shells... those are always manicotti!

PICT1620Crespelle are not technically pasta, but can be and are used in place of pasta in recipes that call for pasta sheets (like lasagna).  Once prepared, they can be rolled or stacked, and filled or interleaved, using a wide variety of savory meats, cheeses, seafood or vegetables as filling. Traditionally, they are quickly sauteed on a seasoned pan in a small amount of melted butter, however, modern non-stick surfaces produce a lighter, easier to work with crespelle and eliminate the need for butter completely.  I like to use a small, 6" square non-stick stovetop griddle, instead of a round crepe or omelette pan for two reasons:  Square crespelle are in keeping with the traditional square pasta sheets, and, square crespelle make rolling manicotti or layering lasagna a breeze!

A bit about my crespelle recipe:  The recipe I have for crespelle was given to me from my very first friend here in State College, Eileen Dayton.  Back in 1974, Eileen and I started our jobs on the very same day at the executive headquarters of the then Central Counties Bank.  She was in accounting and I was the executive secretary to the three vice-presidents in charge of lending (commercial, installment and mortgage).  We nervously struck up a friendship together over lunch and found out we were a pair of married foodies (w/o children) and lived two blocks from each other.  She invited my husband and I to their apartment for dinner the following Saturday night and she made manicotti.  As the story goes, Eileen's maiden name was Guadanola, and her parents were both Italian-Americans who hailed from Brooklyn and knew a thing or two about cooking.  The apple didn't fall far from the tree because Eileen is a marvelous cook.  Thirty years later, Mrs. Guadanola's crespelle recipe remains much the same as the original.  I find it to be better than most other versions.  Why?  Well, it is ever-so-slightly heavier in texture, or, less delicate than a crepe, which means it closely mimics the taste, texture and feel of pasta sheets!

It's Time to Make the Crespelle

PICT16231  cup whole milk, plus, a small amount of additional milk

8  jumbo eggs, at room temperature

1  cup Wondra Quick-Mixing Flour for Sauce and Gravy (Note:  all-purpose flour was in the original recipe and can be used, but I find I like the granular Wondra better.)

1/2  teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/2  teaspoon sea salt

no-stick cooking spray

PICT1625

 

~ Step 1.  Place the milk and eggs in a 1-quart measuring container. Using an electric, hand-held stick-blender (or a whisk), blend until the mixture is uniform in color.  

~ Step 2.  Gradually blend in the flour, nutmeg and salt.  The mixture will be smooth and the consistency of heavy cream.  Blend in just enough of additional milk to equal 4 total cups of total batter.  Set aside for about 15-20 minutes.

~ Step 3.  Spray a 6" nonstick stovetop griddle or a crepe pan with no-stick cooking spray and place over medium-high heat.

PICT1632~ Step 4.  Briefly restir the batter. Ladle a scant (slightly less than) 1/4 cup of batter onto the hot griddle.

PICT1635Lift, tilt and rotate the griddle to distribute the batter evenly.  Cook about 30 seconds. The bottom will be barely browned. The batter will have bubbled, set and the top/surface will appear dry.

PICT1646

 

~ Step 5.  Slip a nonstick spatula under the crespelle and carefully flip it over to cook on the second side, about 10-15 seconds.  Turn crespelle only once.  

PICT1645The second side, which cooks very quickly, will not be as evenly browned as the first side.  

PICT1664~ Step 6.  Repeat this process until all batter is used, remembering to briefly stir the batter each time before ladling and cooking, placing them on a large serving platter as you work (it is ok to randomly overlap and stack them). You will have 20-22 crespelle.  Cool completely.  About 45-60 minutes.  

 Notes about this process:  It is not necessary to spray the griddle or pan with any additional no-stick spray after the first time.  Also, this is a very forgiving recipe.  If one or two crespelle get a little browner than others, don't worry about it.  Also, crespelle can be prepared several hours and up to 1 day in advance, just cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate.  I have not had good results freezing them, so, don't waste your time with that experiment!

PICT1650One additional note:  If crespelle are stacked, the first side (the darker side) is referrerd to as the "top".  If crespelle are rolled, the first side (the darker side) is referred to as the "outside".  This is how they will be referred to for the remainder of this recipe!

It's Time to Make the Manicotti Filling

PICT16742  pounds whole-milk ricotta

4  ounces each:  grated mozzarella and provolone cheese

1  cup coarsely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

3  jumbo eggs, at room temp

1/2 teaspoon each:  nutmeg, salt and coarsely ground black pepper

1  10-ounce package frozen, chopped spinach, thawed (do not cook it to thaw it), squeezed completely dry (optional)

no-stick cooking spray

PICT1688~ Step 1.  In a large mixing bowl, using a large rubber spatula, combine the ricotta, mozzarella, provolone and Parmigiano-Reggiano cheeses.  Using your fingers, pull apart and add the optional spinach to the bowl.  In a 1-cup measuring container, whisk together the eggs, nutmeg, salt and pepper.  Add egg mixture to cheese mixture.  Fold until thoroughly combined, making sure there are no pockets of cheese or spinach. 

It's Time to Assemble the Manicotti

PICT1701~ Step 1.  Spray 2, 13" x 9" x 2" baking dishes with cooking spray and set aside.

~ Step 2.  Place the first crespelle, second side up, on a flat work surface.  Measure and place a generous 1/4 cup of the cheese mixture, in a lengthwise strip, to within 1/2" of the edge on either side, across the center of the crespelle.

PICT1702~ Step 3.  Lift the side of the crespelle closest to you up and place it on top of the filling.  Roll the crespelle over and place it, seam side down, in prepared baking pan. Repeat this process until all crespelle are filled and/or there is no more filling left, placing 10 manicotti side-by-side in each pan:

PICT1706

It's Time to Top and Bake the Manicotti:

PICT0492You'll need 1-quart of your favorite pasta sauce and 1/2 cup of additional grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. You can find my recipe for ~ Mel's Fresh & Spicy Tomato-Basil Sauce (Marinara) ~ in Categories 8, 12 or 22. Drizzle 1/2 cup of sauce evenly across the center of each row of manicotti in each dish.  With a spoon, distribute and spread the sauce to within 1" on either side of each manicotti. Evenly sprinkle 2 tablespoons of the additional grated cheese over the sauce on each row of manicotti.

PICT1711Bake, uncovered, on center rack of preheated 350 degree oven, 25-30 minutes.  The edges of the crespelle will be lightly browned and the cheese centers will be puffy and firm to the touch. Remove from oven and allow to rest, about 5 minutes, before serving.  

PICT1720Using a thin spatula, carefully separate and serve manicotti on warmed serving dishes with the additional 2 cups of sauce at tableside.

PICT1753Making Manicotti Using Italian Crespelle (Crepes):  Recipe yields 20 or 8-10 servings.  Each person will easily eat two.

Special Equipment List:  1-quart measuring container; hand-held electric stick blender or a whisk; 6" nonstick stovetop griddle, preferably square, or an omelette pan; 1/4 cup ladle or measure; nonstick spatula; cheese grater; large rubber spatula; 2, 13" x 9" x 2" casserole dishes; 1-cup measuring container; thin spatula   

PICT1767Cook's Note:  If you happen to have some 6", individual, oven-safe, round or oval au gratin dishes in your dish collection, you can portion two manicotti into each one, top, bake as serve as directed.  This makes for a really elegant presentation at a sit-down dinner or luncheon!

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

(Recipe Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2012)

01/22/2012

~ Sunday Dinner for JoePa (12/21/26 - 1/22/12) ~

,407510_366808286668477_100000179271960_1621934_1366716054_nJoe Paterno was an ordinary man with common sense values who made Penn State a great university, which made him an extraordinary man, and, he will be remembered as such.  I wonder how ordinary we all would be without having had him in our Penn State world?  For some reason, today, without him, I feel like an extraordinary Penn Stater, living in an ordinary college town. Somehow, for now, without him, "I am/We are... just Penn State."

I don't know life in State College without JoePa, so, this is going to take some getting used to. Over the past thirty-five years, I've run into him in the grocery store, in the State Store (where we buy booze here in Happy Valley), and, because of my scheduled/reserved court at The Penn State Tennis Center, about three mornings a week, we'd pass each other in the parking lot of the sports complex. "How are ya doing today?", he'd ask. "Great Coach.", I'd reply.  "Have a great game today.", he'd say. (It's referred to as a "match" in tennis, but, Coach never called it that.  He also said this to me in a slightly-frivolous, sort-of Coach-tone of voice, meant specifically not to scare the ever-lovin' bejesus out of me.  His index finger was pointed intently at me, as if to say, do your best, but make sure you give 'em hell.)  "You too Coach!", I'd respond.  That was that -- he'd continue on towards the practice field and I'd head towards the tennis courts.  Once, he told me it looked like I needed air in my front-left tire.  I can tell you this:  if Coach says you need air in your tire, you put air in your tire.  It was his day-to-day, run-of-the-mill, ordinary, giving and sharing that made Coach truly extraordinary and irreplaceable in the hearts of us Penn Staters.

This morning, I cried until I thought my eyes were going to bleed (blue and white of course). When I pulled myself together, I decided that I needed desperately to do something that would have meaning and purpose.  JoePa would want us all to do that.  Since I head for the kitchen in all times of anguish or distress, I decided to cook Sunday Dinner for JoePa.

Brooklyn-Style Manicotti with Mel's Meatballs & Sunday "Gravy"

PICT1741My recipe for ~ Mel's Fresh & Spicy Tomato-Basil Sauce ~ has already been posted here on Kitchen Encounters.  You can find it by clicking into Categories 8, 12 or 22.  In honor of JoePa, stay tuned for my next two posts:

~ Making Manicotti Using Italian Crespelle (Crepes) ~

My manicotti recipe, made using Italian crespelle (crepes), was given to me over thirty-years ago by a co-worker's mother, an Italian-American woman hailing from Brooklyn.  Knowing this is where JoePa grew up, it popped into my mind almost immediately.  If I could prepare dinner for him in person, I'm pretty certain he'd like this one a lot.  And:

~ "Wanna Husband?"  "Practice your Meatballs!!!" ~

My husband Joe named this recipe.  It is taken from a line from one of his favorite movies, Prizzi's Honor (a 1985 John Huston black comedy about a Brooklyn mafia family).  Charlie Partana (Jack Nicholson) advises the husbandless family scandal, Maerose (Angelica Houston):  "Settle down, have a couple of kids, a life... practice your meatballs"!

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

R.I.P.  Joseph Vincent Paterno.  You are, and, will forever remain, the father of Penn State!!!

Cook's PS:  My day today did indeed have meaning and purpose.  For me, cooking dinner for JoePa was kitchen therapy, the kind some of us would call spiritual.  We are, and shall remain, Penn State.  Melanie's Kitchen smelled devine and dinner tasted heavenly. 

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

(Commentary and Photo courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2012) 

01/20/2012

~ Culinary Q&A & Kitchen Therapy Too (1/20/12) ~

Culinary Q & A #2This short Friday Culinary Q&A is to make a happy announcement:

As of Wednesday, I am officially a member of the (IACP) International Association of Culinary Professionals on their Professional Level. Wow. It was Chef Martin Yan, who, personally, encouraged me to "fill out the paperwork" and try to join this esteemed group.  I am quite proud to add this membership to my list of Kitchen Encounters and culinary accomplishments!

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

(Commentary and Photo courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2012)

01/19/2012

~ Kitchen Encounters/WHVL Video Segment #21: Melanie's "Original" Secret Signature Macaroons ~

6a0120a8551282970b016760c5846f970b-800wiYesterday I posted my recipe for ~ Melanie's "Original" Secret Signature Macaroons ~.  You can find this decadent recipe, along with all of my detailed instructions and step-by-step photos in Categories 7, 16 or 21!

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

Melanies "Original" Secret Signature Macaroons

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 bog, 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 2012)

01/18/2012

~ Melanie's "Original" Secret Signature Macaroons ~

PICT1581No folks, I am not the inventor of the macaroon, but, neither is anyone else.  Food historians say they first appeared around 1533 in an Italian monastery.  These crispy cookies were made without flour or yeast, contained egg whites and almonds, and, were flavored with amaretto.  My original and authentic American recipe (right up until the moment I will reluctantly push publish on this post tonight) has remained a pretty well-guarded family secret and dates back to my grandmother and her sister. They were both superb bakers and they both loved coconut.  My grandmother was known for her large coconut-almond macaroons while her sister was known for her four-layer fresh coconut cake.  I got both of my recipes from them, and I can tell you, while recipes are in cookbooks and on the internet for both, no random search will produce anything even close to as good as either of these recipes.  Trust me, I know, I am a recipe developer!

RandommacaronsBefore we go any further, I am making American macaroons, not French macarons. While both recipes are gluten-free by default and are made using egg whites, they are two entirely different cookies.  The French macaron is a sandwich cookie, similar in texture to a meringue.  Our Southern-American coconut macaroon is a heavier textured, chewy cookie.  The macaron requires a bit more skill to make, but, if you love to bake, it is a process well worth the effort (and a separate blog post)!    

Chocolate-Dipped Coconut-Almond Macaroons #3 (For Sale at The Philips Hotel)A bit about my macaroons:  Over the years, my family, friends, neighbors and colleagues all look forward to their Christmas gift of Mel's macaroons.  Each year, they receive them delivered in a basket or a tin.  The "deal" is, if you return your basket or tin to me, it gets refilled next Christmas.  This tradition started 14 years ago when we moved to Boalsburg, and, to date, I've never NOT had a basket or tin returned.  I've taken them to my girlfriend Trish's cooking exchange parties, served them at my daughter-in-law's bridal shower, and, when asked, make them for local restaurants for fancy, upscale events.  Last February, I made over 200 of them for The Philip's Hotel to sell (the owner sent me this photo)!

The method for making macaroons is pretty universal, but it's my ingredients list and the proportions that produce the perfectly cooked, soft, chewy texture.  And lest we forget, it's baking, as opposed to cooking.  Baking is all about precision and timing. In baking you weigh and measure... we're not making mashed potatoes folks, we're making macaroons, and, unless you've got a well-proportioned ingredients list to start with, you don't have a prayer.  That being said, the size of the scoop matters too.  If you've eaten my macaroons, you've probably guessed it's a large ice-cream scoop that produces the perfect, round, dome-shaped cookie!

PICT1492I started dipping my grandmother's macaroons in chocolate, oh, I'd say 25 years ago.  Our beloved local O.W.Houts & Sons store was still in business back then and Julie (who ran an exceptional gourmet grocery department) ordered about six different brands of upscale chocolate for me to experiment with. I settled on Swiss Lindt. EVERYONE who knows me knows I swear by Lindt chocolate, and, use it exclusively in all of my baking.  From that standpoint, my choice of chocolate has never been a secret, it has been a mandatory requirement and I've passed it on to many over the years!

PICT1603Yes folks, the recipe I am about to share with you is very special indeed, and has been close to my heart for years, so, with Valentine's day approaching (and for one other personal reason), I decided to spend this dreary January day in Central PA revealing my secrets to macaroon making with you.  I am certain this is one you and and all of the coconut macaroon lovers in your world are going to adore!

The personal reason:  Over the years, 3 of the 4 colleagues and confidants I have shared my recipe/ingredients list with have been most professional about abiding by my wishes:  "please do not share or publish, as, I have not done so yet."  Secret keeping is a hard thing to do in this day and age, and, as any lawyer will tell you, recipes can't be copyrighted, they just get outright stolen... some salt here, an egg white there... voila, it's yours.  It is time to let my 3 dear friends off the hook, and, for me to let go.  As for the one of you that took it upon yourself to go astray this week: I do wish you well (not really), and, hope you'll enjoy the money you will make selling macaroons from a poorly-disguised knock-off of my recipe, which you fully-credit yourself for and published in our local newspaper this past Saturday.  You no longer have Mel to rely upon to help with your culinary quandaries and give you unconditional support... you've got the internet!

On behalf of my grandmother's kitchen, Melanie's Kitchen and Kitchen Encounters I now present my family's signature recipe for macaroons, the one so many of you have been asking for for many years. To my loyal friends and readers, feel free to share and enjoy:  

My recipe is officially yours now!

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5  cups sweetened, flaked coconut (3 cups toasted with the almonds)

1  cup sliced, unsalted almonds, with or without skins

1  14-ounce can sweetened, condensed mik

1  tablespoon pure almond extract, not imitation

4  large egg whites, at room temperature

2  tablespoons sugar

1/4  teaspoon salt

3/4-1  pound Swiss Lindt chocolate, bittersweet or milk chocolate, your choice, broken into pieces

PICT1499~ Step 1.  In a 13" x 9" x 2" baking pan, combine 3 cups of the coconut with the almonds.  Bake on center rack of preheated 350 degree oven, until golden brown, about 25-30 minutes, stopping to toss with a spoon about every 5-8 minutes.  Watch carefully during the last few minutes, as coconut and almonds can and will go from browned to burned quickly.  Remove from oven and set aside to cool to room temperature.

PICT1503~ Step 2.  In a large mixing bowl, place the toasted and cooled coconut/almond mixture with the remaining 2 cups of untoasted coconut.  Stir the almond extract into the condensed milk (you can do this right in the can).  Using a large rubber spatula, gently but thoroughly, fold the condensed milk mixture into the coconut mixture. Note:  Avoid smashing or breaking up the almonds.

PICT1516~ Step 3.  In a medium mixing bowl, on medium speed of a hand-held electric mixer, beat together the egg whites, sugar and salt, until frothy.  

Increase the mixer speed to high and continue to beat until soft peaks form, about 1 minute. Using a large rubber spatula, gently fold the egg whites into the coconut mixture, until thoroughly incorporated.

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~ Step 4.  Using a 2" ice-cream scoop as a measure, place firmly-packed balls of dough, slightly apart on a 17 1/2" x 12 1/2" baking pan that has been lined with parchment paper.  Do not flatten balls.  Bake on center rack of preheated 350 degree oven, until set and lightly golden brown, about 15-16 minutes.  Do not over bake...

PICT1546... Remove from oven.  Using a thin spatula, gently transfer cookies to a cooling rack to cool completely.

The macaroons are now, technically speaking: done.  If you want to chocolate dip them, proceed as follows:

~ Step 5.  Return macaroons to the parchment lined pan.  Refrigerate for an hour. Chilling prior to dipping avoids that unsightly, chocolate-bleedout at their bottoms.

PICT1558~ Step 6.  Place about 3/4" of water in the bottom of a double boiler and bring to a boil over high heat.  Place the chocolate pieces in the top of the double boiler.  Insert the top of the boiler into the bottom (containing the simmering water) and stir constantly, until the chocolate is melted and smooth.

 

 

~ Step 7.  Dip the bottom of each cold cookie into the melted chocolate and place, chocolate side down, onto still-cold parchment-lined baking pan.  Drizzle the remaining chocolate over the tops of the macaroons (a squeeze-type bottle, the kind used for vinaigrette, works well for this). Refrigerate for 2 hours or overnight.  Store, covered, in the refrigerator and return to room temperature 20-30 minutes prior to serving:

Chocolate-Dipped Coconut-Almond Macaroons #1Melanie"s "Original" Secret Signature Macaroons:  Recipe yields 22-24 large cookies.

Special Equipment List: 13" x 9" x 2" baking pan; large rubber spatula; hand-held electric mixer; 17 1/2" x 12 1/2" baking pan; parchment paper' 2" ice-cream scoop; thin spatula; cooling rack; double boiler

Cook's Note:  This recipe can be doubled, to make twice as many, and that works quite nicely. That being said, if you want to make large quantities, like I made for The Philips Hotel last February, you'll want mix them in separate, double batches.  I do not recommend tripling the recipe.  Why?  Well, the aerated egg whites tend to break down, or loose their volume over time, which can cause your macaroons to be at bit gummy, rather than chewy in texture!

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

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2012)

01/16/2012

~ Mouthwatering Meatloaf Burgers or Sandwiches ~

PICT1482People who make meatloaf and love meatloaf appreciate that very first bite of that very first slice, hot right out of the oven.  They also value how versatile a good meatloaf mixture/recipe is.  Not to be critical (ok maybe just a bit critical) there are some bad meatloaf recipes floating around. I've tasted a couple of those, and, for the most part they shall remain anonymous, but the one once served to me full of canned peas and carrots with leftover rice added to it was seriously bad.  Change of subject.  There are some people who make their meatloaf mixture just so they can fry up some meatloaf burgers, or those who bake the meatloaf just so they can eat hot or cold meatloaf sandwiches.  I for one make meatloaf for all three reasons.  Yesterday, I posted my recipe for ~ Mel, Will You Please Post Your Meatloaf Recipe? ~.  You can find it by clicking into categories 3, 19, 22.  Surely I would be remiss if I did not share a picture or two of my meatloaf burgers and sandwiches with all of you lovers of meatloaf, hence this followup post!

Let's Start By Making Some Meatloaf Sandwiches

PICT1368I really don't eat hot meatloaf sandwiches, because when I want hot meatloaf sandwiches, I make meatloaf burgers.  The funny thing is, I don't like my sandwiches on any kind of fancy bread or toasted bread.  I like to use the same bread I use in my meat mixture: Pennsylvania Dutch potato bread. Mayonnaise, shredded lettuce, thinly sliced tomato and shaved onion, that's all I need, besides an ice-cold beer, to complete my lazy-day leftovers for lunch menu!

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Now for Some Meatloaf Burgers

PICT1422In a 12" skillet, heat 1/4" of corn oil over medium-high heat. From the previously prepared meatloaf mixture, portion into desired number of 8-ounce discs, about 3 1/2"-4" in diameter and about 3/4" thick. Add burgers to pan and fry, until golden brown and cooked through, about 4-5 minutes per side, turning only once. Remove from skillet and place on a paper towel lined plate to drain briefly.

During the last 2 minutes of cooking, top each burger with two slices of your favorite cheese. When it comes to meatloaf burgers, my favorite is none other than ooey-gooey Velveeta.  I serve these on toasted sesame seed buns with sliced onion, dill pickles and ketchup!

PICT1443Mouthwatering Meatloaf Burgers or Sandwiches:  Recipe yields meatloaf sandwiches and burgers!

Special Equipment List:  cutting board; chef's knife; 12" skillet, preferably nonstick (optional)

PICT1402Cook's Note:  I hope you've enjoyed this fun and frivolous post.  For those of you who want to get a recipe for a seriously great meatloaf mixture, or, simply want to know more about how meatloaf came to be in our American diet, click into categories 3, 19, or 22 and read ~ Mel, Will You Please Post Your Meatloaf Recipe? ~.  Meatloaf is an American institution that is indeed here to stay!

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

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2012)

01/15/2012

~ Mel, Will You Please Post Your Meatloaf Recipe? ~

PICT1402I take all of my readers requests seriously, and when asked for something, I always do get to it (eventually).  I got this request last year, back in November to be exact.  Lauren has been patiently waiting, and I did email her to say it would have to wait until after I finished with my holiday posts.  So, here I am, on a beautiful, sunny, Sunday afternoon in January, with a crisp coating of snow on the ground watching all the skiers ride up and ski down the slopes of Tussey Mountain through my kitchen window.  I can't think of a better time to make meatloaf! 

PICT1346The fabulous '50's may be gone forever, but they are certainly not forgotten.  Remember the stainless steel diner in your hometown that served up a thick slice of mouthwatering meatloaf smothered in a smooth, rich pan gravy alongside of a big scoop of fluffy mashed potatoes? Remember meatloaf day in your school cafeteria with ketchup and french fries? Remember the Swanson frozen meatloaf TV dinner slathered with tomato sauce, tater tots and a chocolate brownie for dessert?  Remember your mom's "special" meatloaf and her meatloaf sandwiches the next day for lunch?  Well I sure do, and a I for one wouldn't trade any of those experiences for all the fancy-smancy food in France.  Just mention the word meatloaf, even in the company of culinary prefessionals, and you'll find that almost everyone has an interesting memory or story to tell and a recipe to share.  Meatloaf can be what you want it to be:  an economical family-style meal or a culinary masterpiece fit for a king.  I think my recipe is a little of both, and, as written, makes a few, but, before you consider cutting this recipe in half, imagine tomorrow without any leftovers and none in the freezer for a meal or two at a later date!  About the above photo:

PICT2147It is a picture of a large piece of artwork that welcomes guests through the side door into my kitchen.  We purchased it over 20 years ago because I always said I wanted a kitchen with a welcoming "come in and sit down diner feel" to it.  Perhaps that is why I named this blog Kitchen Encounters and designed a kitchen with a counter that seats 8-10 guests!?! 

The Oxford Companion to Food explains:  meatloaf is a dish whose visibility is considerably higher in real life than in cookery books.  This situation might be changed if it had a fancy French name (pate chaud de viande hachee, prealablement marinee dans du vin de pays et des aromatiques), but it does not.  It is a worthy dish, which embodies the word peasant (rustic), but can also exhibit refinement associated with bourgeois (middle to upper middle-class) cookery. Meatloaf does not extend into the realm of haute cuisine (artful or imaginative cuisine).  

P21024bA bit about grinding meat:  While the thankless task of mincing meat has been going on since ancient times, Karl Drais, a German aristocrat, is credited with inventing the cast-iron, hand-crank meat grinder in 1785.  This portable, countertop appliance made it possible for frugal home cooks to take advantage of its economic benefits:  

1) Ground meat feeds more people.  2) Grinding meat makes tough, lesser expensive, cuts of meat more palatable and easier to digest.  3)  Combining and grinding small pieces of various types of meat together makes a meal of otherwise useless leftovers.

Nowadays, grinding your own meat is even easier:  just trim it of unnecessary fat, cut it into chunks and pulse it in the work bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade!  

A bit about meatloaf in America:  American meatloaf has its origins in scrapple, a mixture of ground pork and cornmeal.  It has been served by the German-Americans in Pennsylvania since Colonial times.  The term "meatloaf" was first recorded in our American cookbooks in 1899, and remains one of our favorite, good old-fashioned comfort foods.  The syllable/word "loaf" is quite appropriate, as almost all recipes for meatloaf include the use of bread, which comes from a "loaf", usually in the form of soft, fresh breadcrumbs.  The meat mixture is then shaped like a loaf, it is baked in a loaf pan, and, it is sliced like a loaf of bread prior to serving hot or cold!

PICT1210For the meat for meatloaf:

For my recipe, your going to need 6 total pounds of meat.  You can use any combination you want, but my preference, which I highly-recommend, is:

4  pounds ground sirloin (95/5)

1  pound ground pork tenderloin

1 pound ground veal (85/15)

This combo will result in semi-firm, succulent, sliceable loaves!

PICT1227For the rest of the ingredients:

4 cups fresh, potato breadcrumbs, about 7 slices of potato bread

Note:  Potato bread is common to us here in PA.  In terms of ordinary "Wonder-type" bread it is richer, but white bread will work just fine in this recipe.

1  cup milk

2  large eggs, at room temperature

2  tablespoons Worcestershire sauce

2  ounces butter (1/2 stick)

8  ounces diced celery

8  ounces diced yellow or sweet onion

2  teaspoons dried marjoram

4  tablespoons dried parsley flakes  

2  teaspoons dried thyme leaves

2  teaspoons sea salt

1  teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper

PICT1217~ Step 1.  In a large mixing bowl, using your hands, combine the meat.  Cover with plastic wrap and set aside.

PICT1231~ Step 2. Tear bread slices into large pieces and place in a food processor fitted with a steel blade.  Using a series of 15-20 rapid on-off pulses, process the bread to crumbs.

PICT1246~ Step 3.  You will have 4 cups of breadcrumbs.  Transfer them to a 1-quart measuring container.  Add and stir in the 1-cup of milk.  The mixture will be thick, pasty and reduced by half.  Set aside.

PICT1257~ Step 4.  Using a fork, in a small bowl, whisk together the eggs and Worcestershire sauce.  Set aside.

PICT1260~ Step 5.  Add the breadcrumb/milk mixture to the bowl, followed by the egg/Worcestershire mixture.  Using your hands thoroughly combine, cover w/plastic wrap and set aside.

 

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~ Step 6.  In a 12" skillet, melt the butter.  Stir in the celery, onion and all remaining ingredients.  Adjust heat to saute, until onion is soft, about 4-5 minutes.  Remove from heat and set aside to cool for 20-30 minutes, until cool enough to comfortably handle w/hands.

~ Step 7.  Add the vegetable mixture to the meat mixture.  Using your hands, combine thoroughly.

PICT1284~ Step 8.  Using a kitchen scale as a measure, divide the mixture into 3 equal parts of 2 pounds each, or, 6 equal parts of 1 pound each.  Using your hands, form into oval-shaped loaves and place one loaf in each appropriate-sized pan:

(For 2-pound loaves) 3, 8 1/2"L x 4 1/2"W x 2 1/2" D pans, or

(For 1-pound loaves) 6, 5"L x 2 1/2"W x 2"D

PICT1303~ Step 9.  Place pans, slightly spaced apart, on a 17 1/2" x 12 1/2" baking pan that has been lined with parchment paper.  This will make the hot meatloaves much easier to remove from the oven when they are cooked.  Bake on center rack of preheated 350 degree oven, 1 1/2 hours for 2-pound loaves, or 45 minutes for 1-pound loaves. Remove from oven and allow to cool in pans for 8-10 minutes.

Got Gravy?

PICT1334Well, sort of.  I use very lean, high-quality meat to make my meatloaf, so, no matter what size of loaf pan I bake them in, I usually only end up with a total of 1/2-3/4 cup of drippings.  And, as you can see, very little of that is fat.  In the gravy world, that's not a lot, but, nonetheless these drippings are very flavorful.  Because this is meatloaf, not prime rib, and, because everyone is anxious to eat their meatloaf hot out of the oven:

PICT1338Pour drippings from pans into a 2-quart saucepan and adjust the heat to a steady simmer.  Simply stir in 2, 12-ounce jars of your favorite, store-bought beef gravy. Making gravy the old-fashioned way with this amount of drippings, never seemed to yield enough to feed my family (who likes gravy on both their meat and mashed potatoes).  Trust me when I tell you, because of the flavor in these drippings, a bottle or two of gravy is no compromise!

That First Glorious Forkful!

PICT1410Mel, Will You Please Post Your Meatloaf Recipe?:  Recipe yields 3, 2-pound meatloaves, or, 6, 1-pound meatloaves.  A 2-pound meatloaf will serve 4-6, and a 1-pound meatloaf will serve 2-3.  If you make gravy as directed above, you will have 3 cups.

Special Equipment List:  food processor; cutting board; chef's knife; plastic wrap; 1-quart measuring container; 1-cup measuring container; fork; 12" skillet; kitchen scale; 3, 8 1/2"L x 4 1/2"W x 2 1/2"D loaf pans, or, 6, 5"L x 2 1/2"W x 2"D, mini-loaf pans; 17 1/2" x 12 1/2" x 2" baking pan; parchment paper; 2-quart saucepan

Cook's Note:  I like making the 1-pound meatloaves, just because each one feeds 2-3 people, just enough for Joe or I.  Also, this is the ideal size to freeze, just because when they come out of the freezer, they thaw much quicker than the larger size.  No matter what size you decide to make, decide to make several, as there is nothing like leftovers!

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

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2012)

01/13/2012

~ Culinary Q&A & Kitchen Therapy Too (1/13/12) ~

Culinary Q & A #2Our first Q&A of 2012 and I hope you are all having a fine start to the New Year.  I stopped making formal resolutions years ago, because life always gets in the way of the best laid plans, so, let's suffice it to say, I'm going to try my best to post a lot of new and exciting recipes, as well as old and beloved ones on Kitchen Encounters this year!  

Also, notice that I've added an "Email Me" tab to the top/header of my blog, so, now you can contact me directly with your questions and recipe requests, which in turn insures you a quicker response from me.  A lot of you have commented on how you enjoy reading the short history or "a bit about" how a recipe came to be in our foodie world, so I plan to do more of that too.  Thank-you all for all the feedback and input!

PICT1186I've posted six recipes so far this year and of the six, my recipe for ~ Sweet & Sour Broccoli-Orange-Cashew Chicken ~ struck a chord that resonated GLEE on my Facebook page as well as right here on Kitchen Encounters.  After all of the customary rich holiday fare and dessert overload, everyone's taste buds must have been in the mood for a "wake up" call, because several of you dropped what you were doing and cooked the recipe.  You can find it by clicking into Categories 3, 13, or 19!

I had one great question this week, and it did not come to me via Facebook, Email or Kitchen Encounters.  Those of you who know me, know I try to do a foodie post over on Black Shoe Diaries, which is a blog for Penn State sports fans every Thursday.  If you notice, Black Shoe Diaries is on "My Favorite Blogs" list (found on the left hand column of KE), so feel free to click on it and read Penn State sports news first hand (as well as read my BSD "Food for Thursday" food post every Thursday evening)!

Q.  Esteban asks:  Does Kitchen Encounters have a section with quick meals (30-40 minutes from prep to plate)?  I love your recipes, but many of them I don't have the time to make during the week with my work schedule and an 8 month old.

PICT2690A.  Kitchen Encounters:  Esteban! Great to hear from you and what a great question too!  I do not specifically have a category for 30-minute meals, but there are 2 categories that might interest you: 20) Just Plain Easy!, and, 22) Alert! Can be Made Ahead and Frozen!  I try to never say (or take responsibility) for how long it will take any one person to prepare a recipe from prep to plate.  What takes me 40-45 minutes, might take someone else 1 1/2 hours, so, I try to avoid being criticized for making that promise.  Also, I'm a bigger proponent of making a double batch of a recipe that freezes really, really well, and, freezing it in appropriate portions for truly FAST and DELICIOUS weeknight meals.  That being said, when I teach classes to busy, working moms and dads, I try to get them to take an hour or so over the weekend, when one parent can babysit, so the other can prep, by hand or in the food processor, a bunch of vegetables (celery, onion, carrots, broccoli, bell peppers, etc.) and put them in the vegetable bin in the refrigerator.  Cooking on a busy weeknight is a breeze with some pre-prepped fresh veggies on hand.  Hope this helps and I hope to hear from you again!

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... or, email me directly!

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

(Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2012) 

01/11/2012

~ Sweet & Sour Broccoli-Orange-Cashew Chicken ~

PICT1189I find myself chuckling because it was last year around this time, January 15th to be precise, when I posted my recipe for ~ Chinese Chicken Chow Mein a la Melanie ~, which you can find in Categories 3, 13 or 19.  It too is a Martin Yan inspired dish, and I decided to cook it for the exact same reason I am cooking this one today:  it is the doldrums of Winter, I've been cooking a lot of the usual comfort foods, and, tonight I'm in the mood for a "wake the tastebuds up" meal!

A#6. Chef Yan Demo #3 (2-20-10)Two years ago I had the pleasure of meeting and spending several hours with Chef Martin Yan, right here in Melanie's Kitchen, and, assisting him with his live cooking demonstration at Penn State's WPSU-TV (that's me in the back of this picture).  When it comes to Chinese food, Yan is "the man" and Yan not only can cook, he is a master chef, as well as a charming person.  I have all of his books, and today I'm making my version of a recipe found in and inspired by his 5th book, Everybody's Wokking, which was published in 1991.

It is noteworthy to mention that the late, great Julia Child wrote the introduction to his book Martin Yan's Chinatown Cooking, which was published in 1992.  In the last paragraph she writes, "Now, praises be, we have Martin Yan to show us the way.  I have enjoyed watching Martin ever since he came on the television, and I have picked up many a pointer on how to eat Chinese when I've shared a meal with him.  He has been researching this ancient art for years, he knows both classical and modern versions, and, equally important, he knows how to teach. How lucky we are to have him here with us."  How lucky was I to have spent time with him and have him stand in my cookbook library and share a few tales  about our dear Julia!

As Chef Yan explains, most of the Chinese immigrants to the US were Cantonese.  With them came their love for fresh ingredients and bold bright flavors.  Their sweet and sour flavor combinations, which are achieved via the perfect balance of sugar and vinegar, became favorites of the Americans. Sweet and sour sauce, is often made separately and used  to dress meat, fish or vegetables. This delightful version includes mandarin oranges and their juice, which is just the burst of citrus flavor I am looking forward to eating tonight!

PICT1118For the chicken and its marinade:

2-2 1/2  pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts, trimmed of all fat and connective tissue, cut into 1" cubes

2  tablespoons  Lee Kum Kee premium dark soy sauce

2  tablespoons dry sherry

1  tablespoon firmly-packed cornstarch

1  tablespoon sugar

2  large eggs

additional cornstarch, for dredging chicken, about 3/4 cup

 

PICT1105For the sweet and sour sauce:

While this looks like a long list of intimidating ingredients, if you cook Chinese food at home, you'll notice they are common to Chinese food and you most likely already have them on hand in your pantry and/or refrigerator.  It is quick and easy to make too, and, don't be afraid make a double batch of it, to keep on hand in your refrigerator!

 

2  tablespoons sesame oil

2  tablespoons minced, fresh ginger

3/4  cup mandarin orange syrup, reserved from oranges (see stir-fry ingredients list below)

1/4  cup lemon juice, preferably fresh, or high-quality bottled concentrate

1/4  cup rice vinegar

1/2  cup ketchup

2  tablespoons Lee Kum Kee hoisin sauce

1  tablespoon Lee Kum Kee premium dark soy sauce

2  tablespoons oyster-flavored sauce

1/2  cup firmly-packed brown sugar

2  teaspoons Sriracha, hot chili sauce, more or less, to taste

2  tablespoons firmly-packed cornstarch dissolved in 1/4 cup cold water

PICT1127For the cashews and stir-fry:

1  cup whole, unsalted cashews

2 tablespoons sesame oil 

2  tablespoons vegetable oil

2  tablespoons minced ginger

2  cups, fresh, 1" broccoli florets

2  cups, large diced yellow or sweet onion

1  15-ounce can whole mandarin orange segments packed in light syrup, well-drained, all syrup reserved (about 3/4 cup)

PICT1120~ Step 1.  To marinate the chicken:  In a 1-cup measuring container, using a fork, whisk together the soy sauce, sherry, cornstarch, sugar and eggs, until smooth.  Place the marinade in a 1-gallon food storage bag, seal the bag and toss to coat.  Set aside for 30-40 minutes.  While the chicken is marinating:

PICT1109~ Step 2.  To prepare the sauce:  In a 1-cup measuring container, using a fork, whisk together the cold water and cornstarch until smooth.  Set aside.  In a 2-quart saucepan, over medium-high heat, combine the sesame oil and ginger, until fragrant and beginning to sizzle, less than 1 minute.  Add all of the remaining ingredients as listed (except for the cornstarch mixture) and adjust heat to a steady simmer.  Slowly and in a thin stream, whisking constantly, add the cornstarch mixture. Continue to simmer, whisking constantly, until the sauce is thickened and will coat the back of a spoon, about 2 minutes.  Remove from heat, cover and set aside.  Prep all of the ingredients for the stir-fry.  How easy was that!

PICT1132~ Step 3.  To stir-fry the cashews:  In a 12" chef's pan, place the sesame and vegetable oils over medium-high heat.  When the oil is quite hot, add the cashews.  Using a large slotted spoon, stir-fry until cashews are golden brown, about 2 minutes. Turn the heat off.  Remove the cashews from the pan, transfer to a paper towel lined plate and set the cashews and the pan of oil aside. You will be reusing the pan and oil.  

PICT1149~ Step 4.  To dredge and fry the chicken:  Preheat oil in a deep-fryer to 360 degrees, according to manufacturer's specifications. Place about 2 tablespoons of cornstarch in a small mixing bowl and line a 13" x 9" x 2" baking dish with paper towels.  When the oil reaches temperature, dredge 12 pieces of chicken in the cornstarch, shake off the excess and deep-fry until just cooked, about 1 1/2-2 minutes...  

PICT1160... Repeat this process, adding more cornstarch to the bowl each time, until all of the chicken pieces have been dredged and deep-fried.  Do not overcook!

Note:  The dredging and deep-frying process can be done 1-2 hours in advance of preparing the stir-fry and serving dinner.  How convenient is that!

PICT1177 PICT1199~ Step 5.  To stir-fry and serve: Return the chef's pan to medium-high heat.  Add the ginger, broccoli and onions.  Fry, stirring constantly for about 3 minutes, until the vegetables are crunch-tender.  Add the chicken. Toss in about 2/3 of the sauce, approximately 2 cups, until chicken and vegetables are lightly-coated.  Do not over sauce.  Cook for 1 more minute, to reheat chicken. Toss in the cashews and orange segments.

To serve (as pictured above and below), place 1 1/2-2 cups of steamed Jasmine rice in the bottom of each warmed serving plate or shallow bowl.  Top with a generous scoop or two of sweet and sour chicken and serve with additional sauce at tableside for dipping or drizzling.

PICT1189Sweet & Sour Broccoli-Orange-Cashew Chicken:  Recipe yields 6-8 serving, and, 3 cups of sweet & sour sauce.

Special Equipment List:  cutting board; chef's knife; 1-cup measuring container; fork; 1-gallon food storage bag; 2-quart saucepan w/lid; whisk; 12" chef's pan w/straight, deep sides, or, stir-fry pan or wok (although when writing this recipe it was my goal to show you you do not need a fancy pan to make a great stir-fry; large slotted spoon; paper towels; deep fryer; 13" x 9" x 2" baking dish

PICT1199Cook's Note:  If you have a copy of Martin Yan's Everybody's Wokking cookbook, turn to page 70, read his recipe for Fruited Sweet & Sour Chicken.  It will give you an idea of what happens when I see a recipe I like and turn it into my own. I think Chef Yan would be proud!

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

(Recipem Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2012)

01/09/2012

~ My Johnny Cakes - Jonnycakes - Journey Cakes: Visit an Original New England Breakfast Tradition ~

PICT1092I watch the Sopranos on A&E every morning or afternoon, or any chance I get.  I watch the series over and over again, no matter how many times they rerun it.  It's, well, "like being a part of the family".  They're currently running the sixth season and last week the episode entitled "Johnny Cakes" was on.  Suffice it to say, it is about a character named Vito who is adjusting to his new lifestyle in New Hampshire and strikes up a friendship with a diner owner named Jim, who makes the best Johnny cakes in town.  I love Johnny cakes, I mean, I really love Johnny cakes a lot, and, I haven't made them in a while.  I also believe/guess that a lot of you here in Central PA haven't ever eaten them, so, hence today's breakfast blog post (or breakfast for dinner post)!

A bit about Johnny cakes:  Dating back to the early 1600's, Johnny cakes are said to be the precursor to the pancake.  The origin of the name is a mystery, and, most likely has nothing to do with the name John.  We do know they were originally called journey cakes because they were packed into saddlebags to take on long trips.  They were sometimes called ash cakes, because they could be baked or reheated in the hot embers of a fire, and, hoe cakes, are ash cakes that are placed on a hoe and also cooked over an open fire.  Corn cakes were first made by Native Americans,  who called them janiken, and that sounds suspiciously close to Johnny cake to me. They used ground corn as an ingredient in a lot of their food, and some historians believe it was the colonists who slurred the words "Shawnee cakes" into "Johnny cakes".  It's no surprise that these delicious cornmeal cakes are associated with New England, as it was the Native Americans who taught the Pilgrims how to grind corn (because their supply of wheat flour had spoiled during their voyage from England) back in 1620!

DSC01341My first experience with Johnny cakes was back in 1991 or 1992 (I can't pinpoint the exact year, but I know what car we were driving, so I'm in the right time frame).  Joe and I decided to take a tennis vacation and headed to the Killington ski resort in Vermont.  During the Summer, Killington offers tennis packages and boasts first-class accommodations, all in the clean, crisp, cool air of the great state of Vermont.  We drove nine hours, along winding, two-lane interstate and country roads looking at truly picturesque mountains and greenery.  We FINALLY arrived.  It was idillic, until the killer mosquitos came out and that's all I'm sayin' about that.  Joe and I ended up spending a great deal of time sight-seeing, shopping in country stores and eating in local restaurants.  I tasted my first Johnny cake for breakfast before hitting the courts on our first day.  I liked them so much, I ordered them every morning for the rest of our stay and got a recipe (mostly instructions) from one of the chef's who worked in the resort's kitchen!

PICT1002In their purest form, Johnny cakes are made from yellow or white corn meal (your choice), boiling water, salt and sometimes sugar.  The corn meal gives them their unique texture, but they get most of their flavor from what they are cooked in, so, bacon drippings or butter, or either combined with some oil are always used.   I use a combination of butter and corn oil, which is in keeping with the "corn theme"!

The batter has the consistency of loose mashed potatoes and many versions contain milk and egg. Unlike pancakes they don't contain any leavening, like baking powder, which is great because you can mix up a batch in advance of cooking them. Like pancakes, you can top them with more butter, fresh fruit, syrup and or honey. I like a pat or two of soft butter and pure, Vermont maple syrup... liquid gold!

PICT1006

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1  cup yellow cornmeal

1  cup white cornmeal

1 3/4  cups boiling water

4  tablespoons salted butter, melted and cooled for about 10 minutes

1/2  cup whole milk, at room temperature, not cold

1 large egg

4  tablespoons sugar (1/4 cup)

2  teaspoons sea salt

1/2  additional whole milk, slightly warm

4  tablespoons additional butter, for frying

4  tablespoons corn oil, for frying

PICT1007~ Step 1.  In a 1-cup measuring container, in the microwave or on the stovetop, melt and cool the 4 tablespoons of butter as directed. Using a fork, whisk in the 1/2 cup milk, egg, sugar and salt.  You will have 3/4 cup of butter/milk mixture.

PICT1029

 

 

 

 

~ Step 2.  In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together the two corn meals. Set aside.  In a small saucepan, bring 1 3/4 cups of water to a rolling boil over high heat.  Using a whisk, add the boiling water, every last hot drop, to the cornmeal, thoroughly combine and set aside for about 5 minutes.  This mixture will be very thick and pasty.  Meanwhile:

PICT1034

 

 

 

~ Step 3.  Heat the additional 1/2 cup of milk in the microwave or on the stovetop.  Add all of the milk to the pasty cornmeal mixture.

PICT1040Using a fork, combine the mixture until it literally resembles, very loose mashed potatoes.  Cover with plastic wrap and set aside about 20-30 minutes, longer, or overnight!

PICT1044~ Step 4.  In a 12", nonstick skillet, melt 4 tablespoons of butter into 4 tablespoons of corn oil over medium heat.  This will be enough to fry all of the Johnny cakes.  Using a 1/4 cup ladle (4 tablespoons) as a measure, drop four Johnny cakes into the skillet.  Adjust the heat to medium-high and fry, until golden brown on both sides, about 2 1/2-3 minutes per side, turning only once. Error on the side of slightly lower heat, as, if the heat is too high, the cakes will be raw in the center, so take your time here.  Johnny cakes are denser than pancakes, which means they take longer to cook.  Patience is a virtue!

PICT1056My Johnny Cakes - Jonnycakes - Journey Cakes:  Visit an Original New England Breakfast Tradition:  Recipe yields 16, 3 1/2" round Johnny cakes.

Special Equipment List:  1-cup measuring container; fork; whisk; 1-2-quart saucepan; plastic wrap; 12" skillet, preferably nonstick; 2-ounce ladle; spatula

Cook's Note:  All things considered, Johnny cakes can and do rival ordinary pancakes on any given day.  Crispy on the outside, with a slightly grainy, yet creamy, texture on the inside, there is nothing not to love.  I think of them as individual cornbreads that are fried in a skillet.  By the way, did I mention they are gluten-free too?

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

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2012)

01/07/2012

~ Kitchen Encounters/WHVL Video Segment #20: Wild Alaskan Salmon Cakes w/Mustard-Dill Sauce ~

PICT0837Over the past two days I posted my recipes for ~ Refreshing Wild Alaskan Sockeye Salmon Cakes ~, which you can find in Categories 3, 14 & 19, and ~ Tangy Mustard-Dill Sauce for Fish & Vegetables ~, which can be found in Categories 8, 14 or 20!

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

Wild Alaskan Salmon Cakes w/Mustard-Dill Sauce

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 into 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 2012)

01/06/2012

~ Tangy Mustard-Dill Sauce for Fish & Vegetables ~

PICT0974This is a really easy to make "happy little sauce".  I started making it a few years ago, when I fell in love with the cold poached salmon presentation at the famous Bellagio buffet out in Las Vegas. It has been my sauce of choice for almost any type of salmon ever since... most especially salmon cakes (pictured above).  Several years back, when one of our sons was dating a Norwegian gal, I served it with gravlax for her.  Ann Katrine told me that my "Norwegian mustard" was better than the ones back in her homeland.  Whether or not she was just being polite, I'll never know, but I took it as a huge compliment!

PICT09451 1/2-2  ounces fresh dill, stems included

1  cup Dijon mustard

4  teaspoons dry English mustard

1/2  cup sugar

1/2  cup apple cider vinegar

1  cup vegetable oil

PICT0950

 

 

 

 

 

 

~ Step 1.  In the work bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade, using a series of 10-12 rapid on-off pulses, chop the dill.  Add the Dijon mustard, English mustard, sugar, salt and vinegar to the work bowl.

Do not add the vegetable oil just yet!

With the motor running constantly, blend until smooth, about 20-30 seconds.

PICT0954

 

~ Step 2.  While the motor is still running, through the top of the processor, gradually, in a thin stream, add and blend in the oil. Continue to process for about 30 seconds, until the mixture is smooth and emulsified.

Use immediately, or, transfer to a food storage container, tightly close and refrigerate for up to one week. You will have 2 1/2 cups of delicious mustard-dill sauce.

 

 

 

 

Be Creative

This extremely versatile sauce is delicious served atop other types of broiled or baked fish, crab cakes and even grilled chicken.  That being said, try it on raw, blanched or steamed vegetables like asparagus, broccoli, carrots and cauliflower.  It can also be used as an alternative to Caesar salad dressing, or, in place of mayonnaise on all sorts of sandwiches.  Speaking of mayonnaise, use it to dress your potato, celery and onion mixture for a superb mustard-dilled potato salad. Don't like tartar sauce? Use my Tangy-Mustard-Dill Sauce instead.  It is pictured below on my recipe for ~ Refreshing Wild Alaskan Sockeye Salmon Cakes ~, which you can find in Categories 3, 14 or 19!

PICT0837Tangy Mustard-Dill Sauce for Fish & Vegetables:  Recipe yields 2 1/2 cups sauce.

Special Equipment List:  food processor or blender

Tartar Sauce #1 (Intro Picture)Cook's Note:  To try another one of my favorite, easy to make, sauces for fish and vegetables, you can find ~ My Favorite Tartar Sauce (for Crab Cakes & Fish) ~, in Categories 8, 14 or 20.  When it comes to fish and seafood, it really is all about the sauce!

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

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2012)

01/05/2012

~ Refreshing Wild Alaskan Sockeye Salmon Cakes (w/Mustard-Dill Sauce and a Cucumber Salad too!) ~

6a0120a8551282970b017c3178051a970bTrying to eat healthier is always an admirable start to the New Year.  I don't formally resolve to do it, because Joe and I do our best all year long to balance healthy eating with our occasional decadent binges.  That being said, if you have a family to cook for, there are always satellite issues involved, the two most prevalent being:  kids and budget.  As a mother who raised three boys, getting school-age children and teenagers to eat healthy ain't easy.  To make things worse, you get a lot less food for your buck these days, and, why is it that healthy choices always seem to cost the most -- could someone please explain that to the politicians!  

When it came time for me to decide what my first Kitchen Encounters cooking segment for WHVL-TV of the New Year would be, choosing healthy, lighter fare was instinctively obvious, and I have hundreds of super-delicious recipes in my repertoire to choose from.  "Yeah, but anyone can do that", I said to myself.  After some pondering, I set this as my goal:  Cook a meal, from one premier ingredient, and:  it had to be easy to prepare, it must generously feed a family of 6, be kid-friendly, and, modest on the budget too.  I wanted it accompanied by something fresh and accessible, as well as dish appropriate.  While passing by the seafood counter at our local Giant market on Monday, my mystery ingredient stopped me in my tracks... the most beautiful wild Alaskan salmon fillets I think I have ever seen.  It was $10.99 a pound, and a two pound fillet cost me just under $22.00.  Divide it up amongst a family of six... $3.60 per person!

Part One:  My Favorite, Super-Easy, Foolproof "Broil & Bake"

Salmon Cooking Method

PICT0791I bought two fillets, because, this is a segment on TV and that requires "the magic of television", better known as a finished "swap out". You'll need ONE:

2-2 1/2  pound fillet of fresh, wild, Alaskan sockeye salmon

This recipe works equally well with:

fillet of fresh, farm-raised, salmon

TGIF Salmon #5~ Step 1.  A salmon is  structured such that a line of tiny white bones, called pin bones, are left in the fillet after it is removed from the backbone.  Their nubbly tops are easily located with your fingertips. The bones themselves are quickly removed.  Using a pair of needle-nose pliers (or tweezers), grip the tip of each bone and give it a firm pull.  These bones aren't really the kind anyone can choke on, it is just in poor taste to leave them in.

PICT0797~ Step 2.  After the pin bones are out, slice the salmon in half widthwise.  Place it in a broiler pan that has been sprayed with no stick spray.  I don't enjoy scrubbing broiler pans, so, I'm using a disposable aluminum pan, the kind with a corrugated/"groovy" bottom. On top of the salmon place:

12-14  thin pats of salted butter

the juice of half a lemon

freshly ground sea salt and peppercorn blend

PICT0801~ Step 3.  Position oven rack 6"-8" below preheated broiler.  Broil the salmon until it is a very light golden brown, about 10 minutes.  Remove from oven and reset the oven from broil to bake at 325 degrees. Tightly cover the pan of salmon with aluminum foil, return to oven and bake for 10 minutes.  Remove from oven and let rest, about 5 minutes, prior to uncovering the pan:

3 easy steps, perfectly cooked (ready-to-eat) salmon, no messy cleanup either!

Part Two:  Making Salmon Cakes for the Entire Family

PICT0846~ Step 1.  When the salmon is cool enough to handle with your hands, turn it over and place it on a work surface, skin side up.  Using your fingertips and a sharp paring knife, peel back/remove the skin, scrape as much of the gray matter away as possible and discard.  Using your fingers, flake the salmon into small, bite-sized bits and pieces, placing it in a large mixing bowl as you work.

PICT0847~ Step 2.  To the salmon  add:

1  generous cup each:  diced celery and yellow onion

2  tablespoons, minced fresh dill

~ Step 3.  In a small mixing bowl fold together:

4  jumbo eggs

4 ounces saltines, crushed

PICT0855~ Step 4.  Add the pasty cracker mixture to the salmon mixture.  Add:

1/2  teaspoon sea salt

1/2-3/4  teaspoons white pepper

Using a large rubber spatula, thoroughly incorporate the ingredients.  

Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and set aside for 20-30 minutes, to give the cracker crumbs time to absorb moisture and soften.

PICT0862Step 5. Line a large baking pan with parchment paper.  Using a 2 1/2" ice cream scoop as a measure, divided the salmon mixture into 12-14 even-sized balls, placing them slightly apart on the pan as you work.  Using your fingertips, gently pat and press to form 12-14, 3/4" discs or "patties".  Cover baking pan with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1-2 hours.

PICT0874~ Step 6.  Note:  I like to use my electric skillet to fry my salmon cakes.  Why?  Well, firstly, it is large enough for me to fry them all in one batch.  Secondly,  the electric skillet allows me to control the temperature without error.

Place a scant 1/4" of corn or peanut oil in the bottom of the skillet and preheat the oil to 345-350 degrees.  Gently place the salmon cakes into the hot oil and fry, until crisp and golden brown, about 3-4 minutes per side, turning only once.  Do not overcook!  Transfer to a paper-towel lined plate to drain and serve immediately, although they are fantastic at room temperature too:

PICT0892

Part Three:  Tangy Mustard-Dill Sauce for Fish & Vegetables

PICT09451 1/2-2  ounces fresh dill, stems included

1  cup Dijon mustard

4  teaspoons dry English mustard

1/2  cup sugar

1/2  teaspoon sea salt

1/2  cup apple cider vinegar

1  cup vegetable oil

~ Step 1.  In the work bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade, using a series of 10-12 rapid on-off pulses, chop the dill.  Add the Dijon mustard, English mustard, sugar, salt and vinegar. Blend until smooth.  

PICT0954~ Step 2.  Through the top of processor with motor running, gradually add the oil, in a thin stream, until smooth and emulsified, about 30 seconds.  Use immediately, or:

Transfer sauce to a food storage container, tightly close and refrigerate for up to one week.  You will have 2 1/2 cups of sauce.

Note:  This sauce is delicious served atop other types of broiled or baked fish as well as crab cakes. That being said, try it on raw, blanched or steamed vegetables like asparagus, broccoli, carrots and cauliflower! 

 

PICT0974Refreshing Wild Alaskan Sockeye Salmon Cakes (w/Mustard-Dill Sauce and a Cucumber Salad too!):  Recipe yields 12-14 salmon cakes and 2 1/2 cups of sauce.

Special Equipment List:  cutting board; needle-nose pliars (or tweezers); chef's knife; disposable aluminum broiler pan; aluminum foil; sharp paring knife; large rubber spatula; plastic wrap; 17 1/2" x 12 1/2" baking pan; parchment paper; 2 1/2" ice cream scoop; electric skillet; spatula; paper towels; food processor or blender

Pickled Garden Cucumber, Onion & Tomato Salad #2Cook's Note:  Leftover salmon cakes reheat perfectly in the microwave.  Leftover salmon cakes freeze nicely as well.  That being said, do not freeze uncooked salmon cakes.  

To make my recipe for ~ Crunchy Dilled-Cucumber, Onion & Tomato Salad ~, just click into categories 4, 10 or 12!

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

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2012)

01/03/2012

~ The Frozen Hot-Chocolate Popsicle... Decadent! ~

PICT0815In a few short days our 4 1/2 year old grandson David will be coming for a visit.  Needless to say, JoePa and GrandMel are quite excited.  Everytime DJ comes for a visit we try to think up fun things for him to do with the both of us, singularly or together.  For instance:  the last time he was here, JoePa bought him a microscope and we all spent a couple of hours together viewing things like, strands of each others hair, onion skin, and CHEEZ-IT crumbs (David loves his "Cheese-y Crackers").  Later that day, David tried to teach GrandMel how to play Angry Birds on his Kindle, only to proclaim, "she's not very good at this JoePa!"

Pita Pizza #11 (Share)We've gone through his food phases/trends too.  For a while David was into helping to make his own pita pizza in GrandMel's kitchen, then came dinosaur chicken, then came alphabet soup. As for sweets, there were juice bars, chocolate cupcakes and ice cream sandwiches.  When he comes to visit this weekend, GrandMel is going to pull a new treat out of her peanut-free bag of tricks (yes David is allergic to peanuts):  Fudge Pops!

PICT0769I ordered these nifty Popsicle molds on Amazon.  I like them because the molds each get individually placed in a nifty stand, which means I can take the fudge pops out one-at-a-time (whenever DJ wants one)!

PICT0363Over the Christmas holidays, I made hot chocolate.  The "real deal", made with chocolate and cream and not from dried powder or a mix.  Doesn't it look delish?  

Did you know that this type of hot chocolate, when frozen, makes great fudge pops?  Well, it does and they are wonderful:  rich, chocolatey, fudgey, and, even a bit chewy.  Lots better than the store-bought ones.  Note:  It's best to make the hot chocolate a day or two ahead and chill it in the refrigerator.

PICT0343~ Step 1:  In a 4-quart saucepan over medium-low heat, stirring frequently, bring:

3  cups heavy or whipping cream

1  cup milk

to steaming hot and beginning to bubble around the edges of the pot.

PICT0344

 

 

~ Step 2.  Vigorously whisk in:

2  tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder

1  tablespoon sugar

1/4  teaspoon salt

1  teaspoon pure vanilla extract

until frothy and uniform in color.

PICT0350

 

 

~ Step 3.  Turn the heat off and add/stir in:

12  ounces semi-sweet chocolate morsels

6  ounces milk chocolate morsels

2  tablespoons cinnamon morsels

and, allow to sit for 20-30 seconds. Whisk until shiny and smooth.  You now have 6 cups of hot chocolate!

PICT0776~ Step 4.  Using a funnel with a wide opening at the bottom (similar to a canning funnel) ladle the chilled chocolate mixture into the molds, filling each one to just short of the brim.

PICT0779My molds each hold 4 ounces, or, 1/2 cup, which will yield 12 fudge pops.  How nice is that!

PICT0783~ Step 5.  Slowly lower each lid with the stick inserted into it, into each filled mold, or, place the lids on and insert the sticks.  Either way works. Note:  If your molds do not have lids with a hole for a stick to be inserted, freeze your pops for about 30 minutes, insert the sticks, and continue the freezing process, several hours to overnight.

~ Step 6.  To unmold, just run a little room temperature or slightly warm water around the outside of the mold.  Five to ten seconds will easily do it!  Enjoy!!!

ScanThe Frozen Hot-Chocolate Popsicle... Decadent!:  Recipe yields 6 cups of chocolate mixture and 12 fudge pops.

Special Equipment List:  4-quart saucepan w/lid; large spoon; whisk; popsicle molds; funnel; ladle; popsicle sticks

Cook's Note:  Our "little guy", is quickly turning in to "big guy"... and a super handsome one at that.  It won't be long, if he's anything like his GrandMel and his dad, that he's cookin' up his own dreams and making them come true. Being a grandparent changes everything. It's SO MUCH EASIER, and, SO MUCH MORE FUN, than being a parent!

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

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2012)

01/01/2012

~ (Pork Loin &) Buttery Sauerkraut & Butter Beans ~

PICT0763HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!

You can take the girl out of Pennsylvania, but you can't take PA out of the girl.  If you were born and raised in Pennsylvania like me, you would have lived your entire life eating the same meal every year on New Year's Day:  pork and sauerkraut.  Even if you aren't German, the Pennsylvania Dutch influence is so prevalent here in the Keystone State that I can say with some certainty:  pork and sauerkraut, along with a big scoop of mashed potatoes, is being served in three out of every four kitchens in PA today.  Why on New Years Day?  The Pennsylvania Dutch belief/superstition is this:  Eating pork will bring good luck and prosperity to your family as you move forward into the new year, because, pigs forage/root forward to search for food, while chickens scratch backward and cows stand still.  The cabbage represents prosperity and money.  I'm all for moving forward along with being prosperous and successful, and, with the US experiencing the worst economy since WWII, we all need all the help we can get.  My recipe for ~ Apple Braised Pork Pot Roast w/Apple Pan Gravy ~ is braising on the stovetop, my potatoes are peeled and in the pot, and, my bag of sauerkraut is on the countertop waiting for me cook it, blog it and post it!

03215A bit about sauerkraut:  Although sauerkraut (German for "sour cabbage") is thought of as a German invention, Chinese laborers building The Great Wall of China over 2,000 years ago ate is as standard fare.  Chinese sauerkraut, made from shredded cabbage fermented in rice wine, eventually found its way to Europe, where the Germans and Alsatians adopted it as a favorite staple.  

Today's sauerkraut is made in the same way:  combining shredded cabbage, salt and some spices, then allowing the mixture to ferment in masonry crocks.  It is packaged in jars and cans and is found in almost every supermarket.


PICT0724Fresh sauerkraut, which is much better than the stuff in the cans or jars, is sold by the pound in delicatessens, as well as in the refrigerated section of most grocery stores, where it is packaged in plastic bags.  I recommend rinsing fresh sauerkraut in cold water before cooking it in casseroles, serving as a side-dish, or, using as a savory topping on sandwiches, like the famous Reuben.  Rinsing takes "the edge off" of 'kraut!

Both of my grandfathers made their own sauerkraut.  My father's father made it in a large barrel in his basement.  My mother's father made it in a masonry crock and sold it in his grocery store. This simple and delicious recipe is from my mother's mother, my Baba, and is how I learned to eat and enjoy sauerkraut.  There is nothing sour about this 'kraut, and even as a kid, I loved when my mom made it.  If you've never eaten pork and sauerkraut, or think you don't like sauerkraut in general,  this is the recipe that you will want to try first.  The following recipe, as written, makes a good amount, enough to fill a 3-quart casserole.  I make it in this quantity because I make it when I am serving my pork roast, which is quite large, to feed 8-10 of us for our New Years Day celebration!

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4  pounds fresh sauerkraut, thoroughly rinsed under cold water and well-drained

12  ounces butter (3 sticks)

1  tablespoon Jane's Original Krazy Mixed-Up Salt, or sea salt

1  tablespoon Jane's Original Krazy Mixed-Up Pepper, or peppercorn blend

1/2  teaspoon white pepper

1  pound diced yellow or sweet onion

1  40-ounce can butter beans (limas), undrained (Note:  Should you decided to cut this recipe in half, 1, 15 1/2-ounce can, which is a bit short on ounces, will work just fine.)

PICT0730~ Step 1.  Place the sauerkraut in a colander and rinse it thoroughly under cold running water.  Allow the sauerkraut to continue to sit in the sink and drain, about 10 minutes.  

While the 'kraut is draining, prep the onion as directed.

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~ Step 2.  In a 14" chef's pan, melt the butter over low heat.  Stir in the salt and peppers.  Add the onion and increase the heat to saute, stirring occasionally, until onion is soft and translucent, about 5-6 minutes.

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~ Step 3.  Add the sauerkraut and the beans.  Stir thoroughly.  Adjust heat to simmer gently, partially cover the pan and cook/steam for 35-45 minutes, stirring frequently.  

Note:  Lower the heat during the cooking process, as necessary, in order to maintain a steady, gentle simmer without sticking or scorching, until almost no liquid remains in the pan.

PICT0743~ Step 4.  Remove pan from heat, cover completely and let steam, about 30 minutes, prior to transferring to a 13" x 9" x 2" casserole dish and serving.

 

 

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(Pork Loin &) Buttery Sauerkraut & Butter Beans:  Recipe yields 3 quarts, or, 12-16 servings.

Special Equipment List:  colander; cutting board; chefs knife; 12" chef's pan w/straight, deep sides & lid

Cook's Note:  Sauerkraut reheats perfectly over medium-low heat on the stovetop or in the microwave, and, it can me made up to 3 days in advance of serving.  To read my recipe for ~ Apple-Braised Pork Pot Roast w/Apple Pan Gravy ~, just click into Categories 3, 12 or 19.

Extra Cook's Note:  Want to make your own sauerkraut?  You'll need a crock.  For a great selection of authentic 'kraut makin' crocks, go to www.lehmans.com!

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

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2012)