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7 posts from March 2017

03/18/2017

~ Simply: My Butter-Braised Cabbage & Egg Noodles ~

IMG_6830Throughout Eastern Europe, cooks make a side-dish that basically consists of green cabbage and egg noodles.  It's quick-and-easy, totally-delicious, unpretentious, old-world comfort food.  I simply refer to it as "cabbage and noodles" or "cabbage noodles", because every country has their own ethnic name and spelling for it and every cook is adamant that "their people" invented it -- the Eastern Europeans are no different than the French or the Italians in that respect.  Sigh.

IMG_1863Wikipedia has an entire page devoted to halusky, haluski, halushki, haluska etc.  They define them as "thick, soft, dumplings or noodles", and, "the name can refer to the dumplings themselves or the complete dish.".  I grew up eating the old-world ~ Slovak Grated Potato & Onion Dumplings ~, and we called them haluski.  When we were eating today's recipe, the version containing egg noodles and cabbage, we called them "easy haluski". You can find my haluski recipe in Categories 4, 12 or 14.

Cabbage is a staple in the Eastern European diet.  It's cheap, available all year, and, it stays fresh in the root cellar or vegetable drawer of the refrigerator for a long time.

IMG_6742In any given Eastern European household, the cabbage is braised using the same basic stovetop method, but, past that, it's made to that family's liking.  Some cooks braise it in bacon fat and add crisply-fried chards of bacon to the dish.  Other cooks, like my mom and grandmother, braise the cabbage in butter, because, believe it or not, some folks don't think everything tastes better with bacon -- we think everything tastes better with butter. Almost everyone adds onions and some folks add bits of garlic too. Everyone seasons the dish with salt and pepper, and, occasionally a few caraway seeds.  In my family's kitchens, freshly-sliced or a jar of well-drained sliced mushrooms are often added -- because we are mushroom lovers. 

IMG_6750In any given Eastern European household, the egg noodles, which are cooked separately and often made from scratch, are typically flat, wide-ish strands.  That said, for a simple weeknight side-dish, cooking a bag of store-bought egg noodles isn't a compromise.  Please try to use egg noodles, not pasta, and, if you've got cooked noodles leftover from soup, this is a tasty way to use them up.  Once cooked, the noodles are tossed with the cabbage and the dish is served, many times with a dollop of sour cream on top.  In my grandmother's kitchen, it was her go-to side-dish for ham, roast pork, pork chops, pork sausage or kielbasa. Feel free to add sliced or diced cooked meat to the mixture to serve it as a main-dish as well.

IMG_6841My family's version of butter-braised cabbage & egg noodles:

IMG_67721  stick salted butter

8  ounces yellow or sweet onion, sliced into thin, half-moon shapes

1  4 1/2- or 6-ounce jar sliced mushrooms, well-drained (optional)

2  teaspoons garlic powder

2  teaspoons sea salt

1-2  teaspoons coarsely-ground black pepper

1  small, 2-pound head green cabbage or 1/2 of a large 4-pound head

12  ounces wide, flat egg-noodles, cooked and drained as package directs

sour cream, for serving tableside

IMG_4955Note:  I like to use my 16" electric skillet to make cabbage and noodles.  It controls the heat perfectly, and, has the capacity to hold a voluminous amount of raw cabbage (which shrinks as it wilts), along with the cooked and drained egg noodles when they get tossed in at the end.  If you don't have one, use a wide-bottomed, 8-quart stockpot on the stovetop.

IMG_6774 IMG_6777 IMG_6780 IMG_6783~Step 1.  Slice the onion, as directed into 1/4"-thick half moon shapes, then cut the half moons in half to shorten them up a bit.  In skillet over low heat (150°), melt the butter.  Add the sliced onions, optional mushrooms, garlic powder, salt and pepper.  Increase heat (200°) to gently cook, stirring frequently until the onion begins to soften.  While onions and mushrooms are cooking: 

IMG_6757 IMG_6760 IMG_6763 IMG_6764~Step 2.  Cut the head of cabbage in half and cut each half into quarters.  Slice each quarter into 1/2"-wide strips, then, cut some of the particularly longs strips in half to shorten them into fork-friendly pieces, keeping in mind they will lose moisture and shrink a bit when cooked.

IMG_6786 IMG_6787~ Step 3.  Add the cabbage to the onion mixture. Using two large spoons, toss, like a salad, to coat the cabbage in butter and onions.  Put lid on skillet.  Adjust heat to medium (225º) and cook, stirring frequently until cabbage is tender and "to the tooth", about 15-18 minutes.  Lower heat if necessary to keep the cabbage from browning.

Note:  Some versions of this recipe do call for browning the cabbage a bit.  Feel free to do so, but know that unlike onions, which, due to their high sugar content get sweeter as they caramelize, cabbage, does not.  Cabbage which contains some sugar but not a lot, gets a bitter edge to it when fried -- I don't care for it.  I like my cabbage cooked until just tender, still sweet and green.

IMG_6789 IMG_6790 IMG_6795 IMG_6800 IMG_6808~Step 4.  While cabbage is braising, on the stovetop bring 2 1/2 quarts of water to a boil in a wide-bottomed 4-quart stockpot.  Add 1 tablespoon salt to the water.  Add the noodles and cook, according to package directions, until "to the tooth".  Drain noodles into a colander and give it a few vigorous shakes to remove excess water.  Add the hot egg noodles to the cabbage mixture and toss to thoroughly coat the noodles in the buttery cabbage mixture.

Cover skillet & allow to rest 5 minutes prior to serving.  

IMG_6813Totally-delicious, unpretentious, comfort food:

IMG_6815Simply:  My Butter-Braised Cabbage & Egg Noodles:  Recipe yields 4-6 side-servings.

Special Equipment List:  cutting board; chef's knife;  16" electric skillet or wide-bottomed 8-quart stockpot; two large spoons; wide-bottomed 4-quart stockpot; colander

IMG_2890Cook's Note:  Another side-dish I just love is:  ~ My Grandmother's Braised Cabbage and Carrots ~. In this recipe, the raw ingredients are placed in a casserole dish and and put in the oven to braise.  You can find the recipe by clicking into Categories 4, 12, 19 or 20.

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

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2017)

03/15/2017

~ Kids' Stuff: Mel's Copycat Wendy's Chili Con Carne ~

IMG_6712Quality time.  Sitting at Wendy's with one, two or all three of our kids for lunch.  When school was out for the Summer, I did that about twice a week.  We'd all get in my car to run errands, drive a short mile to the traffic light that exited our neighborhood and intersected with our town's busiest four-lane main thoroughfare, and there, to the left of that light sat:  Wendy's.  I've always contended its placement was purposeful.  Our Park Forest neighborhood was a well-planned maze of tract houses on tree-lined streets with sidewalks, and, almost every house contained: children.  On our cul-de-sac alone, six of the eight dwellings housed a total of 22 children, and, no matter what street you lived on, unless you were willing to travel in the opposite direction which added 4-5 miles to the trip, no one could escape the neighborhood without passing:  Wendy's.

F52b682e15cf90e54d18c7034905e46dThat meant, every mom or dad with kids in the car, every time they stopped at that light, got asked the same question, "can we eat at Wendy's?"  Most times we sat at a table inside and occasionally we used the drive-thru, but yes, promising my kids they could eat at Wendy's if they behaved themselves and physically helped me do the grocery shopping, etc., worked like a charm.  In terms of fast-food chains, which I am by no means a fan of, I rate Wendy's rather high.  Let's suffice it to say, if, to the left of that traffic light there had been a McDonald's or a Taco Bell instead of a Wendy's, my kids wouldn't have been so fortunate.  Period.

It's worth mention that to this day a large percentage of Wendy's employees are teenage kids from that neighborhood working part-time after-school or Summer jobs.  When he was sixteen years old, that included our youngest son too -- who was their employee of the month once!

Where's the beef?  Etched in American advertising history.

Clarapellar_1_Everyone's familiar with the Wendy's success story.  In 1968, at the age of 35, Dave Thomas sold his KFC restaurants back to Kentucky Fried Chicken and in 1969, fulfilled his lifelong dream by opening his own restaurant in Columbus Ohio:  Wendy's Old-Fashioned Hamburger Restaurant.  Named after his daughter Melinda "Wendy" Thomas, they got immediate attention from the industry because they sold made-to-order square-shaped hamburgers made from fresh, never frozen, beef -- a higher quality product at a competitive price.  They were the first to offer choices for health conscious folks, including salad bars (which came along in 1979).  In 1984, using an elderly actress named Clara Peller, Dave's "Where's the Beef" commercial took America by storm.  After appearing in over 800 Wendy's commercials himself, by 1990 Dave Thomas was a household name.

Wendy's chili:  chocked full of their beef, beans & veggies:

IMG_6659When I was lunching with my boys indoors on those lazy, crazy Summer days back in the 1980's, while they were eating their 'burgers and fries and slurping their chocolate Frosty(s), my meal consisted of the salad bar, a cup of chili and a diet cola.  I'd skip the salad dressing and spoon the chili right atop my heap of lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers and onions.  I loved it and I never felt that I was eating something that wasn't healthy.  Wendy's chili was something I genuinely enjoyed.

In the latter 1980's, my mom came across a copycat recipe for Wendy's chili in Women's Day magazine.  Except for the addition of the Tostitos salsa, which I added at the behest of our middle son, the recipe is unchanged.  I won't lie.  I have several recipes for chili in my repertoire, but, this one, kid-tested and mother approved, like Dave Thomas, is a success story.  It pleases everyone.

IMG_67012 - 2 1/2  pounds lean ground beef (90/10)

IMG_65921 1/2 cups medium-diced yellow or sweet onion

3/4  cup medium-diced green bell pepper

3/4  cup medium-diced red bell pepper

2  teaspoons garlic powder

3/4  teaspoon each:  sea salt and coarsely ground black pepper

1  14 1/2-ounce can diced tomatoes, undrained

1  15-ounce can tomato sauce

1  15 1/2-ounce jar Tostitos salsa, medium or hot, your choice (Note:  The original recipe did not call for salsa.  It called for 2, 15-ounce cans tomato sauce.  That choice is yours.)

1  40-ounce can red kidney beans, well-drained (Note:  The original recipe called for 1, 16-ounce can red kidney beans, well-drained, and 1, 16-ounce can pinto beans, well drained. Feel free to make that substitution, however, I personally like the flavor of red kidney beans better, and, in the case of the extra 10-ounces, more is better.)  

1  tablespoon chili powder

1  tablespoon ground cumin

1  teaspoon dried Mexican oregano

1/2  teaspoon black pepper 

IMG_6597IMG_6598IMG_6600Step 1.  In a 4-quart wide-bottomed stockpot, place  ground beef, onion, bell pepper and garlic powder, salt and pepper. Adjust heat to medium-high and sauté, using a spatula to break the meat up into bits and pieces, until meat is cooked through and almost no liquid remains in bottom of pot, 15-20 minutes.

IMG_6602IMG_6605IMG_6607Step 2.  Add the undrained diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, drained kidney beans, chili powder, ground cumin, Mexican oregano, salsa and black pepper.  Adjust heat to a steady, gentle simmer, partially cover the pot and continue to cook, 30-45 minutes.  Remove from heat and set aside, to steep, 30-45 minutes.  

Note:  If you have the time to make the chili a day ahead and reheat it, it tastes even better.

Where's the beef?  In this chili "con carne".  Chili "w/meat":

IMG_6715Truth.  I've always had a secret love affair w/Wendy's chili:

IMG_6723Kids' Stuff:  Mel's Copycat Wendy's Chili Con Carne:  Recipe yields 3-3 1/2 quarts chili con carne.

Special Equipment List:  cutting board; chef's knife; 4-quart wide-bottomed stockpot; spatula; ladle

IMG_6693Cook's Note: Whether your a fan of the show or not, everyone is a fan of chili mac.  My recently posted recipe for ~ Walking Dead:  It's Chili & Mac 'n Cheese. Together ~, has always been made with my copycat Wendy's chili recipe.  My boys claim it's the best chili mac around!

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

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2017)

03/13/2017

~ Walking Dead: It's Chili & Mac 'n Cheese. Together. ~

IMG_6693On Sunday’s episode of The Walking Dead, while scouting around in search of food and guns, Rick (Andrew Lincoln) and Michonne (Danai Gurira), fall through a rooftop into a room filled with just that, guns and miscellaneous canned foods and military RTE (ready-to-eat) meals.  Rick goes full-blown romantic on Michonne.  After the obligatory sex, they eat a candlelit feeding-frenzy dinner and Rick presents her with a surprise, and it's not jewelry -- it's one last type of RTE meal. "I've been waiting to show you this one," Rick says, "It's chili. And mac 'n cheese.  Together." The scene wasn't over a moment when I told Joe I was going to write a blog post about chili mac.

IMG_6659Chile Mac:  Retro favorite of the RTE meal & Hamburger Helper.

Hamburger Helper entered the marketplace in 1970, and Chili Macaroni Hamburger Helper entered the marketplace in 1971.  Packaged by General Mills and sold as a part of the Betty Crocker brand line of products, the mascot is a "helping hand" named "Lefty" -- a four-fingered, left-handed, white glove with a face.  In its basic form, each box contains dried pasta and packets of powdered sauce and seasonings.  The contents get combined with browned ground beef and water or milk to create a meal.  Over the course of a short few years other flavors (Lasagna, Bacon Cheeseburger, Philly Cheesesteak, Beef Stroganoff etc.) were added, along with variations like Tuna Helper and Chicken Helper, and, Asian Helper (which contains rice in place of pasta). Others, like Fruit Helper (a dessert product made with canned or fresh fruit) and Pork Helper (pork fried rice and pork chops w/stuffing), were discontinued shortly after their introduction.

DSCF7973Hamburger Helper wasn't an option for me as a little kid.  It wasn't invented until I was 15. Hamburger Helper, although invented, wasn't an option for our three boys either.  I wouldn't allow it.  Mean, mean, me? Mean, mean them.  My kids would brag to me about every one of the great Hamburger Helper-flavored dinners they ate at their friends' houses after school.  They begged me to buy it. That infuriated me, mostly because I made a one-skillet hamburger and pasta dinner for them, mostly from scratch, just like my mom made it for them -- using her quick and easy A7e0c9a2-a041-4e8a-a8da-394e61edaeb2_2.47412931566ce0a4e5bb2914097704dbground beef chili recipe, canned beans and pantry staples, spices, cooked macaroni and grated cheese.  I served it to their friends after school in my kitchen too -- often.  I can only hope those kids went home and bragged to their mothers that I made my own Hamburger Helper from scratch. Mean, mean me.  Sad but true.

Today's recipe hasn't been 'out-of-the box' in at least 25 years.  

IMG_6646Pun intended.  Thank-you Rick Grimes for the inspiration!

Screen Shot 2017-03-15 at 8.48.26 AMEven though Hormel has been selling its canned chili since 1935 and Kraft has been selling their boxed macaroni and cheese since 1937, to this day I have never tasted either one.  During the 1960's my mom made her own version of macaroni and cheese on the stovetop for my brother and I who were entering our teen years.  For her mac 'n cheese she used one of two '60's era products:  Cheez-Whiz or Velveeta.  She didn't start making chili until the 70's, when she was a grandmother.  She made it for my sons when they came to visit.  The recipe she used was one she clipped out of a Women's Day magazine -- it was supposed to be a copycat of Wendy's chili (the fast-food chain founded by Dave Williams in 1969) -- she and my dad both love Wendy's chili. Because it is both simple and tasty, hers is the recipe I use to make my chili mac with one addition.  When Tostitos introduced their restaurant-style salsa in 1995, my sons couldn't get enough of it.  At the behest of our middle son, I began adding a jar of Tostitos salsa to the chili.

IMG_6655"It's chili.  And Mac 'n Cheese.  Together."  ~ Rick Grimes

IMG_6592For Mom's Wendy's-Style Chili (Recipe yields 3+ quarts -- use 1 quart today today, freeze 2 quarts  for two more chili mac meals):

2 - 2 1/2  pounds lean ground beef (90/10)

1  cup medium-diced yellow or sweet onion

1  cup medium-diced green or red bell pepper, or a combination of both

2  teaspoons garlic powder

3/4  teaspoon each:  sea salt and coarsely ground black pepper

1  14 1/2-ounce can diced tomatoes, undrained

1  15-ounce can tomato sauce

1  15 1/2-ounce jar Tostitos salsa, medium or hot, your choice

1  40-ounce can red kidney beans, well-drained

1  tablespoon chili powder

1  tablespoon ground cumin

1  teaspoon dried Mexican oregano

1/2  teaspoon black pepper

For Mel's Mom's Wendy's-Style Chili Mac:

1  pound elbow macaroni, cellentani, penne or other tubular pasta

4  tablespoon salted butter, cut into pieces and softened

1  15-ounce jar Kraft Cheez Whiz, softened in the microwave, or, Velveeta, cut into cubes

1  quart chili, from above recipe (4 cups)

IMG_6597 IMG_6598 IMG_6600~ Step 1.  In a 4-quart wide-bottomed stockpot, place  ground beef, onion, bell pepper and garlic powder, salt and pepper. Adjust heat to medium-high and sauté, using a spatula to break the meat up into bits and pieces, until meat is cooked through and almost no liquid remains in bottom of pot, 15-20 minutes.

IMG_6602 IMG_6605 IMG_6607~ Step 2.  Add the undrained diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, drained kidney beans, chili powder, ground cumin, Mexican oregano, salsa and black pepper.  Adjust heat to a steady, gentle simmer, partially cover the pot and continue to cook, 30-45 minutes.  Remove from heat and set aside, to steep, 30-45 minutes.  

Note:  If you have the time to make the chili a day ahead and reheat it, it tastes even better.  Yum.

IMG_6613 IMG_6622 IMG_6626 IMG_6628 IMG_6642 IMG_6652 IMG_6656~Step 3.  While the chili is steeping, in an 8-quart stockpot, bring 5 quarts of water to a rolling boil, add 1 tablespoon salt to the water and add the pasta.  Cook, as the package directs, until al dente.  Drain the pasta into a colander and immediately add it to the the still hot stockpot and return the stockpot to the still warm stovetop.  Add the butter pieces and Cheez-Whiz or Velveeta cubes and stir or toss until cheese is melted.  Ladle 1-quart/4cups of the chili into the pasta, stir, and serve.

Winner, Winner Chili Mac Dinner:

IMG_6662Chile Mac.  Perhaps as great as a retro recipe can get.

IMG_6668Walking Dead:  It's Chili & Mac 'n Cheese.  Together.:  Recipe yields 3+ quarts, enough for 3 chili mac meals, 6-8 servings of chili mac per meal.

Special Equipment List:  cutting board; chef's knife; 4-quart wide-bottomed stockpot; spatula; ladle; 8-quart stockpot; colander; large spoon

6a0120a8551282970b017c34d41d3e970bCook's Note:  Please don't confuse chili mac with ~ Cincinnati Chili: My Holiday Bowl Game Tradition ~.  In 1922, two Northern Greek immigrant brothers, Tom and John Kiradjieff, opened a small Greek restaurant in Cincinnati called "The Empress". The restaurant struggled until they began serving chili made with spices common to their culture, which was ladled over a mound of spaghetti, and called: "spaghetti chili".  They soon began serving it with a variety of toppings, or, "five 6a0120a8551282970b017d3f030e4a970cways".  When ordering Cincinnati chili, here is the protocol:

~ chili only ("one-way")

~ a mound of spaghetti topped with chili ("two-way")

~ spaghetti topped with chili and lots of shredded yellow cheese ("three-way")

~ spaghetti, chili, cheese and diced onions ("four-way")

~ spaghetti, chili, cheese, diced onions and separately cooked kidney beans ("five way").

Another popular way to serve it is called the "cheese Coney".  This consists of chili ladled onto a hot dog (in a steamed bun) and topped with cheese (topped with diced onion and/or mustard)!

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

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2017) 

03/11/2017

~ Irish Eyes are Smilin' on Mary's Irish Soda Bread ~

IMG_6538My Irish soda bread recipe was given to me 20-25 years ago by my close friend Mary.  Mary Teresa Howe and her husband Joe hailed from Buffalo, NY, then moved to and raised their family here in Happy Valley, PA.  For almost two decades, my husband Joe and I had the pleasure of sharing many good times with them.  From football tailgates to holiday cocktail parties and all sorts of family celebrations, the Howe's enjoyed entertaining and being entertained.

Mary and Joe were of proud Irish heritage and every year on St. Patrick's Day, all of us in their inner circle enjoyed being Irish too.  No matter where or how we celebrated, Mary's Irish soda bread was always on the menu, even if Mary didn't make it.  Why?  Because every one of us had Mary's recipe, which was passed down from her mother via her grandmother.  One couldn't taste this soda bread and not ask for the recipe.  I asked for it the first time I tasted it -- at an elegant sit-down Sunday brunch, with my husband and parents, in Mary and Joe's dining room.  

"May the road rise to meet you and the wind be always at your back.  May the sun shine warm upon your face, and, may the rain fall soft upon your fields.  Until we meet again, may God hold you in the hollow of his hand." ~ An Old Irish Toast

IMG_6532A bit about Ireland's three traditional soda breads:

These traditional breads "came to be" as a result of the country's limited ingredients and economic hardships.  The climate supported the growth of soft wheat, which didn't work well in yeast breads, so, out of necessity, the soft wheat was mixed with buttermilk and bicarbonate of soda (baking soda) to leaven the dough.  Baking soda, when mixed with buttermilk, which contains lactic acid, acts as a rising agent.  The round-shaped, rustic-looking loaves were originally hearth baked, either free form on a griddle (a baking pan) or in a pot oven (a lightly-greased baking dish), at a high temperature.  In essence, soda bread is indeed an easy, quick and inexpensive method of basic bread baking with an absolutely delicious end result.

IMG_6543White, brown and currant.  White soda bread simply means the bread is prepared using white or unbleached all-purpose wheat flour. Brown soda bread means whole wheat or stone-ground wheat flour has been used exclusively, or, has been mixed with some of the white or unbleached flour.  Currant soda bread, which is my personal favorite, is white soda bread that has dried fruit, and/or raisins or currants added to it.  Mary always referred to currant soda bread as "spotted dog".  It was traditionally served with butter and jam for breakfast on special occasions or holidays because: dried fruits, raisins and currants were special treats that were hard to come by.

A bit about the signature cross on top & soda bread tips:

Just before going into the oven, soda bread is always marked with deep cross on the top. Depending on the recipe and how sticky the dough is, after baking, some crosses are distinctly more visible than others, but, trust me, everyone marks the bread.  Lore has it the cross is to ward off evil and release good fairies.  Culinarily, the cross allows for better air circulation, enabling the bread to get the best rise in the oven.  The key to making any type of soda bread is to work as fast as you can, doing as little as possible to the dough.  Unlike yeast breads, kneading is virtually unnecessary and the dough itself should reman a wet, sticky, ragged mess right up until the moment it goes into the oven -- a hard concept for us non-Gaelic gourmets to grasp.  As per Mary, "Don't linger and don't overwork the dough.  Mix it and keep it a sticky mess. If the dough isn't sticking to your hand and fingertips, you've added too much flour and the loaf will be dry."

What about recipes containing eggs, baking powder, vegetable shortening or yeast?  They're out there, &, they are delicious, but they are not traditional Irish soda bread.

IMG_64822  pounds unbleached, all-purpose flour, weighed not measured, plus 6-8 additional tablespoons

2  tablespoons sugar

4  teaspoons firmly-packed baking soda

2  teaspoons salt

4  tablespoons salted butter, cut into small pieces and kept cold

1  quart buttermilk, whole is best, but 1%- 2% will work

1  15-ounce box golden raisins

IMG_6484 IMG_6489 IMG_6495~ Step 1.  Place the raisins in a medium-sized mixing bowl and add all of the buttermilk to the bowl.  Set aside for 30-60 minutes.  Note:  You can skip this "soaking" step, but this will indeed soften and plump the raisins a bit.

IMG_6500 IMG_6497 IMG_6504~ Step 2.  In a large mixing bowl, briefly stir together the flour, sugar, baking soda and salt.  Add the cold butter pieces, and, using a pastry blender and a paring knife, quickly "cut" the butter pieces into the dry ingredients, until evenly dispersed throughout flour mixture.  This process should take less than 1 minute.

IMG_6507 IMG_6510~ Step 3.  Using a large spoon or spatula, form a large well in the the center of the flour mixture.  Do your best to make it large enough to hold all of the buttermilk/raisin mixture.  Using the same spoon or spatula, working as quickly as you can, gradually incorporate/fold the dry ingredients in the liquid center.  A wet dough that resembles a very thick oatmeal will form.  Again, this entire process should take less than 1 minute.

IMG_6515 IMG_6517~ Step 4.  Sprinkle 2 tablespoons of the additional flour over top of the dough.  Using the heel of your hand, begin gathering and pushing down on the dough, giving the bowl a quarter turn each time you gather and push.  Continue process of adding flour, just until you can manageably pull and split the still sticky and ragged dough into two equal parts and lift each one from bowl.  Don't overwork it.  This too should take less than 1 minute.

IMG_6519 IMG_6521 IMG_6526~ Step 5.  Form each dough half into a rough looking round loaf.  Place them well apart on a large, parchment-lined baking pan, or, in 2, 9" round, parchment-lined pie dishes.  I prefer the pie dishes, but, there is no wrong decision here.  Using a very sharp knife, slash a deep X, about 3/4" into the top of each loaf.

IMG_6535~ Step 8.  Bake on center rack of preheated 400° oven, 10 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 350° and continue to bake an additional 20-22 minutes.  The bread will be quite brown, crusty, and, have a hollow sound when tapped with your knuckle.  Remove the bread from the oven and allow the loaves to rest, on a rack on the pan or in the dishes, 10 minutes, prior to transferring to the rack to cool completely. Cool for at least 1 hour prior to slicing and serving warm or at room temperature.

No matter how you slice it, Mary's bread is just as it should be:

IMG_6553A cripsy crust on outside w/a chewy & moist center.

IMG_6578Irish Eyes are Smilin' on Mary's Irish Soda Bread:  Recipe yields 2, 10"-round loaves and 16-20 slices each loaf. 

Special Equipment List:  cutting board; paring knife; pastry blender; large spoon or spatula; 2, 9" round pie plates or 1, 17 1/2" x 11 1/2" baking pan; parchment paper; chef's knife

IMG_4496Cook's Note:  Doesn't this photo look succulent?  It is, and, I made it in the crockpot too!  To get my recipe for ~ Another Crockpot Corned Beef & Cabbage Recipe ~, just enter "Corned Beef & Cabbage" as Search words, or, click into Categories, 2, 9, 11, 19 or 20.

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

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/2017)

03/08/2017

~ Happy at Last: Crispy Deep-Fried Hashed Browns ~

IMG_6467Has anyone ever met a plate of hashed browns they didn't like?  Quite frankly, I've never met anyone, when faced with a plate of these crisply-fried, golden-brown potato morsels, who is ambivalent about them.  In fact, my encounters with hash browns in homes and eateries reveal: One can never make enough.  Folks eat them first and they eat them all.  Therein lies the problem for home cooks.  How to make a decent-sized quantity of these potatoes, per person, in a timely manner without compromising their signature restaurant-quality crispy texture.

IMG_6448"Hash" is derived from the French "hacher" meaning "to chop".

Hashed brown potatoes are personal.  They mean different things to different people. It revolves around how the potatoes are prepped:  shredded, cubed, julienned or riced.  I prefer the prettier--to-look-at fork-friendly cubes to the semi-stuck together others.  Perhaps that's because I prefer the task of cubing potatoes to the others.  Perhaps it's because when my mother made potato pancakes, she shredded the potatoes, when she made French fries she julienned them, when she made home fries, the potatoes were cut into thin, round slices, and, when she riced potatoes, that meant potato cakes were showing up on the dinner table.  Last but not least, when mom made hashed browns or potatoes for corned beef hash, she cubed the potatoes. That was that. I'm guilty as charged:  a culinary creature of habit who does it the way I was taught.

Restaurants with large flat top griddles have a big advantage over the home cook in that the large flat surface gives the potatoes all the room they need to spread out in a single layer, which allows the moisture to evaporate from them very quickly.  This, plus the minimal amount of butter and/or oil needed on this surface, renders them crispy on the outside with a fluffy, creamy inside. I'm not going to lie -- this type of perfection is hard to duplicate in a skillet in the time kitchen.

PICT5244My decision to move my cubed potatoes for hashed browns from the skillet to the deep-fryer was an easy one.  I had guests coming for a relaxing Sunday brunch -- three couples that had traveled to Happy Valley the previous day for a Penn State football game.  My game plan was to serve made-to-order omelettes, sausage links and bacon strips, and, hashed brown potatoes. The egg mixture for the omelettes was whisked together, my omelette filling options were ready, and, the sausage links and bacon strips were staying warm in the oven.  I was cubing my potatoes for the hashed browns, when my husband Joe walked into the kitchen.

"Why don't I just deep-fry those for you and make twice as many in half the time?" ~ Joe

IMG_6424My husband deep-fries a lot of things for me and he is very good at it.  We refer to ourselves as "fearless fryers".  Truth be told, I use my deep-fryer more than I use my crock pot.  In the case of too many appetizers and snacks to mention,  if they're not deep-fried, the end result is compromised.  That said, I long ago gave up deep-frying in a pot of oil with a candy thermometer clipped to it on the stovetop.  The relatively inexpensive investment in a countertop deep-fryer was a wise one.  It controls the temperature, and, there's no smell, stress or mess either.

"Will deep-fried hashed browns still be hashed browns?  Oh heck, give it a try."  ~ Mel

IMG_6430Over the years I'd read every word the experts had to say about making hashed brown potatoes. I learned a lot from giving many of their tips a try.  I made hashed browns with gold, red and Russet potatoes.  Sometimes I peeled the potatoes, sometimes I didn't.  I soaked potatoes in cold water, squeezed excess water out of potatoes, and, pre-cooked potatoes via par-boiling and microwaving.  I dabbled in using bacon fat, duck fat, clarified butter, butter and/or extra-virgin olive oil with an occasional splash of truffle oil.  Sometimes I added onions or caramelized onions.  All versions were good, some were better than others -- none were a disappointment.

I rarely experiment on my guests, but, the end result was a great success.

IMG_6436The end result was a success.  In the time it took me to make two omelettes in two pans, about 5-6 minutes each, two servings of potatoes cooked to perfection in 12 minutes.  I savored the freedom of not having to babysit a third skillet.  Instead, my potatoes swam happily in the oil and emerged evenly browned, crispy and golden on the outside and creamy on the inside. Because they were not double-fried (like classic French fries), they really were the texture of hashed browns.  I did indeed make twice as many in half the time, and, they were fresh out of the fryer just as my omelettes were coming off the stovetop.  My guests ate them all without a question.  

To soak or not to soak:  On that particular morning, the potatoes did soak in a bowl full of cold water for 15-20 minutes, as I wanted them prepped before my guests arrived, but, even that is not necessary.  On any given day for just Joe and I, I simply cube and fry without any soak at all.

IMG_6409 IMG_6413 IMG_6424~ Step 1.  For every two servings, peel & 1/2" dice 1 pound gold potatoes. Golds are my favorite. Use what you like best.

IMG_6430 IMG_6436 IMG_6438~ Step 2.  Preheat corn or peanut oil in a deep-fryer to 365°-375°.  Add 1 pound of cubed potatoes to the fryer basket.  Close the lid, set the timer and fry for 12-14 minutes, until gloriously golden to your liking.  The timing will vary as per your deep-fryer and the type of potatoes you choose to use.  Transfer to a paper-towel-lined plate to drain and sprinkle IMMEDIATELY with freshly-ground sea salt.

Two half pound servings of hashed browns comin' right up!

IMG_6464Happiness:  Deep-Fried Hashed Brown Potato Cubes:  Recipe yields instructions to make 2, 8-ounce servings of hashed browns at a time in 12 minutes with no stress and no mess.

Special Equipment List:  cutting board; chef's knife; deep-fryer; paper towels

IMG_3779Cook's Note:  Making authentic French fries is an art.  To learn how I do it, read my post ~ Do You Want (Perfect "French") Fries with That? ~.  Enter the search words "French fries" or click into Categories 2, 4, 15, 20 or 21.

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

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2017) 

03/05/2017

~ For those times when you just gotta have: Frittata ~

IMG_6383Breakfast, brunch, lunch, dinner or late night snack, a frittata is a relatively-easy quick-to-make, hunger-satisfying meal.  It tastes great served hot, warm, at room temperature or cold, and, leftovers reheat beautifully in the microwave, which make it perfect for those who brown bag lunch.  A bit of slicing, dicing or chopping is typically required, but it's minimal, and, since frittata can be a tasty way to use up yummy leftovers, there are times when no knife is necessary.

IMG_6402As per my Italian girlfriend Eileen, her mom and grandmother made frittata to stretch leftovers -- to turn them into a family-friendly meal. There was no set recipe, and, sometimes it resembled a big mess that tasted really good.  "Hai fatto una frittata", loosely translates to "something like a mess", "you've made quite a mess", or "something a bit crazy". She went on to explain that while frittata was never a formal meal that would be served to guests, in their community, meatless versions were regularly served for dinner during lent.

Learning to make a frittata is a valuable culinary lifeskill.

Commonly referred to as "the Italian version of an omelette", a frittata is a concoction of whisked eggs and cream, sliced, diced or chopped previously-cooked vegetables, meat or seafood and/or grated cheese.  I prefer to compare it to a custard-like quiche without a crust rather than an omelette because, like a quiche, a frittata is traditionally round and rather thick -- not at all elongated and comparatively flat (like the French and American omelettes I've encountered).  There's more.  I think of an omelette as something that goes from stovetop to table in a few short moments -- that's not the case with a frittata, which takes 30+ minutes.

IMG_6345Start it on the stovetop in a oven-safe skillet & finish it in the oven, or:

assemble the ingredients in a casserole & bake it in the oven. 

IMG_6358The egg mixture is poured into the same oven-safe skillet (usually cast-iron), the vegetables and or meats have been cooked or placed in.  The Frittata is started on the stovetop for a few moments, just long enough to allow the bottom of the mixture to solidify a bit, then finished in a moderate oven for 30-45 minutes depending on its size and the recipe.  That said, a frittata can be prepared in the skillet entirely on the stovetop, or, in a casserole entirely in the oven (usually to make a large-size frittata).  Frittata can be served directly from the pan, but, family-friendly-sized frittata is often inverted onto a platter, to reveal its golden crust, then sliced into wedges.

IMG_6362Add vegetables or a combination of vegetables, as long as they are cooked first.

Sautéed vegetables or a medley of vegetables, any kind you like, can be added, as long as they are cooked in some manner first.  Why?  Vegetables, particularly those that contain lots of liquid, unless cooked first, will render the frittata watery.  Root vegetables, like potatoes and carrots, won't fully-cook if not given a head start on the stovetop.  Onions and/or garlic are almost always added. Other options include asparagus, broccoli, bell peppers, spinach, peas, and/or mushrooms.  They all work great.  Extremely watery vegetables, like tomatoes, summer squash and and zucchini work well too, but the extra step of seeding prior to sautéing is recommended.

Add previously cooked & diced or shredded meats or seafood too. 

When it comes to meat or seafood, the same rules apply:  if it's cooked first it can be added. Leftover diced porcine, like ham or sausage crumbles, along with crispy-fried bacon bits are my three meaty favorites, and, crab meat or shrimp, or both, are divine.  My teenage boys liked frittata made with diced salami or pepperoni as a late night snack.   That said, if you like to eat steak with your eggs, by all means, throw in slivers of that leftover roasted or grilled red meat. Feel free to disagree, but, for my taste, poultry has no place in a frittata -- there is just something about chicken or turkey in an egg dish like this that I find unappealing (save it for a sandwich).

With a formula, a frittata can be made for two, a few or a crew.

IMG_6287The Italian word "frittata" derives from the word "friggere", which roughly means "fried".  This is why frittata is traditionally associated with a skillet, namely a cast-iron skillet.  If a casserole dish is more convenient, by all means use one -- simply season and sauté your fillings ingredients in a skillet, and toss them into the bottom of a casserole that has been sprayed with no-stick spray, add the whisked egg and cream mixture and bake as directed.   To make three sizes of frittata in either an oven-safe, deep-sized cast-iron skillet or in a casserole, measure as follows:

10" cast-iron skillet or 3-qt. casserole = 12 ex.-large eggs, 1 cup cream, 6 cups filling*

8" cast-iron skillet or 2-qt. casserole = 9 ex.-large eggs, 3/4 cup cream 4 1/2 cups filling*

6" cast-iron skillet or 1 1/2-qt. casserole = 6 ex.-large eggs, 1/2  cup cream 3 cups filling*

*I don't include grated melting cheese (American, cheddar, gruyère, fontina or mozzarella) or crispy-fried bacon bits in the filling total because neither adds a lot of overall volume.  Add 1 cup, 3/4 cup or 1/2 cup cheese, &/or, 1/2 cup, 1/4 cup or 2 tablespoons bacon bits.

Bake @ 325º:  6" skillet/20 min.; 8" skillet/25 min.; 10" skillet/30 min.

Add 6-8 minutes extra baking time for any frittata baked in a casserole dish.  Why?  A frittata started in the skillet is hot -- a frittata assembled in the casserole is not. 

IMG_6400Tips from Mel:  You can substitute half and half or whole milk, but anything less than full-fat dairy renders a rubbery rather than an unctuous frittata.  The worst mistake to make is to overbake a frittata.  If it's deep-golden on top, it's over-cooked in the center.  It should light in color and barely set, so, be sure to check it often during the cooking process.  Season your filling ingredients appropriately when sautéing them, to taste, with salt, pepper and/or herbs or spices. The same goes for the egg mixture:  whisk in the salt and pepper before pouring it into the skillet or casserole. Adding cheese?  Choose one with a good melting quality.  Aged cheeses, like Parmesan or Pecorino, which add sharp, salty flavor, don't melt great, but work nicely grated over the top of the finished frittata.  Never stir the frittata after the egg mixture has been added.

For three sizes of my Italian Sausage, Peppers 'n Onion Frittata:

IMG_62912, 1 1/2 or 1  cup diced, previously cooked meat or seafood (Note:  In the case of  hot or sweet Italian sausage, start with 16-, 12-, or 8- ounces, prior to sautéing.)

1, 3/4 or 1/2  cup diced onion

3, 2 1/4 or 1 1/2   cups diced, cooked vegetables or a combination of vegetables, your choice (Note: I'm using green bell pepper, red bell pepper and mushrooms today.

sea salt and coarsely-ground black pepper, for lightly seasoning vegetables 

1, 3/4 or 1/2  cup grated melting cheese (Note:  I'm using yellow cheddar today.)

12, 9 or 6  extra-large eggs

1, 3/4 or 1/2  cup cream

3/4, 1/2, 1/4 teaspoon sea salt and coarsely-ground black pepper, for seasoning egg mixture

diced grape tomatoes, for garnishing frittata

minced parsley, for ganishing frittata

finely-grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, for garnishing frittata

IMG_6295 IMG_6299 IMG_6302~ Step 1.  Using an old-fashioned hand-crank egg beater, whisk the eggs, cream, salt and pepper together.  Set aside.

IMG_6307 IMG_6311 IMG_6313 IMG_6316~Step 2.  Place the sausage in an appropriately sized skillet over medium-high heat.  Sauté, using the side of a spatula to break the meat into small bits and pieces, until cooked through, about 6 minutes.  Turn the heat off.  Using a large slotted spoon, transfer the sausage from the skillet to a paper-towel-lined plate to drain, allowing the flavorful drippings to remain in skillet.

IMG_6318 IMG_6321 IMG_6324 IMG_6325 IMG_6328 IMG_6329~Step 3.  Adjust heat on stovetop to medium.  Add the  onion, bell peppers and mushrooms.  Lightly season with salt and pepper.  Using the spatula to stir almost constantly, sauté until vegetables have lost about half of their volume and are just starting to show signs of browning (which means they are becoming very flavorful), about 6 minutes. Adjust heat to low.  Add and stir in the sausage, then sprinkle the grated cheese over the top.

IMG_6332 IMG_6335~ Step 4.  Drizzle in egg mixture and allow to cook on low for 2 minutes.  Do not stir.  Place in 325° oven to bake, until puffy and very lightly brown, about 20 minutes for a 6" skillet, 25 minutes for an 8" skillet and 30 minutes in a 12" skillet.

Inverted or not, cool in skillet about 15 minutes prior to slicing:

IMG_6376For those Times When You Just Gotta Frittata:  Recipe yields instructions to make 3 sizes of frittata.  In frittata language, each egg used = 1 serving.  In my kitchen:  12 egg frittata = 10-12 servings.  9 egg frittata = 6-8 servings.  6 egg frittata = 4-6 servings.

Special Equipment List:  cutting board; chef's knife; hand-held box grater; 2-cup measuring container; old-fashioned hand-crank egg beater (optional); appropriately sized oven-safe skillet or casserole of choice; spatula; large slotted spoon; paper towels

6a0120a8551282970b01a5118fde1c970cCook's Note:  For a variation on the today's eggy theme, one of my family's favorite dinners is my recipe for ~ An End of Winter Ricotta & Spinach 'Pizza' Quiche ~.  You can find the recipe by clicking into Categories 2, 3, 12, 14, 19 or 20.

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

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2017)

03/02/2017

~ Pizza alla Puttanesca with Puddles of Mozzarella ~

IMG_6240Gutsy-flavored puttanesca and marinara sauce have always been my two favorite pasta sauces. They are both relatively quick-to-make and they freeze great, so, I always have them on hand. There's more.  When these two pasta sauces are allowed to simmer a bit longer than usual, until they reduce and get extra thick, both become my two favorite pizza sauces.  Marinara-based pizza sauce is my all-purpose pizza sauce because it plays well with all sorts of cheese and topping combos.  In the case of puttanesca-based pizza sauce, it is the star topping.  A homemade crust, puttanesca sauce and two-types of mozzarella cheese -- that's it.  Period.

Pizza gets made once a week in our household.  Usually Friday, sometimes Sunday.  Over the years, I've developed a few types of dough to make several types of pizza:  Neapolitan-, Sicilian, Chicago-, and St. Louis- style (to name four).  I also came up with an all-purpose dough to make short work of some uniquely-topped creations:  Philadelphia cheesesteak pizza, Buffalo chicken pizza, Pizz' alads, and, Puttanesca pizza.  The ingredients for the dough knead and rise in the bread machine in 55 minutes.  In the meantime, I simply prepare the topping du jour.  

Part 1:  Making My A-1 All-Purpose Bread-Machine Pizza Dough

This is my easy, all-purpose pizza dough -- although it wasn't easy for me to come up with it, as it took several rounds of experimentation.  Like my other 'za dough recipes, this one had to meet my requirements for this type of pizza.  What I wanted from this dough was a high-quality, quick-and-easy time-saving New York-Style pizza dough for those times when I want/need this popular type of pizza in a relative hurry with no worry -- if you have teenage kids, you know what I'm talking about.   Depending upon how large you want the pie, you can make it thicker, thinner, or somewhere in between.  It can be round or square and it can be baked in a pan or on a stone too.  It's versatile.  It is, simply put, a great all-purpose pizza dough for novice pizza makers and busy folks who want to skip pizza delivery, or worse, that horrible store-bought pizza dough.  

IMG_6209Thanks to the combination of all-purpose and high-gluten "00" flour, plus the addition of just the right amount of semolina flour to give it a bit of resilient chew, it turns out two crispy-bottomed pies with tender chewy centers -- it's pliable enough to hold and fold each slice in half too!

IMG_6458For the pizza dough:

1  cup warm water

1  tablespoon olive oil

1  teaspoon sugar

1  teaspoon sea salt

1  cup all-purpose flour

1  cup "00" flour

1/2 cup semolina flour

1  packet granulated yeast, not rapid-rise yeast

IMG_6462IMG_6464                                      ~ Step 1Place the water, olive oil, sugar and sea salt in the the bread pan of the bread machine.

IMG_6472Add the all-purpose flour, "00 flour" and semolina. Using your index finger, make a well in the top of the flour and add the yeast to it.  Note:  When making any type of bread machine dough, always add the wet ingredients first and the dry ingredients last.

6a0120a8551282970b01b8d16e1e61970cStep 2.  Insert the bread pan into the machine.  Close the lid and push the "select" button.  Then choose the "pizza dough" cycle. Push the "start" button.  While the machine is running, ready your kitchen scale and pastry board.

IMG_6481When the machine signals, remove pan of fully-risen dough from the machine.  In my machine this takes 55 minutes.

(During this 55 minutes, prepare the puttanesca pizza sauce as directed below.)

IMG_6492IMG_6483Step 3. Turn the dough out onto a lightly-floured pastry board and briefly knead it into a smooth ball.

IMG_6488Place the ball of dough on a kitchen scale.  You will have 20-21 ounces.  Divide in half and form dough into 2, 10-10 1/2-ounce balls.

IMG_6683Step 4.  Using a paper towel, oil 2, 12" round pizza pans or 2, 12" x 9" rectangular pans with about 2 tablespoons olive oil on each pan. Place one ball of dough on each pan and allow to rest, about 10-15 IMG_6687minutes -- to give the gluten time to relax.  Thirty minutes is ok too.

Note:  For demonstration purposes, I'm make one round and one square pizza today, and, I'm not using fancy, expensive pans either.

IMG_6695Step 5.  Pat and press dough evenly across bottoms and evenly up sides of pans. I do this in 3 parts taking 15-20 minutes, allowing dough to rest 5 minutes each time before patting and pressing again.

IMG_6182Step 6.  To top each of two puttanesca pizzas, on each crust, place8 slices deli-style mozzarella cheese.  Add and spread 1 1/4 cups puttanesca pizza sauce (recipe below) over the top of the mozzarella. Arrange 8 ounces small, fresh mozzarella balls (that have been sliced in half), or, pieces of sliced fresh mozzarella over top. Lightly sprinkle dried oregano over tops.

IMG_6190Step 7.  At this point, pizzas can be baked, one-at-a-time on center rack of  a 375 degree oven that has been heated with a pizza stone in it, or, you can let them rise in the pans for 1 to 2 hours prior to baking, which, if you have the time, is worth the wait. This allows you to assemble the pizzas ahead, which is really nice, and, it allows the crust to rise a second time, rendering it nice and airy, which is nicer.

IMG_6201Step 8.  Place each pan of pizza on pizza stone for 6-8 minutes. Using a spatula, lift a corner of the pie up and using your other hand (via a pot holder or mitt), tilt pan and slide pie off the pan onto the stone. Continue to bake for 6-7 more minutes, for a total of 12-15 minutes baking time.  Crust will be lightly-brown and cheese will be molten. Using a pizza peel, transfer pizza to a rack to cool for 3-5 minutes, to allow the cheese to set up a bit, prior to slicing and serving.

Part 2:  Making My "Star Topping" Puttanesca Pizza Sauce

Garlic, onion, capers, anchovies, olives, red pepper & oregano!

IMG_60931/4  cup extra-virgin olive oil

1 cup medium-diced yellow or sweet onion

1/4  teaspoon sea salt

3/4  teaspoon cracked black pepper

2  2-ounce cans anchovy fillets, packed in oil, well-drained & diced

1 tablespoon minced garlic

2  tablespoons tomato paste

1  teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

1  28-ounce can crushed tomatoes

1/4  cup large non-pareil capers

1 cup sliced or chopped pitted black olives

1  teaspoon sugar

1  tablespoon minced, fresh oregano leaves

zest of 1/2-3/4 lemon for adding to sauce + the additional zest for garnishing finished pizza

IMG_6095IMG_6096IMG_6098IMG_6101IMG_6104IMG_6108~Step 1.  Heat olive oil in a wide-bottomed 4-quart stockpot over medium-high heat.  Add onion, salt and black pepper.  Adjust heat to gently sauté, until the onion is soft, stirring frequently, about 6 minutes.  Add anchovy fillets and garlic.  Continue to cook, stirring frequently, until anchovies have disappeared into mixture and garlic is soft, about 3 minutes.  Add and stir the tomato paste and red pepper flakes into the mix.  Cook for 1 more minute.  Add the crushed tomatoes, capers, black olives and sugar.

IMG_6111IMG_6113Step 2.  Adjust heat to a gentle, steady simmer, partially cover the pot and continue to cook until thickened and pizza saucelike, about 15 minutes. Stir in the oregano and lemon zest and continue to cook an additional 5 minutes.  Yield:  6 cups.

Puttanesca pizza.  From first gutsy-flavored slice...

IMG_6249... to last gutsy-flavored last bite.  You get the picture:

IMG_6277Pizza alla Puttanesca with Puddles of Mozzarella:  Recipe yields 2 pizzas, and, 5 cups puttanesca pizza sauce, enough to sauce 4 pizzas. 

Special Equipment List:  1-cup measuring container; bread machine; kitchen scale (optional); 2, 12"-round pizza pans or 2, "13" x 9" baking pans (or one of each); paper towel; pizza stone; large metal spatula; pizza peel; large cooling rack; cutting board; chef's knife; 4-quart saucepan

IMG_6123Cook's Note:  Puttanesca sauce: Called "sugo" alla puttanesca, meaning, "sauce" in the stye of a prostitute.  The word "puttanesca" derives from the Italian word "puttana", meaning "whore".  Puttana comes from the Latin word "putina", meaning "stinking". Whether truth or myth, research revealed three stories that, when referencing "whores" and "stinking", most couldn't resist mentioning: 1) Puttanesca was a cheap dish "working girls" could cook from the cupboard between "customers".  2) When referencing "stinking", the sauce's strong aroma would lure men from the streets into houses of ill repute.  3)  The dish was served to men awaiting their turn.  

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

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2017)