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My Recipes-of-the-Week are featured here on my Home page. You can find 1000+ of my kitchen-tested recipes using the Recipes tab, watch nearly 100 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

08/12/2019

~ Southwestern-Style Beef & Chorizo Meatball Subs ~

IMG_3385Who doesn't love a meatball sandwich -- I know I do.  Besides a high-quality roll, a well-constructed meatball sub only requires three components:  tender meatballs, a great melting cheese and a savory sauce.  Culinarily, the meatball sandwich is, understandably and correctly, associated with Italian-American fare, with meatballs being a spinoff of meatloaf, which is an all-American invention.  In turn, my Southwestern-Style meatballs, are a spinoff of my Mexican-style beef and chorizo meatloaf (but should not be confused with Mexican albóndigas (albóndiga is the word for meatball in Spanish), which contain rice, not a bread product, as a binder.          

6a0120a8551282970b0240a4996f17200dIt's worth mention that aside from the bright-to-tawny red color, Mexican chorizo and Spanish chorizo are not the same, so, purchase with precision.  Mexican chorizo is a fresh, ground-pork sausage with spices added, ranging from mild to spicy -- sold loose or in a casing, it is raw and must be cooked before eating it. Spanish chorizo is a dried and fully-cured or semi-cured chopped-pork sausage with spices added, ranging from mild to spicy -- sold in a casing, fully-cured is fully-cooked and can be eaten as is, while semi-cured requires cooking prior to eating.

Ground beef + chorizo = Mexican-Style meatball perfection.

IMG_2628For 6-61/2 dozen meatballs*:

2-2 1/2  pounds lean or extra-lean ground beef (85/15 or 90/10)

1  pound ground Mexican chorizo sausage

2  extra-large eggs, lightly beaten

4  ounces saltine crackers (1 sleeve of crackers from a 1-pound box), crumbled by hand into small bits and pieces, not processed to crumbs.

1  cup milk

3  tablespoons salted butter

3/4-1 cup whole corn kernels, shaved from cooked or grilled corn on the cob, or, well-drained canned corn kernels

3/4-1  cup thin-sliced green onion, white and light green parts only

3/4-1 cup small-diced green bell pepper

3/4-1  cup small-diced red bell pepper

1/2-3/4  cup minced, fresh cilantro leaves and some tender stems

1  tablespoon chili powder

1  tablespoon ground cumin

2  teaspoons sea salt

1 1/2-2  teaspoons coarsely-ground black pepper

no-stick cooking spray, for preparing loaf pans

IMG_2637 IMG_2637 IMG_2637 IMG_2637~Step 1.  Place ground beef in a large bowl.  If the sausage is in casings, remove the casings then place the sausage in the bowl with the ground beef.  Using a fork, lightly beat the eggs and add them to the meat.  Using your hands (it's the most efficient), thoroughly combine the two.

IMG_2648 IMG_2648 IMG_2648 IMG_2648 IMG_2648 IMG_2648~Step 2.  Using your fingertips, crush the crackers into small bits and pieces, letting them fall into a medium mixing bowl as you work. Add the milk and stir to combine. Set aside about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, to allow the crackers to absorb all of the milk.  The mixture will be thick, chunky and pasty -- just perfect.  Add the cracker mixture to the meat/egg mixture, and once again, using your hands, thoroughly combine.

IMG_2631 IMG_2631 IMG_2631 IMG_2631 IMG_2631 IMG_2631~Step 3.  In a 10" skillet melt butter over low heat. Add the corn kernels along with the bell peppers and green onion.  Season with the chili powder, cumin, salt and pepper. Adjust heat to medium- medium-high and sauté until peppers are softened but still crunch-tender, 3-4 minutes.  Stir in the cilantro, remove from heat and cool 30 minutes.

IMG_2672 IMG_2672 IMG_2672~Step 4.  Add the cool but still-warm vegetable mix to the meat mixture.  Using your hands, thoroughly combine -- thoroughly!

IMG_3331 2 IMG_3331 2 IMG_3331 2~Step 5.  Line a 17 1/2" x 12 1/2" baking pan with parchment, then place a wire rack atop the parchment.  Using a 1 3/4" ice-cream scoop as a measure to portion the meat mixture, roll each portion between the palms of your hands, placing the meatballs atop the wire rack as you work.  Bake meatballs on center rack of 350° oven 25-28 minutes.  Remove from oven, and assemble sandwiches as directed below.

*Note:  This recipe is written to make a lot of meatballs (6-6 1/2 dozen).  Feel free to cut the recipe in half, but, know they freeze great.  At this point, I always use what I need (1/3-1/2) and freeze the rest to have on-hand for one or two additional weeknight meatball-sandwich meals. 

For my quick & easy, spicy tomato & chipotle-chile chili sauce:

IMG_1452For the sauce:

2  tablespoons corn oil

1  cup diced yellow or sweet onion

4  large garlic cloves, run through a press

1/2  teaspoon ancho chile pepper

3/4  teaspoon Mexican-style oregano

1  teaspoon ground cumin

1/2  teaspoon sugar

1/2  teaspoon sea salt

1  14 1/2-ounce can fire-roasted tomatoes, undrained

2  whole chipotle chile peppers in adobo, plus 1-2 tablespoons sauce from can, to taste

1/4  cup minced, fresh cilantro leaves, some stems are ok

IMG_1454 IMG_1454 IMG_1454~ Step 1.  In a 1 1/2-2-quart saucepan, heat the corn oil over medium- medium-high heat.  Add the diced onion, pressed garlic, ancho chile pepper, Mexican-style oregano, ground cumin, sugar and salt.  Give the ingredients a thorough stir.  Adjust the heat to sauté gently, until onion is softened, 5-6 minutes.

IMG_1465 IMG_1465 IMG_1465 IMG_1465~Step 2.  Add the fire-roasted tomatoes, two whole chipotle chiles and 1 tablespoon sauce from can of peppers.  Stir to combine and adjust heat to simmer gently and steadily, 5-6 minutes. Reduce heat to low, then taste.  For more heat, add another tablespoon sauce from chipotles.

IMG_1475 IMG_1475 IMG_1475 IMG_1475 IMG_1475 IMG_1475 IMG_1475~Step 3.  Stir in the minced cilantro, adjust heat to a gentle simmer and cook for 1-2 more minutes.  Turn the heat off or remove from heat completely.  With the aid of a stick blender (also called an immersion blender), process the sauce to semi-chunky texture.  If you do not have a stick blender and are using a conventional blender, cool the sauce 1 hour prior to processing.  Transfer sauce to food storage container(s) and keep stored in refrigerator.  Reheat gently in the microwave.  Sauce freezes well.

To assemble & bake the Mexican-style meatball sandwiches:

IMG_3359For the sandwiches:

6  6"-6 1/2" submarine/hoagie rolls, the best available, your favorite brand

18-24  slices jalapeño pepper-Jack cheese

2  dozen meatballs, from above recipe

1 1/2  cups chipotle-chile chili sauce, from above recipe

minced cilantro leaves, for garnish

IMG_3360 IMG_3360 IMG_3360 IMG_3360~Step 1.  To assemble the sandwiches, use a serrated bread knife to slice the rolls, placing each one on an aluminum foil sheet as you work  Place 3-4 slices of cheese in each roll, to generously cover and protect the soft bread on both sides -- from the sauce that will come later.  Add 4 meatballs to each sandwich.  Gather the foil up and around each sandwich and form a tight seal.

IMG_3375 IMG_3375~ Step 2. To bake and serve the sandwiches, place sandwiches, side-by-side on center rack 350º oven for 12-15 minutes. Remove from oven. Remove the foil and drizzle chipotle-chile chili sauce over the meatballs, to taste -- be aware, this sauce is quite spicy.  Garnish each sandwich with minced cilantro leaves and serve immediately.

A crispy roll, gooey cheese, tender meatballs & spicy sauce: 

IMG_3383There's no right or wrong way to eat a meatball sandwich:

IMG_3397Southwestern-Style Beef & Chorizo Meatball Subs:  Recipe yields approximately 6-6 1/2 dozen meatballs/3 cups sauce/enough for 18 sandwiches.

Special Equipment List: fork; 1-cup measuring container; cutting board; chef's knife; 10" nonstick skillet; nonstick spoon or spatula; 17 1/2" x 12 1/2" baking pan; parchment paper; wire cooling rack; 1 3/4" ice-cream scoop; serrated bread knife; aluminum foil sheets

6a0120a8551282970b01b7c926d116970bCook's Note:  In my food world, there is  no right or wrong way to make a meatball sandwich -- they are pretty straightforward.  In my recipe for  ~ The Incredible Edible Caprese Chicken Meatball Sub ~ my ground chicken meatballs are infused with lots of onion, garlic, basil, egg and fresh Italian-bread crumbs.  What do they do?  They add the requisite moisture and full-throttle flavor to an otherwise dry, rather tasteless, lackluster protein.  

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

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2019)

08/09/2019

~ Brownbag it w/a Grilled Chicken Caesar Salad Sub ~

IMG_3316Whether you're sending kids back to school in a few days, looking for something different to lunch on at your office computer, or yeah baby, a sandwich that will be the hit of your next tailgate party -- this sub has got your back.  It's on my short-list of most-popular in-my-house-made deli-style hoagie- submarine-type sandwiches.  It's extremely easy-to-make and user-friendly too.  Chop and toss the ingredients together in a bowl, stuff 'em into a sub roll just before eating, then go to town. It's akin to feasting on a tuna sub, only full of classic Caesar salad flavors and textures.

6a0120a8551282970b01a3fd0c433e970bThe concept of a Caesar salad sub is hardly a new one, but, I'm here to tell you, if you've been wasting time layering lettuce leaves, shaving parmesan and placing thin slices of chicken on a roll with a drizzle of dressing (all are musts when making a chicken Caesar salad panini), it's time to rethink it. Chopped ingredients are easier to eat, and, because each and every bite-sized piece is enrobed in a light coating of creamy Caesar dressing, the end result tastes amazingly better.  The (obvious) key, however, is to load the salad concoction with chicken (lots and lots of chopped chicken) -- because, after all, this is a sandwich, not a salad.  That said, if you're not planning on eating these sandwiches within a few hours of making them, don't add the lettuce until the last moment, because it will get a bit wilty (but it'll still be delicious though).

The key is to load the salad w/lots & lots of chopped chicken -- because, after all, this is a sandwich, not a salad.

IMG_3294For two sandwiches:

1 3/4-2  cups, chopped or pulled into bite-sized pieces, grilled, chicken tenderloins or thighs

1-1 1/2  cups "chiffonade" ("thin strips"/"little ribbons") of romaine lettuce leaves

1  diced hard-cooked egg

1/2  cup small-diced tomato

1/4  cup small-diced red onion

2  tablespoons finely-grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

6-8  tablespoons creamy Caesar dressing, preferably homemade or high-quality store-bought

2  6-6 1/2" high-quality submarine- hoagie- type rolls, the best available

IMG_3297 IMG_3299 IMG_3299 IMG_3299 IMG_3305 IMG_3305~Step 1.  Prep and place the chicken, lettuce, egg, tomato and red onion in a medium bowl.  Using a large rubber spatula, toss to combine.  Add the cheese and toss again, to incorporate cheese throughout the mixture.  Gently fold in the dressing, 4 tablespoons at first, 2 more after that, and, the last two if you think you need it. Using your fingertips, pull/remove a bit of the soft bread from the center of each half of the sliced roll, to create a cavity for stuffing as much Caesar filling into the sub sandwich as it can handle.

Stuff a roll w/as much chicken Caesar as it can handle & eat: 

IMG_3320Brownbag it w/a Grilled Chicken Caesar Salad Sub:  Recipe yields 2 light but filling sandwiches.

Special Equipment List:  cutting board; chef's knife; large rubber spatula; serrated bread knife

6a0120a8551282970b01a511b10aec970cCook's Note:  Over the past three decades, the Caesar salad, #1) became America's most popular main-dish salad, #2) altered the lettuce industry as demand for romaine has skyrocketed, and, #3) turned the chicken-topped Caesar into the chicken item most frequently found on restaurant menus -- more than wings and chicken fingers. Now considered the All-American salad, it was invented in Mexico in 1924 by an Italian-born Mexican immigrant, Caesar Cardini (a co-owner in a Tijuana restaurant).  Making a classic Caesar salad requires a some technique.  I learned from some experts, then, took what they taught me to create my own  ~ Hail Caesar:  Roasted Chicken Salad a la Melanie ~.

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

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2019)

08/07/2019

~Lighten Up w/a Refreshing Tuna-Mac Garden Salad~

IMG_3277Occasionally, on a day off or a Saturday, my dad would fix his version of tuna salad for us.  On mom's medium-sized meat platter, he'd make a bed of soft garden lettuce leaves, then add a layer of tomato slices followed by a sliced cucumber.  He'd scatter a lightly-drained can of chilled tuna-packed-in-oil over the veggies, followed by a few dollops of cottage cheese.  His creation ended with a sprinkling of salt and black pepper.  Mom would make some rye toast, put a pitcher of iced tea on the table and lunch was served.  It wasn't fancy, but our family of four loved it.

It's a charming story about an easy Summertime recipe. 

We'd each put a slice of toast on our plate, then, with a large scooper-type spatula, top it with a generous portion of dad's salad.  Considering it didn't contain any fresh or dried herbs, special seasonings or flavor-enhancing ingredients, it was amazingly tasty and refreshing.  Nowadays, a proper term for it might be "deconstructed tuna salad".  That said, over the years, I added some onion (dad refused to eat raw onion), sneak in a bit of lemony mayonnaise (dad detested mayonnaise), and, a tad of tangy whole-grain mustard (dad only ate ballpark mustard, and, in all seriousness, only on a fried bologna sandwich or a hot dog).  There's more.  Instead of the unruly layering, I now dice and stir my ingredients together and add some cooked elbow macaroni too -- it's so light and refreshing I don't feel the least bit guilty about taking a second helping.

IMG_3254My mixed-up version of dad's deconstructed tuna salad:

IMG_3184For the tuna salad:

1  5-ounce can high-quality tuna-packed-in-oil, drained

6  tablespoons cottage cheese

2  tablespoons mayonnaise

1  tblsp. whole-grain mustard

1/2  cup  small-diced celery

1/2  cup peeled, seeded & small-diced cucumber

1/4  cup seeded & small-diced tomato

1  teaspoon dried onion flakes

IMG_3225For the macaroni and (optional) shredded lettuce:

1  cup medium shell pasta or elbow macaroni, cooked al dente and drained as directed below

6  cups water + 1  teaspoon sea salt, for cooking macaroni

1  cup shredded crunchy lettuce, iceberg or romaine lettuce work best (optional)

IMG_3187 IMG_3187~ Step 1.  Prep the tuna, celery, cucumber and tomato as directed, placing them in a medium bowl as you work.  Using a large rubber spatula, toss the tuna and vegetables together.  Set to the side while preparing the dressing as follows:

IMG_3190 IMG_3190 IMG_3190 IMG_3190~Step 2.  In a small bowl, place and stir together the cottage cheese, mayonnaise, mustard and dehydrated onion.  Add the dressing to the vegetables.  Using the spatula, fold the two mixtures together until vegetables are evenly enrobed in dressing.  Cover and refrigerate while cooking, thoroughly draining and cooling the macaroni, and, shredding the lettuce as directed below.

IMG_3228 IMG_3228 IMG_3228 IMG_3228 IMG_3228 IMG_3228 IMG_3228~Step 3.  In a 2-quart saucepan, bring 6 cups water to a boil.  Add the salt.  Add the pasta shells and cook until al dente, about 6-7 minutes.  Do not overcook.  Drain into colander and rinse under cold tap water to halt the cooking process. Transfer to and spread pasta shells out on a baking pan that's been lined with parchment.  Drain and "dry" (meaning free from moisture, not dried out), 20-30 minutes.

IMG_3238 IMG_3238 IMG_3238 IMG_3245 IMG_3245 IMG_3245 IMG_3245~Step 4.  Place the cooled pasta shells in a large bowl.  Add the tuna salad to the macaroni.  Use the rubber spatula to fold the tuna salad into the shells.  Shred the lettuce into thin short strips, as thin as you can -- the technical term for this is chiffonade, which means "little ribbons" in French.    Fold the lettuce into the tuna-macaroni salad, followed by the lettuce, cover, and refrigerate until well chilled, 1-2 hours.  It's worth mention that after 24 hours the lettuce will become a bit wilty (still delicious though), so, if preparing salad a day ahead, shred and add the lettuce just prior to serving.

Prefer to skip the pasta shells or macaroni?  No problem:

IMG_3210Lighten Up w/a Refreshing Tuna-Mac Garden Salad:  Recipe yields about 5 cups tuna-macaroni salad.

Special Equipment List: cutting board; chef's knife; rubber spatula; spoon; 4-cup food storage container w/tight-fitting lid; 2-quart saucepan; colander; 12 1/2" x 8 3/4" baking pan; parchment

6a0120a8551282970b0240a4c161c2200bCook's Note:  My dad's mac & (cottage) cheese is a comforting, flavor-packed dish that will provide almost instant gratification because it goes from stovetop to table in the time it takes to cook the macaroni. His unusual combination of hot, spicy, buttered elbow macaroni, tossed with cold cottage cheese (he liked farmers' cheese more but began substituting cottage cheese as farmers' cheese started to get harder find)  literally bursts with flavor.  ~ Dad's Mac and Cheese, or:  What I Cook just for Me ~.

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

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2019