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My Recipes-of-the-Week are featured here on my Home page. You can find 2000 of my kitchen-tested recipes using the Recipes tab, watch over 125 Kitchen Encounters/WHVL-TV segments using the TV Videos tab, join the discussion about all of my creations using the Facebook tab, or Email your questions and comments directly to me--none go unanswered. "We are all in this food world together." ~Melanie

07/03/2020

~The Story Behind Macaroni & Yankee Doodle Dandy~

6a0120a8551282970b01b8d131f9da970c-1Yankee Doodle went to town, riding on a pony, stuck a feather in his hat, and, called it macaroni. Fun song to sing?  If you've ever wondered why Yankee Doodle would name his feather macaroni, this post will explain.  Sans the folks who think Kraft Foods invented macaroni, food historians agree that here in the United States, it had its humble beginning in the kitchen of Thomas Jefferson, who returned from a trip to Paris with a macaroni maker/press which he bought while in Italy.  Thank-you Mr. Jefferson for introducing macaroni to America.

A bit about macaroni:  Macaroni is a small, fork-friendly often tubular-shaped pasta made from durum wheat and water (it does not contain eggs).  It's generally mass produced, as the extruder machine used to make the tube is difficult to use and clean.  The word "macaroni" comes from the Italian "maccheroni", which, in Italy doesn't just refer to the ever-popular bent-elbow macaroni (common to the US).  It includes other shapes, such as shells, twists, spirals. penne and ziti. Because short and stubby macaroni is generally thicker than stranded pasta, it can be used in a wider variety of ways, such as simmering in soups or baking in casseroles.

Why did Yankee Doodle Dandy call the feather in his hat macaroni?  

Gettyimages-463929691-612x612So -- why did Yankee Doodle Dandy stick a feather in his hat and call it macaroni?  Was he some sort of a nut?  In the time period, this British pre-revolutionary war song was nothing more than the British making full-blown fun of American colonists, who they deemed to be poor, backward, lowly, uneducated, country bumpkins or hicks. The British slang word for an idiot was "doodle", hence the name Yankee Doodle (or Yankee Idiot).  It was a nasty name and an insulting song.

Back in the 1700's, both European men and women prided themselves in making a fashion statement whenever they were in public, and, a man who was a fashion leader was called "dandy".  So, was Yankee Doodle actually a dandy?  Not by the British standards.  In the song they have the poor idiot, Yankee Doodle, riding into town on a pony, not even a proper horse, and, sticking a feather in his tattered three-cornered tricorne or coonskin hat in the hopes of making a respectable fashion statement equivalent to that of a stylish man of Europe.

Men in the business of importing macaroni from Italy to Britain & France proudly referred to themselves as "macaronis".  

6a0120a8551282970b0154336c5b21970cBut why would he call his feather macaroni?  Well, he (himself) didn't -- remember, the British wrote this song, and back then, "macaroni" was yet another derogatory term used to describe men who dressed in outrageously excessive clothes, which included tall, heavy, expensive white wigs laden with hundreds of small, tight curls.  In extreme cases, the wigs were custom built upon and around heavy wire forms.  These wigs were worn by the salesmen in the business of importing macaroni from Italy to Britain and France, and, they proudly referred to themselves as "macaronis".  

What does this mean for us foodies? Well, whether macaroni was named after the wigs, or the wigs were named after the curly little Italian pasta remains a "chicken or the egg" mystery, but for me: every year on the Fourth of July, I find myself proudly humming this tune and preparing macaroni salad in honor of it.

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

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2020)

06/30/2020

~ Southwestern-Style Macaroni, Bean & Corn Salad ~

IMG_3393Macaroni salad has always been a staple at our Fourth of July feast -- just call me a Yankee Doodle.  That said, depending on what I'm serving, I don't make it the same way every year.  My recipe for classic macaroni salad goes on the table when we're serving all-American hamburgers and hot dogs.  This year because Texican-style BBQ'd chicken and ribs (the ribs on Saturday evening and the chicken on Sunday afternoon) will be in the center of the table, my Southwestern-style macaroni, bean and corn salad will the star of the side-dishes on both days.

While easy to prepare, this is not just "this and that".  This salad is a well-balanced, thoughtful, combination of flavor & texture:

IMG_3390A bit about the combination of ingredients in this recipe:  Beans and sweet corn kernels, common to the Southwest, add great flavor, texture and color to this macaroni salad.  Briny olives and acidic tomatoes, plus aromatic red onion and cilantro add to all the Southwestern flavor one could possible ask for.  There's more.  The creamy dressing gets store-bought fresh salsa stirred into it, which in itself, is full of more flavor-packed ingredients (onion, garlic, cilantro, jalapeño, tomato, lime juice, etc.). As for bell peppers, I don't add them because they tend to take over the subtly-blended taste of this salad. As for avocados, as much as I love them, I avoid the urge to add them, except, to say, if you want to add them, dice them and add them at the last minute and just to the individual servings.  Why?  In less than an hour they start to turn color, in a few hours they start to get mushy, and, longer than that, they muddle up the color and texture beyond recovery.

Simple to make.  Flavor-packed.  Best made a day ahead:

IMG_3368For the macaroni salad:

1  pound macaroni, your favorite shape (Note:  I chose to use nuvole/"clouds", which is a small, roundish, coiled pasta with plenty of grooves to hold the dressing.

1  15-ounce can black beans or red kidney beans, rinsed and well-drained (about 2 cups beans)

1  15-ounce sweet corn kernels, well-drained (about 2 cups cooked corn kernels)

1  2.25-ounce can sliced black olives, well-drained (about 1/2 cup)

1  10-ounce box grape tomatoes, sliced in half (a generous 1 cup)

1  cup small-diced red onion (while green onion may be substituted, it really doesn't have enough flavor to hold its own in this salad)

1/2  cup minced, fresh cilantro leaves and some stems are ok

IMG_3353For the dressing:

1  cup store-bought fresh salsa

3/4  cup sour cream or Mexican crema

1/2  cup mayonnaise

1  tablespoons fresh lime juice, or, high-quality organic not-from-concentrate lime juice

1  tablespoon ground cumin

1/2  teaspoon sea salt

IMG_3370~ Step 1. To cook, drain and properly dry macaroni, in an 8-quart stockpot, bring 4 quarts water to a boil.  Add 1  tablespoon sea salt. Add pasta and cook as package directs until al dente, usually 9-11 minutes.  Do not overcook.  Drain into colander and rinse under cold water to halt cooking process and remove the starch (which makes it gummy). Transfer to and spread pasta out on a baking pan lined with parchment.  Drain and "dry" (meaning free from moisture, not dried out), about 20-30 minutes.

IMG_3373 IMG_3373~ Step 2.  Transfer the pasta to a large bowl.  Add the beans, corn, olives, tomatoes, red onion and cilantro.  Using a large rubber spatula, gently fold the vegetables into the macaroni.  Set aside while preparing dressing as directed in the next step.

IMG_3356 IMG_3356 IMG_3356 IMG_3356 IMG_3356~Step 3.  To prepare  dressing, using a slotted spoon measure 1 cup of salsa from the jar, allowing excess liquid to drain back.  Transfer cup of salsa to a paper-towel-lined plate to drain of excess liquid, 1-2 minutes. Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, place and stir together the sour cream, mayo, lime juice, cumin and sea salt.  Add and stir in the drained salsa.

IMG_3379 IMG_3379~ Step 4.  Transfer all of the dressing to the large bowl containing the macaroni mixture.  Using the large rubber spatula, gently fold the dressing into the pasta mixture, until ingredients are completely enrobed in the creamy dressing.  Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for several hours (6-8) or overnight -- overnight is best.

Perfect served w/barbecued chicken or any type of ribs: 

IMG_3417Southwestern-Style Macaroni & Black Bean Salad:  Recipe yields 12 cups/3 quarts.

Special Equipment List:  cutting board; chef's knife; 8-quart stockpot; large colander; baking pan; parchment; large rubber spatula; large slotted spoon; paper towels; plastic wrap

6a0120a8551282970b01b8d131f9da970cCook's Note: "Yankee Doodle went to town, riding on a pony, stuck a feather in his hat, and, called it macaroni."  If you've ever wondered why Yankee Doodle would name his feather macaroni, this post will explain.  Sans the folk who think Kraft Foods invented macaroni, food historians agree it had its humble beginning in the kitchen of Thomas Jefferson, who returned from a trip to Paris with a macaroni press which he bought in Italy.  Thank-you Mr. Jefferson for introducing macaroni to America, more importantly, macaroni and cheese.  Try my ~ Fourth of July Yankee Doodle Dandy Macaroni Salad ~.

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

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2020)

06/28/2020

~ Italian-Style Fried Pasta Pancake -- Pasta a Frittata ~

IMG_3331 2Fried spaghetti at midnight.  It's kind-of a joke in our house, but, when it comes to late-night snacking in ten minutes or less, reheating a slice of cold pizza in a skillet or frying a portion of leftover spaghetti are at the top of my short list.  It goes without saying, frying spaghetti in less than ten minutes does require having cooked, lightly-seasoned, spaghetti in the refrigerator. For reasons unknown to me, this dish works better with day-old pasta (any type can technically be used), and, while the pasta can be lightly-sauced, I prefer it made with unsauced spaghetti. 

Pasta a frittata is an age-old, very traditional Neapolitan dish that, depending on the family or the area it's prepared in, can be made in various ways -- it lends itself to almost all interpretations. Like many Italian dishes, it was a poor man's dish.  Leftovers were never thrown away, they were repurposed.  In the case of (sauced or unsauced) leftover pasta, it was thrown into a skillet with some beaten egg and bits of whatever was on-hand (sometimes crisply-fried bacon or guanciale, other times bits of salami or sopressata and/or cubes of mozzarella, and always, Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese).  After a few short minutes, this crispy-and-golden-on-the-outside, soft-and-creamy-in-the-center comfort-food got gobbled up for breakfast, brunch, lunch or dinner.

My basic 10-minute 5-ingredient recipe for pasta a frittata:

IMG_32758  cups my recipe for slightly-spicy garlic & italian-herbs buttered pasta (Note:  1 pound thick spaghetti cooked to al dente, drained and tossed with 1 stick salted butter, 1  teaspoon garlic powder, 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning blend, 3/4  teaspoon sea salt, and, 1/2  teaspoon red pepper flakes.), 24-28 ounces

8  large eggs

8  tablespoons finely-grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

1  tablespoon salted butter

1  tablespoon olive oil

IMG_3280 IMG_3280 IMG_3280 IMG_3280 IMG_3280 IMG_3280~Step 1.  In a large bowl, using a hand-held egg beater or a whisk, beat the eggs until smooth. Beat in the Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese.  Add spaghetti.  Use a large rubber spatula to fold, until spaghetti is thoroughly coated in the liquid.

IMG_3277 IMG_3277 IMG_3277 IMG_3277 IMG_3277 IMG_3277 IMG_3277 IMG_3277 IMG_3277~Step 2.  In a 10" nonstick skillet, melt the butter into the oil over low heat. Pour noodle mixture into pan.  Increase heat slightly and allow it to setup on the bottom, about 1 minutes.  Increase heat to medium.  Continue to cook, running a thin spatula around sides, and gently lifting from time to time, until pancake is golden on the bottom, 4-5 minutes.  Flip the pancake over by using a wide nonstick spatula to help slide it onto a plate.  Next, invert skillet on top of plate, then, using pot holders (the skillet is hot), flip the plate and the pan over.  Return to heat and cook on second side until golden on bottom and center has firmed up, 2-3 minutes.

Got leftovers?  Store in the refrigerator.  Slice & eat cold, at room temperature, or, reheat in microwave.  Perfect for a school lunch box, brown bag lunch to the office, or late-night snack: 

IMG_3314Italian-Style Fried Spaghetti Pancake -- Pasta a Frittata:  Recipe yields 6-8 servings.

Special Equipment List:  hand-held egg beater or whisk; microplane grater; 10" nonstick skillet; thin nonstick spatula; wide nonstick spatula; 9" dinner plate

IMG_3257Cook's Note: The perfect foil means, the perfect background.  Paint anything edible into this photo and it will be great meal.  Tick, tock.  In the case of this super-versatile, 15-minute to make side-dish (Slightly-Spicy Garlic & Italian-Herbs Buttered Pasta), truer words were never spoken. When you have no time to make another run to the grocery store but still have a hungry family to please ASAP, this is the perfect side to serve -- everyone loves pasta.  It goes great with a broiled chicken breast, a grilled pork chop, a pan-seared steak, a handful of steamed shrimp, etc.  Add a steamed green vegetable or whip up a simple garden salad and dinner is on the table, and, your day (pour the wine) is done. 

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

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2020)