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12 posts from May 2019

05/31/2019

~ An Old-Fashioned Diner-Style Baked Rice Pudding ~

IMG_1868Rice pudding is to us Northerners what banana pudding is to the Southerners -- a staple in every diner.  Speaking from lots of experience on behalf of parts of the Northeast (New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania to be specific), I'm here to tell you our diner-style rice pudding is:  to die for.  Sit me in any diner and I can assure two things you can always count on:  the fork-tender meatloaf (served up with fluffy mashed potatoes and gravy), and, the rice pudding (garnished with a generous squirt of Redi-whipped cream and a maraschino cherry -- banana pudding gets meringue).  In the language of inner-circle diner eaters, we refer to this dessert as "rice cream".

Understandably, most diners have a limited dessert menu.

IMG_1822Understandably, most diners have a limited dessert menu, and, while a slice of pie is a common menu item, the pie, unless you're in a diner that is renowned for its pie, is seldom made in-house -- time and space constraints, along with cost-per-serving issues, combined with the many-times limited skills of the average diner cook, more-often-than-not prohibits a genuinely pie-perfect experience -- sometimes it's so awful not even a complimentary scoop of ice cream can come to its rescue.  'Tis sad but undeniably true -- ordering pie in a diner is a roll of the proverbial dice.

Rice pudding began showing up on diner menus in the 1920's. 

IMG_1835Enter rice pudding*.  For no apparent documented reasons, it started showing up on diner menus in the 1920's.  My best guess is this:  Besides playing well in any typical laid-back hometown-diner atmosphere, making this popular and inexpensive dessert in a big batch, in-house, was a cinch for almost anyone on the kitchen staff who could accurately measure a few ingredients. Also, a generous scoop of creamy rice pudding tasted great served warm or cold with any meal any time of the day, and, if kept stored in the refrigerator, had a several day shelf life -- it was ideally suited to the grueling early-morning-to-late-night to many times 24/7 hours most diners operate.  There's more.  Because many diner kitchens of the era consisted of a flat top griddle, rather than a stovetop, like another popular diner menu staple, macaroni and cheese, this creamy-dreamy concoction could conveniently, and without compromise, be baked in the oven.

*Note:  Rice pudding is a complicated topic and one would be hard-pressed to find a culture that does not have its own version.  To make short sense of it all, rice pudding is an ancient dish that traces its roots to China (the land of rice) and the Middle East, more specifically, a Persian dish called rice milk.  That said, it was the Romans who recognized the binding properties of eggs which added the rich thickness to the dish, meaning: turned it into a custard.  When it reached India, sugar was added which transformed it from a savory to a sweet, and, the pudding-esque version Americans enjoy today dates to the Middle Ages, with the distinction between European and American puddings and custards becoming muddled sometime in the latter 1850's.

Diner rice pudding recipes from the 1940's, 50's & 60's rock on:

IMG_18584  ounces arborio rice (about 1/2 cup)

4  ounces dark or golden raisins, your choice (about 3/4 cup)

2  12-ounce cans evaporated milk, plus enough whole milk to total 4 cups liquid (Note: Whole milk can be substituted for evaporated milk.  That said, if you've ever wondered why diner-style rice pudding has an ultra-smooth consistency, it is the result of evaporated milk.  During the World War II war years, when dairy was rationed, evaporated milk was almost always substituted for whole milk, and, after the war, many diners had no reason to switch back to milk.)

2  tablespoons vanilla extract

2  extra-large eggs

10  tablespoons granulated sugar (1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons)

2  ounces salted butter (4 tablespoons)

Cinnamon-Sugar, for topping rice pudding

Redi-Whipped Cream, for garnish

maraschino cherries, for garnish

IMG_1762 IMG_1762 IMG_1762 IMG_1762 IMG_1762~Step 1.  In a 1-quart measuring container, place the evaporated milk, then add enough whole milk to total 4 cups.  In a 3-quart saucier or a 4-quart saucepan, stir together the evaporated milk, arborio rice, dark or golden raisins and vanilla extract.  Set aside for 15-20 minutes, to allow rice time to soften a bit and raisins time to plump a bit.  During this time:

IMG_1777 IMG_1777 IMG_1777 IMG_1777 IMG_1777 IMG_1777 IMG_1777 IMG_1777~Step 2.  In a 2-cup measuring container, use a fork to vigorously whisk eggs.  Add and vigorously whisk in the sugar.  Set aside about 5 minutes, then whisk again, to ensure sugar has dissolved.  In a small ramekin or bowl, melt butter in microwave, then set set aside to cool about 5 minutes. Using the fork, whisk the melted butter into the egg/sugar mixture.

IMG_1794 IMG_1794 IMG_1794~Step 3.  Place evaporated milk mixture over low heat. Stirring frequently throughout process, heat until mixture is steaming and showing signs of simmering around the perimeter of the pan.  Remove from heat.

IMG_1803 IMG_1803 IMG_1803 IMG_1803~Step 4.  Two tablespoons at a time, drizzle and whisk some of the hot evaporated milk into the egg mixture, to temper the eggs -- this will prevent them from scrambling when whisked into the hot evaporated milk mixture.  In a slow steady stream, while stirring constantly, drizzle the egg mixture into the evaporated milk mixture.  There will be a generous 6 cups of pudding mixture.

IMG_1804 IMG_1804 IMG_1804 IMG_1804~Step 5.  Transfer pudding mixture to a 2-quart casserole.  Bake on center rack of 300° oven (no higher) for 1 hour.  Almost all liquid will have been absorbed by the rice and pudding will be lightly browned in spots on top, and sort of "jiggly" too.  Remove from oven, sprinkle with Cinnamon-Sugar, and set aside about 1 1/2 hours (or longer) prior to serving warm or at room temperature.

Diner-style rice pudding gets whipped cream & a cherry:

IMG_1867Rich & creamy-dreamy, rice cream & a cherry too.  Woo-hoo! 

IMG_1873An Old-Fashioned Diner-Style Baked Rice Pudding: Recipe yields 6 cups baked rice pudding/6-12 servings.

Special Equipment List: 1-quart measuring container; 3-4-quart saucier or 4-quart saucepan; large spoon; 2-cup measuring container; fork; ramekin or small bowl; 2-quart au gratin-type casserole or any shallow 2-quart casserole

6a0120a8551282970b0240a48b239a200dCook's Note: ~ My Creamy, Orange-Kissed Arborio Rice Pudding ~.  Technically, while rice pudding is not a custard per se, this type of rice pudding is prepared in the manner of custard, which is:  a sweetened egg/milk mixture that has been cooked gently on the stovetop or baked in a low oven. Stirred custards are usually made in a double boiler, while baked custards get cooked in a warm water bath, which is not the case in most rice pudding recipes. That said, "custard" was the best term I could think of to describe its preparation.

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

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

05/28/2019

~ Put the Rum and the Coconut in the Rice Pudding ~

IMG_1835If, like me, you're a rice pudding lover, you'll eat it whenever offered.  That said, as a rice pudding lover, until now, I never thought of it as a Summer dessert.  This time of year, my mindset naturally turns to fruit or berry pie, shortcake, sorbet and ice cream as a perfect ending to a meal. Then, last night on a whim, I put the rum and the coconut in the rice pudding.  Served warm on a starry night, or cold on a sun-drenched afternoon, this Island-style version of rice pudding is a fine finale to any Caribbean-themed feast, or, more specifically, Jamaican jerk-style chicken, ribs, or wings.  There's more, it's baked in a low oven, not slow simmered on the stovetop (which frees up your hands to work on dinner prep), and, it turns out as creamy as any stovetop version.  

IMG_17594  ounces arborio rice (about 1/2 cup)

4  ounces golden raisins (about 3/4 cup)

2  13 1/2 ounce cans coconut milk, plus enough whole milk to total 4 cups liquid

2  tablespoons butter-rum flavoring

2  extra-large eggs

10  tablespoons granulated sugar (1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons)

2  ounces salted butter (4 tablespoons)

Cinnamon-Sugar, for topping and garnish

IMG_1762 IMG_1762 IMG_1762 IMG_1762 IMG_1762~Step 1.  In a 1-quart measuring container, place the coconut milk, then add enough whole milk to total 4 cups.  In a 3-quart saucier or a 4-quart saucepan, stir together the coconut milk, arborio rice, golden raisins and butter rum flavoring.  Set aside for 15-20 minutes, to allow rice time to soften a bit and raisins time to plump a bit.  During this wait time:

IMG_1777 IMG_1777 IMG_1777 IMG_1777 IMG_1777 IMG_1777 IMG_1777 IMG_1777~Step 2.  In a 2-cup measuring container, use a fork to vigorously whisk eggs.  Add and vigorously whisk in the sugar.  Set aside about 5 minutes, then whisk again, to ensure sugar has dissolved.  In a small ramekin or bowl, melt butter in microwave, then set set aside to cool about 5 minutes. Using the fork, whisk the melted butter into the egg/sugar mixture.

IMG_1794 IMG_1794 IMG_1794~Step 3.  Place  coconut milk mixture over low heat. Stirring frequently throughout process, heat until mixture is steaming and showing signs of simmering around the perimeter of the pan.  Remove from heat.

IMG_1803 IMG_1803 IMG_1803 IMG_1803~Step 4.  Two tablespoons at a time, drizzle and whisk some of the hot coconut milk into the egg mixture, to temper the eggs -- this will prevent them from scrambling when whisked into the hot coconut milk mixture.  In a slow steady stream, while stirring constantly with the spoon, drizzle the egg mixture into the coconut milk mixture.  There will be a generous 6 cups of pudding mixture.

IMG_1814 IMG_1817 IMG_1817 IMG_1817~Step 5.  Transfer pudding mixture to a 2-quart casserole.  Bake on center rack of 300° oven (no higher) for 1 hour.  Almost all liquid will have been absorbed by the rice and pudding will be lightly browned in spots on top, and sort of "jiggly" too.  Remove from oven, sprinkle with Cinnamon-Sugar, and set aside about 1 1/2 hours (or longer) prior to serving warm or at room temperature.

Served warm on a starry Summer night, it's divine:

IMG_1834Served cold on a sun-drenched Summer afternoon, it's sublime:

IMG_1852Put the Rum and the Coconut in the Rice Pudding:  Recipe yields 6 cups baked rice pudding/6-12 servings.

Special Equipment List: 1-quart measuring container; 3-4-quart saucier or 4-quart saucepan; large spoon; 2-cup measuring container; fork; ramekin or small bowl; 2-quart au gratin-type casserole or any shallow 2-quart casserole

6a0120a8551282970b01b7c950509c970bCook's Note: ~ My Creamy, Orange-Kissed Arborio Rice Pudding ~.  Technically, while rice pudding is not a custard per se, this type of rice pudding is prepared in the manner of custard, which is:  a sweetened egg/milk mixture that has been cooked gently on the stovetop or baked in a low oven. Stirred custards are usually made in a double boiler, while baked custards get cooked in a warm water bath, which is not the case in most rice pudding recipes. That said, "custard" was the best term I could think of to describe its preparation.

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

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

05/25/2019

~ The Retro & Original Wish-Bone Italian Pasta Salad ~

IMG_1685Wish-Bone Italian dressing.  How do I love thee?  Let me count the ways.  To name a few: drizzled on my garden salad or slathered on my turkey sandwich, as a dip for my vegetables, as a marinade for my chicken, and, as the dressing for the original Wish-Bone Italian pasta salad recipe.  Growing up, right next to the bright- red Kraft Catalina Dressing  and the creamy-white Hellmann's mayonnaise stood the Wish-Bone.  All were condiment staples in my mom's 1960's and 70's refrigerator, and today, all remain staples in my own refrigerator -- although I now prefer Wish-Bone's Light-Italian version.  Want a creamy version of Wish-Bone Italian or want to tone down the tomatoey Catalina a bit?  Do what mom did -- stir a bit of Hellmann's into either.   

Wish-Bone dressing got its start in Kansas City at the Wish-Bone restaurant.

IMG_1755In 1945, returning World War II veteran, Phillip Sollomi opened a family-style chicken restaurant in Kansas City, Missouri, naming it: The Wish-Bone.  His restaurant was an immediate success, and, in 1945, Phillip and The Wish-Bone found their true calling.  Phil debuted his mother's salad dressing, a recipe she brought from her native Sicily. The clientele loved it it, and, before long, Phil was mixing the dressing in a 50-gallon drum and pouring it into bottles as fast as his mother could slap on the iconic label:  "The Kansas City Wish-Bone Famous Italian-Style Dressing."  It became so popular throughout the heartland that, in 1957, Phillip sold the business to Lipton, where his family's tradition of authentic ingredients and exceptional flavor remains in the bottle today.

My mom always made pasta salad for Memorial Day.  It was classic 1960's-style -- rotini pasta with some cubed salami, pepperoni and American cheese, sliced black olives, diced onion and tomato dressed with store-bought Wish-Bone Italian dressing.  It wasn't gourmet, it wasn't even particularly exciting to look at, but, because it was prepared correctly, it was remarkably delicious, and, I am 99.99% sure she followed the recipe that was printed on the back of the box of San Georgio rotini (spiral) pasta which was:  The Original Wish-Bone Italian Pasta Salad recipe. 

A bit about pasta salad:  It's a dish prepared with one or more types of al dente cooked pasta tossed in a highly-flavored vinegar-, oil-, or mayonnaise-based dressing.  Besides the pasta, almost anything (raw, marinated or cooked via any manner) can be added to pasta salad:  fruits, vegetables, meat, poultry, seafood, cheese, nuts, seeds, and/or herbs (to name a few).  Pasta salad is served chilled as an appetizer, a side-dish or a main course for brunch, lunch or dinner. While it can be served any time of the year, it's particularly popular in the Spring and Summer.

When properly prepared, pasta salad is awesome.

Il_570xN.1025944851_ns1tIt's the perfect ratio of pasta to add-ins to dressing.

IMG_16701  pound fork-friendly rotini-shaped pasta (spiral)

~ Step 1.  In an 8-quart stockpot bring 5-quarts water to a boil and cook pasta al dente (according to package directions) for 9-11 minutes.  Transfer pasta to a colander and rinse under cold water to remove starch and halt the cooking process, then, allowed to remain in colander and drain thoroughly  (to a moisture free state), about 15-30 minutes.  

IMG_16661 1/2-2 pounds (3-4 total cups) assorted bite-sized, fork-friendly slices or cubes of cut-up Italian-cured meats, cheese and veggies (recommended are pepperoni, hard salami, American or mozzarella cheese, sliced black olives, diced tomato, red onion; additional options or substitutions include  green and/or red bell peppers or small, blanched broccoli and/or cauliflower florets)

IMG_16721-1 1/2  cups Wish-Bone Italian 

~ Step 2.  Place pasta and add-in ingredients in a large bowl.  Add the dressing, a little at a time, while using a large rubber spatula to toss, until ingredients are coated and no dressing is puddling in the bottom of bowl.  If preparing a day ahead, refrigerate, then stir in 1/4-1/2 cup additional dressing at serving time. Note:  For a creamy pasta salad, substitute 1/2-3/4 cup mayonnaise for 1/2 cup-3/4 cup Italian Dressing.

Chilled or at room-temperature, enjoy the pasta salad season:

IMG_1685The Retro & Original Wish-Bone Italian Pasta Salad: Recipe yields approximately 16 cups of pasta salad/12, 1 1/2 cup servings. 

Special Equipment List: 8-quart stockpot; colander; cutting board; chef's knife; large rubber spatula; plastic wrap (optional)

6a0120a8551282970b019104f398f4970cCook's Note:  The definition for French dressing/salad dressing:  1) an oil-and-vinegar combination, seasoned with salt, pepper and herbs, or, 2) a commercial American dressing that is creamy, tartly sweet and red-orange in color.  The latter is the dressing that captivated my younger brother David during his teen years.  It was manufactured by Kraft Foods and named Catalina.  He would drench large chunks of iceberg lettuce with it.  As an adult, I too found myself using copious amounts of it to dress a spinach salad.  ~ Try My Homemade All-American Catalina Dressing ~.

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

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

05/22/2019

~Three Great Tips for Making the Perfect Pasta Salad~

IMG_1685My mom always made pasta salad for Memorial Day.  It was classic 1960's, Wish-Bone-Style -- rotini pasta with some cubed salami, pepperoni and American cheese, sliced black olives, diced onion and tomato dressed with store-bought Italian dressing.  It wasn't gourmet, it wasn't even particularly exciting to look at, but, because it was prepared correctly, it was remarkably delicious. Our Memorial Day picnic, at our reserved picnic table, at Lakewood Park in Barnesville, PA, would have been incomplete without the pasta salad.  Mom's Spring green Tupperware container went in and came out of the cooler several times throughout the day while us kids ran back and forth between the amusement park with its rides and our grassy spot across the lane by the pool.

6a0120a8551282970b014e88e6661e970dLakewood Park was an amusement park established in 1916 and was known as a nature retreat.  In its heyday, it boasted a very large wooden coaster and kiddie coaster in addition to the Wild Mouse ride. In fact, the park was broken into two sections with adult rides on one side and children's rides on the other.  It had a long miniature train ride that circled the park, a hand-carved Miller & Baker designed carousel, that was removed, preserved and still operates today in the Grand Rapids, MI public museum, and, a 150-yard in-ground cement pool.  Its Grand Ballroom was the host of big bands which included The Dorsey Brothers, Benny Goodman and Glenn Miller, as well as celebrity performers like Dick Clark and Doris Day.  The Theater hosted countless theater companies.  It was a mecca for 68 years and was well-known for its annual Bavarian Beer Festival.  Sadly, it closed during the '80's, but that was well after I had moved to Happy Valley, so my remembrances of it as a bustling, busy, noisy, hot, sticky amusement park are crystal clear and that's how I want them to stay.  Thanks to the Joel Styer collection for this nostalgic postcard peek back in time.

When properly prepared, pasta salad is awesome.

Il_570xN.1025944851_ns1tWhen properly prepared, pasta salad is awesome.  When not properly prepared, pasta salad is awful.  Because an awesome pasta salad is a crowd-pleasing staple during the Spring and Summer, and, because I've tasted my share of awful pasta salad at picnics and potlucks over the years, when I teach a class about outdoor entertaining or tailgating, I try to include a pasta salad recipe in order to share my tips for a fork-friendly, properly dressed, full-flavored, pasta salad with:

A perfect ratio of pasta to add-ins to dressing = perfect pasta salad.

A bit about pasta salad:  It's a dish prepared with one or more types of al dente cooked pasta tossed in a highly-flavored vinegar-, oil-, or mayonnaise-based dressing.  Besides the pasta, almost anything (raw, marinated or cooked via any manner) can be added to pasta salad:  fruits, vegetables, meat, poultry, seafood, cheese, nuts, seeds, and/or herbs (to name a few).  Pasta salad is served chilled as an appetizer, a side-dish or a main course for brunch, lunch or dinner. While it can be served any time of the year, it's particularly popular in the Spring and Summer.

#1)  One pound al dente cooked, drained, rinsed, water-free pasta.

IMG_1670Use fork-friendly, bite-sized pasta shapes that hold dressing.  

One pound fork-friendly, bite-sized pasta.  My favorite is called "Trio Italiano" and is a combination of tubes, spirals and medium shells.  Any one on its own holds the dressing and collects small bits of add-in ingredients exceptionally well, so the choice is yours.  Colorful green and red pasta (in addition to white, which together = the colors of the Italian flag), which were not available to my mother in the 1960's, are great for adding color, but be aware, they add no detectable flavor. Cook the pasta to al dente, as directed, in salted water, about 9-11 minutes -- do not overcook the pasta, meaning: error on the side of ever-so-slightly undercooked.  Drain it into a colander, and, unless the recipe specifically directs to do otherwise, immediately rinse it under cold water.  Pasta that is not rinsed of its starch gets sticky and gummy.  Transfer pasta to a parchment-lined baking pan to cool completely and "dry", meaning, free from water, not dried out, about 30 minutes.

#2)  1 1/2-2 pounds tasty "add-ins" that complement each other.

IMG_1666Even-sized & bite-sized fork-friendly slices or cubes work best.

1 1/2-2 pounds additional "add-in" ingredients + fresh or dried herbs.  Use what you like or have on hand and by all means be creative, but make sure the ingredients go well together. Make one "add-in" ingredient the star of the show, meaning:  Add twice as much of it than other add-ins -- like most folks, I typically choose to do this with a protein (shrimp, tuna, chicken, turkey or salami being my favorites), but, if it's a vegetarian pasta salad, choose one vegetable and allow it take center stage.  That said, when adding vegetables like asparagus or carrots and cauliflower and/or broccoli florets, be sure to blanche them in boiling water for 1-3 minutes, then shock them in cold water (to halt the cooking process, so they are crunch tender and flavor-enhanced (rather than raw-tasting and rock hard).  As for cherry or grape tomatoes, please do not add them whole -- cut them in half or dice them so their acidity can be released to enhance the flavor of the dressing. 

#3)  1 1/2-2 cups very-very-flavorful dressing.

IMG_1672Add more flavor to the dressing, not more dressing for flavor.

1 1/2-2  cups of very, very flavorful dressing.  There is nothing worse than an under-dressed, almost dry, bland, boring-tasting pasta salad, except for  bland-tasting, over-dressed dripping wet one.  When it comes to dressing for pasta salad, taste it prior to adding it.  If it doesn't pack-a-bunch of flavor, it needs more seasoning -- a bit more seasoning than you think you need.  For perfect pasta salad, for flavor: always add more flavor to the dressing, not more dressing to the salad -- that's how over-dressed pasta salad wrecks occur.  Toss the dressing in, a little at a time, until the ingredients are well-coated and no dressing is puddling in the bottom of the bowl.  Set the dressed salad aside for 15-20 minutes and give it stir.  If it needs more, add it.  Rule of thumb: Right up until serving time, you can't always add more -- you can never remove too much.

Shrimp & Pasta Salad w/Lemon-Garlic Dressing:

6a0120a8551282970b0240a45f0f9d200cGreek Pasta Salad w/Tapenade, Tuna & Tomato:

IMG_1653Amish Honey-Mustard & Pickle-Relish Pasta Salad:

6a0120a8551282970b01bb09d0f92c970dThree Great Tips for Making the Perfect Pasta Salad:  Recipe yields approximately 16 cups of pasta salad/ 1 1/2 cups dressing/12, 1 1/2 cup servings. 

Special Equipment List:  2-cup measuring container w/tight-fitting lid; cutting board; chef's knife; 8-quart stockpot; colander; 17 1/2" x 12 1/2" baking pan; parchment paper; large rubber spatula; plastic wrap; misc. other items depending on the recipe

6a0120a8551282970b01b7c877664f970bCook's Note: Did you know that pasta salad could be served as an hors d'oeuvre?  These yummy little appetizer-snacks go to a lot of Summer picnics and a few early Fall tailgates too.  The best way to describe them is individual and portable portions of chop-chop pasta salad, and, most people can't keep their hands off them.  They can contain anything, as long as the ingredients play well together and are chopped into small morsels prior to judiciously drizzling (not drenching), with a cuisine-appropriate dressing just prior to spooning the salad into the shells and serving.  ~ Jumbo Shells Stuffed w/Shrimp Chop-Chop Salad ~.

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

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

05/19/2019

~Mediterranean-Style Olive Tapenade & Feta Omelet~

IMG_1728I declare:  I love briny tapenade in an omelete.  Throw in a few salty crumbles of feta cheese, place it on a bed of bright green baby arugula or baby spinach leaves and garnish with a few diced tomatoes -- what's not to love.  I could eat this savory, meatless delight for breakfast, lunch and dinner -- there's seriously no need for bacon or or sausage with this breakfast.  Toast points go nicely, but, please skip the orange or grapefruit juice -- they're just wrong.  This omelet pairs perfectly with a bloody Mary for breakfast, a glass of white wine for lunch, and, a pilsner of beer for dinner.  Life in this food world with this flavor-packed omelet in it is very, very good.

Meet my favorite big fat Greek-style omelet:

IMG_1735As a bigger fan of fluffy American-style omelettes vs skinny French omelettes, and, as an advocate for savory breakfasts over cloyingly sweet breakfasts, this egg-cellent little number is one of my ideal ways to break the fast -- and, trust me, it tastes every bit as good as it looks.  

Put the coffee on, roll up your sleeves & break an egg.

IMG_1688For the savory Greek-style omelette:

3  extra-large eggs, preferably at room temperature

1/4  cup half and half

15 grinds each: freshly-ground sea salt and peppercorn blend

4-6 tablespoons finely-diced red onion 

4-6  tablespoons my recipe for Briny, Garlic & Herbaceous Greek-Olive Tapenade

4-6 tablespoons feta cheese crumbles

1-2  teaspoons salted butter

For the optional accompaniment and garnish:

1  medium handful baby arugula leaves, baby spinach leaves may be substituted

6-8  cherry tomatoes, cut into quarters, quarters cut in half

IMG_1690 IMG_1690 IMG_1690 IMG_1690~Step 1. Crack the extra-large eggs into a 1-cup measuring container and add enough half and half to total 3/4 cups total liquid (about 4 tablespoons).  Add the sea salt, peppercorn blend and diced red onion.  Use a fork to whisk vigorously, until thoroughly combined.

IMG_1699 2 IMG_1699 2 IMG_1699 2 IMG_1699 2 IMG_1706~Step 2. In an 8" nonstick skillet, melt the butter over low heat.  Use the fork to briefly rewhisk the egg mixture, then pour it into the warmed skillet. By patiently manually lifting, lowering, and tilting the pan on and off the heat, allow the eggs to set a bit up and around the sloping sides of the skillet -- about 45 seconds over low heat w/no pressure to rush.

IMG_1709 IMG_1709 IMG_1709~Step 3.  Increase heat to medium.  In various spots around the entire perimeter of the skillet, slip a thin spatula under the setting eggs.  In each of those spots use the spatula to lift the eggs up, while, at the same time, tilting the pan in the direction of the spatula to allow the remaining liquid to flow down and into the setting eggs -- about 45 seconds over medium heat w/no pressure to rush.  The surface of the omelette should be semi-moist and glistening with no liquid or little liquid puddling on the top. 

IMG_1714 IMG_1714 IMG_1714 IMG_1714~Step 4.  Decrease the heat to low.  Scatter the tapenade, in a half-moon shape, over half of the omelette, then, scatter the feta on top of the tapenade.  Give cheese about 45 seconds to soften over low heat with no pressure to rush -- feta cheese does not melt like other cheeses. Using a large spatula, lift the empty side of the omelette up and over the cheesy side of the omelette.  

Transfer from skillet to plate & serve w/arugula & diced tomato:

IMG_1724Feel free to cut it in half & share the love (or not):

IMG_1750Meditterranean-Style Olive Tapenade & Feta Omelet:  Recipe yields instruction to make one hearty, Greek-style omelette/1-2 servings.

Special Equipment List: 1-cup measuring container; fork; cutting board; chef's knife; 8" nonstick skillet; large thin spatula; large wide spatula

IMG_1277Cook's Note: For those who don't know, mustard is more than just a condiment that goes on your hot dogs.  Mustard is to an omelette, what mustard is to macaroni and cheese, potato salad and/or almost any creamy salad dressing one can mention:  A secret ingredient that provides a subtle but uplifting zing to the flavor of the end result. ~ Tangy Mustard- and Chive-Laced Cheese Omelette ~.

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

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

05/17/2019

~ Greek Pasta Salad w/Tapenade, Tuna and Tomato ~

IMG_1653Americans cherish the Summer.  The deck chairs come out, the cooler fills with ice, the shorts go on, everyone slides into their flip-flops, and then, spends as much time in the fresh air and sunshine as possible.  Some play sports while others garden, some like to swim while others prefer to sun bathe, but, each and every one loves to eat -- and a forkful of food simply tastes better in the great outdoors.  Here in the Northeast, the land of four seasons, Summer has finally arrived and I'm kicking it off with a refreshing, main-dish pasta salad that is dressed with tapenade.  Relatively speaking, its easy to make, mixes together quickly, and, travels well too.

Perfect for your next All-American Summer holiday or get-together.

IMG_1658A bit about pasta salad:  It's a dish prepared with one or more types of pasta and most often tossed in a vinegar, oil, or mayonnaise based dressing.  Besides pasta, almost anything can be added to pasta salad (raw, marinated or cooked in any manner):  fruits, vegetables, meat, poultry, seafood, cheese, nuts, seeds, and/or herbs (to name a few).  It is usually served chilled as an appetizer or a main course in the Spring or Summertime, but can be enjoyed year-round too.  

"Tapenade" derives from the Provençal word for caper, "tapeno".

IMG_1521Hailing from the Mediterranean and dating back to Roman times, a traditional tapenade contains few ingredients:  black olives, caper berries, anchovies, garlic, olive oil, pepper, an occasional herb and/or a squirt of fresh lemon.  The texture of tapenade is personal, ranging from puréed or pounded to a paste, to finely-minced or slightly chunky. The tools of the trade used to achieve the desired texture range from the ancient mortar and pestle to the ordinary chef's knife and/or the high-tech food processor.  Tapenade should be allowed to rest a few hours prior to serving at room temperature, and, when stored in the refrigerator, the oil will preserve it for up to a month.  

IMG_161412  ounces bite-sized, fork-friendly pasta, cooked al dente as package directs (Note:  Large shells are perfect because they trap and hold all of the ingredients exceptionally well.)

1  cup my recipe for Briny, Garlicy & Herbaceous Greek-Olive Tapenade

1  12-ounce can solid white tuna packed in water, well-drained and broken into fork-friendly bits and pieces (Note:  Because the tapenade contains olive oil, this is a circumstance when tuna packed in water, which I prefer anyway, is preferable.)

3/4-1  cup diced red onion, 3-4 ounces 

3/4-1  ounces feta cheese crumbles, 4-6 ounces

1-1 1/2  cups cherry tomatoes, cut into quarters, 10-12 ounces

IMG_1601 IMG_1601 IMG_1601 IMG_1601~Step 1.  In a 4-quart stockpot bring 3 quarts of water to a boil over high heat.  Add 1 teaspoon sea salt.  Sprinkle in the pasta, adjust heat to a steady simmer and continue to cook until pasta is al dente, about 9-11 minutes.  Immediately drain pasta into a colander and run cold water through it until it is cooled to the touch. Transfer pasta to a baking pan lined with parchment paper.  Set aside to "dry", about 30-45 minutes, meaning: free from almost all of the water, not dried out.

IMG_1618 IMG_1618 IMG_1618 IMG_1627 IMG_1627 IMG_1627 IMG_1627 IMG_1627~Step 2.  Transfer cooked, drained, cold and dry pasta to a large bowl.  Add, and using a large rubber spatula, fold in the tapenade.  Allow to rest about 5-10 minutes to let the pasta soak in some of the briny olive flavor.  Fold in the tuna and onions, followed by the feta cheese.  If serving immediately, stir in the tomatoes too, but, if serving later, stir them in just prior to serving.

Note:  This pasta salad is full-flavored and perfectly-dressed (because my tapenade is homemade, I know it contains a nice amount of olive oil).  That said, in the event you are substituting store-bought tapenade, it may need a bit more dressing -- simply toss in 2-4 tablespoons olive oil, or 2-4 tablespoons store-bought Greek-style salad dressing.

Serve chilled w/beer or white wine for brunch, lunch or dinner: 

IMG_1644Greek Pasta Salad w/Tapenade, Tuna and Tomato:  Recipe yields 3 pounds deli-style pasta salad/2 quarts/8 cups/6-8 servings.

Special Equipment List:  4-quart stockpot; colander; 12 1/2" x 8 3/4" baking pan; parchment paper; cutting board; chef's knife; large rubber spatula

IMG_1588Cook's Note:  When I make tapenade, I make enough to last because I use it in several ways.  It's fantastic is place of tomatoes on a ~ Bacon, Lettuce, Tapenade & Chicken Club Sandwich ~ for lunch, and, in or on a French-style cheese omelette for breakfast too.

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

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

05/15/2019

~Bacon, Lettuce,Tapenade & Chicken Club Sandwich~

IMG_1588There is nothing quite as satisfying as a BLT or a club sandwich, made with a just-picked perfectly-ripe tomato.  Tick, tock.  It is going be an impatient two-month wait for my own or any locally-grown tomatoes to be at my fingertips, so, hold-that-beautiful-thought, give pause to the beloved tomato for a moment, and allow me to change the conversation:  there is another tart fruit to consider.  It's the brine-cured olive, and, in the form of tapenade, a Mediterranean relish-type condiment, there is no reason to compromise your BLT with a not-at-its-peak tomato.

Try a BLT or Club w/my tapenade instead of tomato. It's T-rrific:

IMG_1590Making a BLT sandwich is simple and straightforward:  Crisp bacon, tender lettuce, sliced tomato and your favorite bread -- mayonnaise is optional.  Regarding the bread, it's a personal decision. Some folks like their BLT on soft Wonder-type white, while others prefer the crusty firm-textured rustic kind.  Toasted or untoasted bread? You guessed it, it's up to you.  This combination of ingredients on a sandwich dates back to the early 1900's but became extremely popular after World War II when Hellmann's Mayonnaise advertised their mayo as traditional to the sandwich. Oddly, using the initials "BLT" to refer to it, wasn't common until the 1970's.  Today, the BLT is ranked the second most popular sandwich in the USA.  Oddly, the ham sandwich is ranked #1.

Although the ingredients for the BLT existed for many years, there is little-to-no written evidence of it prior to 1900.  That said, in 1903, The Good Housekeeping Everyday Cookbook, published a recipe by Dr. Kevin Zinter for a Club Sandwich -- bacon, lettuce, tomato, mayonnaise and sliced chicken sandwiched between two slices of bread -- not three slices of bread, known as "double decker style", as it is commonly served today (which I find annoyingly hard to manage).  In 1904, three restaurants at the St. Louis World's Fair featured the club sandwich in various forms.

"Tapenade" derives from the Provençal word for caper, "tapeno".

IMG_1521Hailing from the Mediterranean and dating back to Roman times, a traditional tapenade contains few ingredients:  black olives, caper berries, anchovies, garlic, olive oil, pepper, an occasional herb and/or a squirt of fresh lemon.  The texture of tapenade is personal, ranging from puréed or pounded to a paste, to finely-minced or slightly chunky. The tools of the trade used to achieve the desired texture range from the ancient mortar and pestle to the ordinary chef's knife and/or the high-tech food processor.  Tapenade should be allowed to rest a few hours prior to serving at room temperature, and, when stored in the refrigerator, the oil will preserve it for up to a month.

IMG_14561  9 1/2-10-ounce jar pitted, black kalamata olives, well-drained

1  9 1/2-10-ounce jar pitted, green garlic-stuffed olives, well-drained

1  2-ounce tin rolled anchovy fillets, with capers, packed in olive oil, undrained

2  tablespoons drained capers

1  teaspoon each: dried herbes de Provence and minced fresh thyme leaves

1  teaspoon fresh lemon juice

2  tablespoons fruity olive oil

1/2  teaspoon sea salt

3/4  teaspoon coarse-grind black pepper

IMG_1485 IMG_1485 IMG_1485~ Step 1.  Place all ingredients, as listed, in work bowl of food processor fitted with the steel blade. Place the lid on the processor. Using a series of 25-30 rapid on-off pulses, process until mixture is minced and mixed.  If a finer consistency is desired, pulse a few more times. Transfer to a 4-cup food-storage container, cover and set aside several hours (4-6) for flavors to marry.  Store in the refrigerator.

IMG_1571~ Step 2.  Choose a favorite loaf of bread, a favorite brand of bacon, and a favorite type of lettuce.  I'm using my oven-roasted chicken breast, sometimes I use perfectly-roasted turkey breast, but, high-quality sliced deli-meat works too.

IMG_1155Crisply fry the bacon. I like to roast bacon in the oven.

Can you take over these sandwiches from here?  T-rrific:

IMG_1592Bacon, Lettuce & Tapenade Chicken Club Sandwiches:  Recipe yields 3 1/2 cups tapenade and basic instructions for making chicken club sandwiches 

Special Equipment List: cutting board; chef's knife; food processor; 4-cup food-storage container w/tight-fitting lid; cutting board; chef's knife; serrated bread knife

6a0120a8551282970b022ad3b83ba8200bCook's Note:  Bread is perhaps the most important component to making any well-constructed sandwich.  There's more.  While bruschetta is simply a slice of oiled toast, almost any sandwich can be served crostini- or panini-style.  I played by the traditional BLT rules today and used a store-bought bake-at-home French batard, but, f you can't decide what road to take, read ~ The Crisy Bits about Bruschetta, Crostini and Panini ~. Bread is indeed the staff of life.

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

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

05/12/2019

~ Briny, Garlicy & Herbaceous Greek-Olive Tapenade ~

IMG_1521My pantry and/or refrigerator are never without a can or two of inexpensive, mild-flavored ripe, black olives and a big jar of tangy green pimiento-stuffed olives too.  Throughout the year, I toss either one or both, whole into garden salads, or, slice and use them to top an occasional pizza. That said, at the end of a long Summer's day, there is nothing like a well-chilled cocktail out on the deck with a salty snack to nibble on.  A cracker or two with a slather of soft brie or chèvre topped with a dollop of tapenade is a favorite, but, I don't reach for my generic go-to olives to make it.

When I'm making tapenade, I raise the bar and use a combination of two Greek-style olives:  briny black kalamata and garlic-stuffed green.  When it comes to tapenade, higher-quality fruit does make a difference, and, while tapenade is traditionally only made from black olives (kalamata or niçoise), I like the slight astringency that garlic-stuffed green olives bring to this nosh.  It only takes me 5-10 minutes to make tapenade, but I always do it first thing in the morning, to give all the flavors time to marry until cocktail hour, and, I also make enough to enjoy all week long.    

IMG_1522Olive tapenade, how do I love thee?  Let me count the ways:

This easy-to-make salty, briny condiment atop a cracker or a baguette slice brings out the flavor in a glass of vino, and, pairs perfectly with martinis and an array of cocktails too.  It's a welcome addition to any cheese tray or charcuterie board, and, it's divine in the center of a French-style omelette or atop a classic deviled egg.  This relish is not shy about being used to top a humble hot dog or hamburger, get stirred into an ordinary pasta salad or used as a topper for poached poultry or fish dishes.  That said, tapenade is often confused with New Orleans olive salad, a critical component of the iconic muffalata sandwich -- seriously, the two are quite different.  Olive salad is a giardiniera and contains cauliflower, carrots and celery and no capers.

IMG_1539"Tapenade" derives from the Provençal word for caper, "tapeno".

Hailing from the Mediterranean and dating back to Roman times, a traditional tapenade contains few ingredients:  black olives, caper berries, anchovies, garlic, olive oil, pepper, an occasional herb and/or a squirt of fresh lemon.  The texture of tapenade is personal, ranging from puréed or pounded to a paste, to finely-minced or slightly chunky.  The tools of the trade used to achieve the desired texture range from the ancient mortar and pestle to the ordinary chef's knife and/or the high-tech food processor.  Tapenade should be allowed to rest a few hours prior to serving at room temperature, and, when stored in the refrigerator, the oil will preserve it for up to a month.

IMG_14561  9 1/2-10-ounce jar pitted, black kalamata olives, well-drained

1  9 1/2-10-ounce jar pitted, green garlic-stuffed olives, well-drained

1  2-ounce tin rolled anchovy fillets, with capers, packed in olive oil, undrained

2  tablespoons drained capers

1  teaspoon each: dried herbes de Provence and minced fresh thyme leaves

1  teaspoon fresh lemon juice

2-4  tablespoons fruity olive oil

1/2  teaspoon sea salt

3/4  teaspoon coarse-grind black pepper

IMG_1458 IMG_1458 IMG_1458 IMG_1458~Step 1.  Place the black and green olives in a colander to drain thoroughly, about 3-5 minutes. Place the drained olives in the work bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade along with the undrained anchovies and the drained capers.  Trust me, this is not too many anchovies.

IMG_1470 IMG_1470 IMG_1470 IMG_1470~Step 2.  Measure, mince and add the dried and fresh herbs, the lemon juice and the olive oil.

IMG_1479 IMG_1479 IMG_1479 IMG_1479 IMG_1479~Step 3.  Season with the salt and pepper.  Place the lid on the processor. Using a series of 25-30 rapid on-off pulses, process until mixture is minced and mixed.  If a finer consistency is desired, pulse a few more times. Transfer to a 4-cup food-storage container, cover and set aside several hours (4-6) for flavors to marry.  Store leftovers in the refrigerator.

Roasted garlic bread & gruyère crostini w/olive tapenade:

IMG_1557Bacon, Lettuce, Tapenade & Chicken Club Sandwich:

IMG_1588Greek Pasta Salad w/Tapenade, Tuna & Tomato:

IMG_1644Mediterranean-style Olive Tapenade & Feta Omelette:

IMG_1735Herbaceous Black & Green Greek-Olive Tapenade:  Recipe yields about 3 1/2 cups tapenade.

Special Equipment List:  colander; cutting board; chef's knife; food processor; 4-cup food-storage container w/tight-fitting lid

6a0120a8551282970b01b7c8255ff1970b-800wiCook's Note: This mouthwatering crostini recipe pairs perfectly with tapenade.  The two complement a host of foods, and, can be served at casual or upscale gatherings.  Both pair well with cocktails, as well as red or white wine.  They can be passed prior to an entrée of fish, seafood, poultry, porcine or meat. They too are meatless, which makes them great for meatless meals, certain religious holidays, and, entertaining vegetarian friends. There's more.  They're are, easy to make:  ~ Meatless Mushroom Duxelles & Gruyère Crostini ~.

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

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

05/09/2019

~Smoked Ham and Asparagus in a Béarnaise Quiche~

IMG_1420Every once in a while (not often, but it does happen) you'll come across a recipe that goes from ordinary to extraordinary by using a store-bought, instead of a scratch-made, dry sauce or seasoning packet.  This is one such recipe.  While it is next-to-impossible to make a quiche using scratch-made hollandaise or béarnaise sauce (in place of the typical whisked cream and egg mixture used to prepare a quiche), because either will breakdown in a hearts-beat or three, it is possible to add a dry, high-quality, store-bought, hollandaise or or béarnaise sauce-mix to season and enrich the cream and egg mixture.  In fact, it propels the end product into the stratosphere.

6a0120a8551282970b0162fd6207eb970dIn the latter 1970's and into the 1980's, quiche became very trendy and I for one was on the bandwagon. The quiche tsunami occurred in 1982 when a man by the name of Bruce Feirstein wrote the bestseller Real Men Don't Eat Quiche.  As you can see, I still have my copy.  It coined the phrases "quiche-eater" and "real man" and separated them into two groups.  There was a third category too: "Guys who think they're real men but really aren't".   A "real man" might enjoy a bacon-and-egg pie if his wife made it for him, while a "sensitive guy" would make it himself and clean up afterwards.  The book is hilarious.  It was written after a decade of feminist critiques ("The Women's Movement") on traditional male roles and beliefs.  I for one had a lot of fun during 1982-1983 as serving quiche spawned spirited conversation each and every time.

Quiche (keesh):  A pastry crust filled w/a savory custard consisting of eggs, cream, herbs & seasonings, plus, cheese, & meat, seafood &/or vegetables.

IMG_1450Quiche originated in northeastern France, in the region of Alsace-Lorraine. The most notable of these savory pies is their famous Quiche-Lorraine, which has crisp bacon bits and grated Gruyère cheese added to the custard filling.  In my opinion, no self-respecting cook should be without at least one quiche recipe tucked in their apron pocket.  I find my quiche recipes to be particularly valuable over holiday weekends, or whenever I have overnight guests (creamy, crustless crabmeat quiche and succulent shiitake mushroom and gruyère cheese quiche are two of my family's favorites). Quiche is an easy way to feed a group of people breakfast, brunch, lunch or dinner without dragging out every pot and pan in the kitchen.  Because it's great served at any temperature, whenever guests meander to the table, all you have to worry about is putting it on their plate.  Besides all of the above, quiche is a meal that just plain makes people happy.  

Julia Child is credited w/introducing quiche to the US in the 1960's.

IMG_1436Hollandaise Sauce + Shallots + Tarragon = Béarnaise Sauce.  

Béarnaise is a French sauce made of butter emulsified in egg yolks and white wine vinegar.  It is considered to be a "child" of of the mother hollandaise sauce (one of the five mother sauces in French cuisine).  The difference is only in the flavorings with béarnaise using shallot, peppercorns and tarragon, and hollandaise being stripped down (plainer), using lemon juice and white wine.

IMG_13871  basic pie or quiche pastry (pâte brisée), preferably homemade, rolled out, placed in a 9" quiche dish, then decoratively edged 

1  pound, 1/4" diced, baked, smoked ham, the best available (Note:  The ham in this photo is not deli-meat, it is baked ham leftover from our Easter feast.)

4  ounces finely-diced shallots or sweet onion

8  ounces shredded Gruyère cheese

2  tablespoons Wondra Quick-Mixing Flour for Sauce and Gravy

3  jumbo eggs

1  cup heavy or whipping cream

1/2  cup mayonnaise

2  .9-ounce packets Knorr Béarnaise Sauce Mix, 1 packet for the ham filling mixture and 1 packet for the egg mixture

36  4"-long, pencil-thin, fresh asparagus spears, blanched as directed below

IMG_1402~ Step 1.  Blanching the asparagus before it goes atop the quiche and into the oven will keep it moist and tender.  In a 2-quart saucepan, bring about two inches of water to a rolling boil with 1/2 teaspoon of sea salt. Add the trimmed asparagus.  Adjust heat to simmer, 45-60 seconds. Rinse under cold water to halt the cooking process, drain thoroughly, then place atop a paper-towel-lined plate and set aside.

IMG_1392 IMG_1392 IMG_1392 IMG_1406~Step 2.  In a large bowl, using a large rubber spatula, toss together the ham, shallots, cheese, flour and one packet of the béarnaise mix, until ingredients are evenly coated in flour and béarnaise. Transfer the mixture to the pastry in the quiche dish.  Do not pat or press down on the filling -- it should be light and airy with nooks and crannies for the liquid to drizzle down through. Like spokes in a wheel, decoratively trim and arrange the asparagus spears over the top.

IMG_1408 IMG_1408 IMG_1408 IMG_1408~Step 3.  In a 2-cup measuring container, whisk the eggs, cream, mayonnaise, and the second packet of béarnaise.  Slowly, in a thin stream, drizzle the creamy liquid over the surface of the ham mixture.  Go slowly, to give liquid time to drizzle down into the light and airy filling mixture.

IMG_1428~ Step 4.  Bake on center rack of preheated 350° oven for 55-60 minutes. Quiche will be golden brown, puffed through to the center and a knife inserted into the center will come out clean.  Transfer to a wire rack to cool 15-20 minutes, or longer, prior to serving hot, warm or at room temperature.  Leftovers reheat perfectly in the microwave the next day.

Serve quiche hot, warm or at room temperature:

IMG_1438Leftovers reheat perfectly in the microwave the next day:

IMG_1445Smoked Ham and Asparagus in a Béarnaise Quiche:  Recipe yields 1, 9" quiche/8 servings.

Special Equipment List:  9"  quiche dish; cutting board; chef's knife; 2-quart saucepan; paper towels; hand-held box grater; large rubber spatula; 1-quart measuring container; wire cooling rack

6a0120a8551282970b01bb080c3d4d970dCook's Note: The first time I ate "Oscar" was in 1983 and I was in "The Big Easy".  Four of us were in the New Orleans French-Quarter restaurant, Arnoud's, listening to a jazz band and groovin' to the tunes. My meal arrived:  a lightly-pounded, gently-sautéed, succulent, fork-tender veal paillard, piled high with tender Louisiana crayfish, drizzled with buttery béarnaise sauce and garnished with steamed asparagus:  ~ All that Jazz:  Chicken Oscar with Easy Blender Béarnaise ~.

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

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

05/07/2019

~Kid's Stuff: Souper Fix-Quick Bowling-Night Meatloaf~

IMG_1340Bowling night.  When I was growing up, depending on what league my parents were in, bowling night was either a Tuesday or a Thursday.  They got my brother and I a babysitter, went out with their friends, and, on that night, we were allowed to stay up later than usual.  We ate either a TV dinner, or, my favorite, mom's bowling-night meatloaf dinner.  On the floor we two siblings sat, "Indian-style" (knees bent, ankles crossed) with one-foot-high TV trays in front of us (I had a Barbie tray, David had a Batman tray).  In front of the television we ate dinner while arguing over programs to watch on the thirteen-channel cable lineup.  Those were kinder, gentler times.

Be it ever so humble, there's no place like eating meatloaf...

IMG_1348This meatloaf was nothing fancy and it wasn't particularly pretty either, but, keeping things in perspective, it was made at home with love, as opposed to 'burgers and fries from a drive-thru.  It was, genuinely kid-friendly delicious, and, we particularly loved it served with macaroni and cheese.  As a matter of fact, the combination of this meatloaf served with macaroni and cheese, is (in a not-so-odd way) the carnivorous equivalent of a grilled cheese sandwich served with a bowl of tomato soup.  It's a priceless blast from my past, which, I occasionally crave to this day.

My recollection of the origin of the meatloaf recipe I am posting today (my mom's rendition), is:  I believe it to be a combination of several.  The Campbell's Soup Company had their own, the Lipton Soup Company had their own, and, back in the 1960's newspaper columnist Ann Landers published her recipe, which was a combination of both companies -- she put the soup and the dry soup mix into hers, and, substituted meatloaf mix for ground beef.  Her recipe became so popular, she printed it in her column once a year.  My mother took Ann Landers' recipe and substituted saltine crackers for breadcrumbs and milk for water.  That's my story and I'm sticking to it.

... at home on the floor, sitting cross-legged in front of the TV.

IMG_12882 1/2  pounds meatloaf mix (a store-bought mixture of beef, pork & veal)

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

1/2  cup milk

1  tablespoon Lee & Perrin's worcestershire sauce

1  10 3/4-ounce can Campbell's Condensed Tomato Soup 

1  envelope Lipton Recipe Secrets Onion Soup Mix

2  large eggs

no-stick cooking spray, for preparing loaf pans

IMG_1292 IMG_1292 IMG_1292 IMG_1292~Step 1.  Place the sleeve of crackers in a large bowl.  Using your hands, crush them into small bits and pieces.  Add the milk and worcestershire sauce, followed by the tomato soup and give the mixture a thorough stir.  Set aside about 5-10 minutes, to give the crackers time to soften.

IMG_1303 IMG_1303 IMG_1303 IMG_1303 IMG_1303~Step 2.  In the same measuring container the milk was measured in, use a fork to whisk the eggs, then add them to the bowl along with the contents from the onion soup packet.  Give the mixture a thorough stir. Add the meatloaf mix.  Using your hands (this is truly the best way to do this), thoroughly combine the meatloaf mix with the pasty cracker mixture.

IMG_1316 IMG_1316 IMG_1316~ Step 3.  Spray 2, 8 1/2" x 4 1/2" x 2 1/2", 1 1/2-quart loaf pans*, with no-stick cooking spray.  Divide the meat mixture in half, form each half into a very rough loaf shape and place one in each pan.  If you have a kitchen scale, now is an ideal time to use it.  There will be approximately 3 pounds of meatloaf mixture.  Using a large rubber spatula or your fingertips, pat and press the meatloaf mixture flat into the pans.

*Note:  My grandmother and mother always baked meatloaf in clear glass dishes and so do I.  The advantage is being able to see exactly how fast and how well the loaves are browning.

IMG_1327 IMG_1327~ Step 4.  Bake meatloaves on center rack of 350° oven for 1 hour, 15 minutes, or until an instant-read thermometer placed in the the thickest part of the center reaches 168°-170º.  Loaves will be bubbling and juices will be running clear.  Remove from oven and place, in pans, on a wire rack to cool about 15 minutes.  Use a spatula to remove loaves from pans.  Slice and serve hot, or, warm or cool to room temperature and refrigerate.

Humble & homey, this meatloaf recipe, served w/mac & cheese...

IMG_1357... is as heartwarming as a grilled cheese w/tomato soup. 

IMG_1375Kid's Stuff: Souper Fix-Quick Bowling-Night Meatloaf:  Recipe yields, 2, 1 1/2-pound meatloaves.

Special Equipment List:  1-cup measuring container; fork; 2, 8 1/2" x 4 1/2" x 2 1/2", 1 1/2-quart loaf pans, preferably glass; kitchen scale; large rubber spatula (optional); instant-read meat thermometer; wire cooling rack

6a0120a8551282970b01b8d27640d2970cCook's Note: Bowling night was bowling night.  Understandably, it was all about fixing a great-tasting kid-friendly meal in as little time as possible.  That said, my mom had a "special meatloaf" recipe too.  It was full of sautéed onions and celery, and was oh-so-moist and tender. ~ I Love My Mom's Old-Fashioned All-Beef Meatloaf ~.  Humble and homey, great-tasting, comfort food.

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

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

05/04/2019

~ Tangy Mustard- and Chive-Laced Cheese Omelette ~

IMG_1277Forgive me if I type fast, as I'm anxious to eat the mouth-watering plate of food in this photograph. As a bigger fan of a fluffy American-style omelette vs a skinny French omelette, and, as an advocate for savory breakfasts over cloyingly sweet breakfasts, this egg-cellent little number is one of my ideal ways to break the fast.  For those who don't know, mustard is more than just a condiment that goes on your hot dogs.  Mustard is to an omelette, what mustard is to macaroni and cheese, potato salad and/or almost any creamy salad dressing one can mention:  A secret ingredient that provides a subtle but uplifting zing to the flavor of the end result.  In the case of this omelette, it's got double zing, in that I use both whole-grain mustard and dry English mustard.

Whole-grain & dry English mustard + dried herbes de Provence & fresh chives w/eggs & cream = an egg-cellent omelette:

IMG_1222For the savory American-style omelette:

3  extra-large eggs, preferably at room temperature

1/4  cup half and half

1  tablespoon whole-grain mustard

1/2  teaspoon each:  dry English mustard and Herbes de Provence

1/4  teaspoon each:  freshly-ground sea salt and peppercorn blend 

2  tablespoons thinly-sliced fresh chives

a generous 1/2  cup shredded Danish havarti cheese

1  teaspoon salted butter

IMG_1226 IMG_1226 IMG_1226~ Step 1.  Crack the eggs into a 1-cup measuring container and add enough half and half to total 3/4 cups total liquid (about 4 tablespoons).  Add the whole-grain mustard, dry English mustard, sea salt and herbs.  Use a fork to give the mixture a brief whisk.  Slice and add the fresh chives.  Whisk vigorously, until thoroughly combined.  Using a hand held box grater, shred the cheese as directed and set aside.

IMG_1233 IMG_1233 IMG_1233 IMG_1233 IMG_1233~Step 2.  In an 8" nonstick skillet, melt the butter over low heat.  Use the fork to briefly rewhisk the egg mixture, then pour it into the warmed skillet. By patiently manually lifting, lowering, and tilting the pan on and off the heat, allow the eggs to set a bit up and around the sloping sides of the skillet -- about 45 seconds over low heat w/no pressure to rush.

IMG_1249 IMG_1249Step 3.  Increase heat to medium.  In various spots around the entire perimeter of the skillet, slip a thin spatula under the setting eggs.  In each of those spots use the spatula to lift the eggs up, while, at the same time, tilting the pan in the direction of the spatula to allow the remaining liquid to flow down and into the setting eggs -- about 45 seconds over medium heat w/no pressure to rush.  The surface of the omelette should be semi-moist and glistening with no liquid or little liquid puddling on the top.

IMG_1253 IMG_1253~ Step 4.  Decrease the heat to low.  Place the grated cheese, in a half-moon shape, over half of the omelette.  Give it about 45 seconds to melt over low heat with no pressure to rush.  Using a large spatula, lift the empty side of the omelette up and over the cheesy side of the omelette.  Slide the omelette from skillet to plate and serve.

Tangy & ooey, gooey, cheesy too...

IMG_1276... stick a fork in it & enjoy the zippy zing of mustard:

IMG_1281Tangy Mustard- and Herb-Laced Cheese Omelette:  Recipe yields instructions to make one tangy American-style cheese omelette.

Special Equipment List:  1-cup measuring container; fork; cutting board; chef's knife; hand-held box grater; 8" nonstick skillet; large thin spatula; large spatula

IMG_1118 IMG_1192Cook's Note: Over the past week, I've been taking a fresh look at the word savory as far as mustard is concerned when it comes to breakfast or brunch.  My first example was ~ Savory Brioche french Toast w/Fried Ham & Eggs  ~, which is perhaps the best way ever to celebrate ham and eggs.  For you bacon lovers, the next day I used some of the leftover French toast to make ~ Mustard & Herb-Laced Brioche French Toast BLT's  ~, which just might change the way you look at breakfast sandwiches forever.  Sigh.

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

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

05/02/2019

~ Mustard & Herb-Laced Brioche French Toast BLT's ~

IMG_1192A BLT served on savory whole-grain mustard- and herbs de Provence-laced brioche French toast -- need I say more?  If these adorable little sliders don't change the way you think about breakfast or brunch, I'm clueless as to what will.  Pair them with a bloody Mary or three and you've got a party.  Invite some friends and you've got a bigger party.  The best part is, I made these as an experiment, using day old savory French toast that had been in the refrigerator overnight, so, whipping them up for breakfast took only a little longer than it took to oven-roast this bacon:

IMG_1155

Sweet and savory French toast is common in European countries.  The French words for "French toast" are "pain perdu", meaning "lost bread", because it is a way of reviving bread which becomes dry after a day or two.  The basics of any French toast recipe are pretty simple:  Thickly-sliced, 2-3-day old bread is dipped into a flavored egg/cream sweet or savory mixture, then fried in a skillet containing a coating of oil or a combination of butter and oil.  When executed correctly, it emerges from the skillet crisp and golden brown on both sides with a creamy center.

IMG_1046For the savory French toast:

6,  3/4"-thick slices, 2-3 day old bread machine brioche

4  jumbo eggs

1  cup half and half

2  tablespoons whole-grain mustard

1  teaspoon each:  dry English mustard, Herbes de Provence and sea salt

1/2  teaspoon peppercorn blend 

4-6   tablespoons peanut or corn oil, for frying

6a0120a8551282970b0147e0e131e0970b 9.58.04 AM~ Step 1.  Using a serrated bread knife, slice the bread.  This is a picture of my bread-machine brioche.  If you have a bread machine, I obviously encourage you give this recipe a try.  If you are not using my brioche, I recommend that whatever bread you are using be sliced to the thickness of 3/4".  If it is thinner or thicker, it will affect the frying time and texture.  In my opinion:  All French toast starts with properly, 3/4"-thick sliced brioche.

IMG_1048 IMG_1048Step 2.  In a 2-cup measuring container, use a fork to whisk the eggs, half and half, whole grain mustard, English mustard, herbes de Provence, sea salt and peppercorn blend.  For six slices of bread, the magic measurement is 2 cups of liquid.

IMG_1053 IMG_1053 IMG_1053 IMG_1053 IMG_1053~Step 3.  Arrange bread slices in 13" x 9" x 2" casserole -- overlapping is ok.  Pour egg mixture over bread and wait 2-3 minutes.  Flip bread slices over on their second sides and wait another 2-3 minutes.  Flip the bread over again, then, maybe once more, to make sure each slice is thoroughly coated and almost all liquid has been absorbed.  Briefly set aside.

IMG_1069 IMG_1069 IMG_1069 IMG_1069 IMG_1069~Step 4.  Preheat enough oil to coat the bottom (about 1/16") of a 16" electric skillet over 260°-275° (medium on the stovetop).  Add the egg-soaked bread and gently cook, about 2-3 minutes per side, using a spatula to flip it over once, until golden on both sides.  Turn heat off and transfer French toast to a paper-towel-lined plate.  Cool to room temp, about one hour, then, assemble as directed, or cover with plastic and refrigerate overnight.

IMG_1161 IMG_1167 IMG_1169 2 IMG_1173 IMG_1176~Step 5.  One slice of French toast will yield two slider-sized sandwiches. I'm making four sliders today using two slices of savory French toast that have been cut into quarters to form eight pieces.  On each of four pieces of French toast, slather a scant 1 teaspoon of whole grain mustard. Next, fold and place 1 leaf Boston or bibb lettuce atop the mustard and fasten the lettuce with a toothpick.  Atop each lettuce leaf, add 2 thin slices Campari tomato to the toothpick on each slider, followed by 1 strip of the bacon that has been cut into thirds.  

Place the French toast tops on the slider sandwiches:

IMG_1178A savory French toast BLT is not a well-dressed sandwich...

IMG_1191... but it just might be the the perfect BLT of all time:

IMG_1214Mustard & Herb-Laced Brioche French Toast BLT's:  Recipe yields 6 slices savory French toast/enough for 12 BLT slider-sized sandwiches.

Special Equipment List: cutting board; serrated bread knife; 13" x 9" x 2" casserole; 2-cup measuring container; fork; 16" electric skillet; spatula; paper towels; plastic wrap; toothpicks

IMG_1118Cook's Note: Once a year, the day after Eastern European Orthodox Easter to be specific, my mother made one of my favorite breakfasts: Savory French toast w/Fried Ham & Eggs. She lightly-fried slices of baked ham (also leftover from Easter), soft-yolked, sunny-side-up eggs, and a fresh chive garnish (which grew in dad's garden).  Mom made this but once a year because that was when she had the very-specific ingredients at her fingertips -- and we all looked forward to it.

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

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