ITALIAN WEDDING SOUP

O.K., so Italian Wedding Soup is not served at Italian weddings. I suppose it could be, but not likely. The term comes from the Italian phrase “minestra maritata”, which references the “marriage” of flavors found in this light, chicken stock, meatball, spinach, and Acini pasta soup.

The meatballs are my Ricotta Parmesan Meatball recipe made with Veal and Ground Beef. Any favorite meatball recipe will work, just make them very small, about 1 to 1 1/4 inch in diameter. If you choose to use precooked frozen meatballs, this soup comes together in about 30 minutes or less. Also, any very small pasta will work, such as Ditalini, but I prefer little Acini balls.

Ingredients:

For the meatballs

  • 1/2 lb ground veal or ground chicken
  • 1/2 lb lean ground beef
  • 1/2 cup fresh, white bread crumbs, torn in small pieces
  • 1/2 cup panko crumbs
  • 1/2 cup cream
  • 1/2 cup whole milk ricotta
  • 1 1/2 tbsp chopped parsley
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup minced white onion
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/8 tsp fresh grated nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp Kosher salt
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper

For the soup:

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 cup diced onions
  • 1/2 cup diced celery
  • 1/2 cup diced carrots
  • 5 cups chicken stock
  • 1/2 cup white wine or dry sherry
  • 1/2 tsp Kosher salt
  • 1/4 tsp white pepper
  • 2 tsp dry dill
  • 1/2 cup Acini pasta
  • 6 ounces baby spinach, trimmed of stems

Directions:

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  • Place fresh bread crumbs, panko crumbs, egg, and cream in the bowl of a stand mixer. Mix on low for 1 minute. Let sit at least 20 minutes.
  • For the meatballs, place the ground veal, ground beef, ricotta, parsley, egg, onions, garlic powder, nutmeg, dill, salt and pepper in the mixer bowl. Mix on low for 2 minutes. Scrape down the sides with a rubber spatula and mix for another 1 minute.
  • Using a small scoop or teaspoon, place 1 inch meatballs on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper. Bake for 30 minutes until cooked through. Set aside.
  • For the soup, heat the olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat and add the onions, celery, and carrots and saute for about 7 minutes until the vegetables start to get soft. Season with salt and white pepper. Add the stock and wine and bring to a boil. Cover and simmer for 20 minutes.
  • Add the pasta and simmer, covered, for 5-6 minutes until the pasta is al dente. Add the spinach and cook another 2 minutes, covered. Taste and reseason if necessary.
  • Add the dill and cooked meatballs and cover. Let sit for 5 minutes until the meatballs have warmed enough.
  • Serve in bowls immediately and garnish with grated parmesan and chopped chives.
  • Note: If you save overnight, the pasta will absorb most of the liquid. When reheating, add more chicken stock.

TACO TUESDAY!

I can’t remember the last time I made tacos on a Tuesday. I make them a couple times a month, but never on Tuesday. So, why not. I made a point of making my Ground Beef Tacos today. It’s all about how you make and season the ground beef. And let’s face it, G.B. tacos are the easiest to make in a pinch. I don’t like to stray too far from the usual fillings: finely shredded iceberg lettuce, finely shredded sharp cheddar cheese, sour cream, diced tomatoes, diced white onions, and a little cilantro. Sometimes I’ll make a spicy taco dressing from sour cream…I just stuck with plain sour cream today. If you want some heat, add some minced jalapeños and some tabasco too the ground beef. Here’s how I make the G.B. filling.

The taco seasoning is all-important. You can use one of those packets from the grocery store, or make your own. The store-bought stuff is just so off-putting and unsavory.

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb lean ground beef
  • 1 tsp canola oil
  • 1/2 cup Pace chunky salsa
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 tsp taco seasoning – 1 tsp paprika, 1 tsp garlic powder, 1 tsp chile powder, 1/2 tsp ground cumin, 1/2 tsp onion powder, and 1/2 tsp black pepper. Season with salt later
  • 1/2 tsp Kosher salt
  • 6 white corn tortillas

Directions:

  • Heat a medium saucepan over medium-high heat and add 1 tsp canola oil. When the oil is hot, crumble in the ground beef and let it sit for at least 2 minutes before stirring or turning. After 2 minutes, start stirring and mashing the ground beef until is is no longer pink. Drain in a colander before adding anything else. Place back in the saucepan and add the taco seasoning and the salt and stir. Add the salsa and the water, stir, and bring to a simmer. Lower heat, cover, and simmer gently for 20 minutes.
  • Uncover just before serving and simmer with the lid off to cook off most of the liquid. Taste and reseason if necessary.
  • You can heat the corn tortillas directly over the stove flame for a few seconds, or soften them up on a hot cast iron skillet, or deep fry them if you want them crispy.
  • Assemble with the fillings starting with the cooked taco meat, then the diced white onions, then shredded iceberg, shredded cheddar, sour cream, diced tomatoes, and cilantro. Quite often I use a few shakes of Cholula at this point.
  • Serve immediately with guacamole, Mexican rice, and refried or charro beans if desired.

SOUTHWEST QUINOA AND BROWN RICE GRAIN MEDLEY AND ROASTED HONEY SRIRACHA CHICKEN

The Honey Sriracha Chicken recipe works well for any chicken pieces. These are bone-in thighs, but I’ve made this with drumsticks as well as wings. Add more or less Sriracha sauce depending on how much heat you want. The chicken is seasoned with salt, garlic powder, paprika, black pepper, and baking powder. The baking powder will add an incredible crispness to the thighs.

The grain medley has quinoa, brown rice, black beans, fresh corn, cucumber, jalapeños, red onions, cilantro, and lime juice. Very easy, very refreshing, and very healthy.

Ingredients:

For the Sriracha Chicken:

  • 1 1/4 lbs of bone-in skin-on chicken thighs (4 thighs)
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 3 tbsp honey
  • 1 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 2 tbsp Sriracha sauce (more if desired)
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce
  • A few drops of sesame oil
  • Chopped chives

For the Southwest grain medley:

  • 1 cup cooked quinoa
  • 1/2 cup cooked brown rice
  • 1/2 cup black beans (drained and rinsed)
  • 1/2 cup red bell peppers, diced
  • 1/2 cup cucumber, peeled, seeded, dice
  • 2 tbsp minced red onion
  • 1 tbsp minced jalapeno
  • 1/2 cup fresh or frozen white corn
  • 1 tbsp fresh lime jice
  • 2 tbsp chopped cilantro
  • Kosher salt and black pepper to taste

Directions:

For the Sriracha Honey Chicken:

  • In a small bowl, mix together the sea salt, garlic powder, baking powder, paprika, and black pepper.
  • Place the thighs on a wire rack over a sheet pan lined with foil. Evenly season both sides of the thighs with the mix. Place the sheet pan in the refrigerator for 1 hour, uncovered.
  • Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
  • In a small saucepan over low heat, add the honey, butter, sriracha sauce, soy sauce, and sesame oil. Bring to a simmer, stirring, for 1 minute.
  • Place the thighs in the oven. Cook for 20 minutes. Turn the thighs and cook for another 20 minutes. Turn over again then brush generously with the honey and sriracha mixture and cook another 5 minutes or until the internal temperature of the chicken is 165 degrees.
  • Garnish with chopped chives. Serve on a plate with the grain medley.

For the Southwest grain medley:

  • Place all the ingredients in a medium bowl and toss thoroughly. Season to taste with salt, pepper, and lime juice. Cover and place in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour.

CHILE CON QUESO

Chile with cheese is the literal translation. It’s more of an appetizer than an entree. And, it is easy to make. Plus, there as many recipes for Chile con Queso as there are cooks that make it. The variables are the type of cheeses you use and the kinds of chiles you prefer. Make it hot, make it mild. This recipe uses a fresh roasted poblano chile and a small jalapeño for a little heat. I opted for Pepper Jack and Velvetta cheese this time, but most any cheese of your choice is good as long as it melts smoothly. You can make it without the ground beef but that does add a lot of flavor. I also used fresh vine-ripe tomatoes that I cored and removed the skin. Use a 14 ounce can of diced tomatoes if you want. If you don’t want to use a fresh roasted poblano, use a small can of diced green chiles.

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 lb lean ground beef
  • 1 tsp canola oil
  • 1/2 cup diced red or white onion
  • 4 small Roma tomatoes, core removed, diced or 1 14 ounce can of diced tomatoes
  • 1 medium poblano, roasted, skin and seeds removed, diced or 1 small can of diced green chiles
  • 1 large garlic clove, minced
  • 1 medium jalapeno, seeded, minced
  • Kosher salt and black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tbsp chile powder
  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  • 1/2 cup cream
  • 2 cups shredded Pepper Jack cheese
  • 1 cup velvetta, cubed
  • 1/4 cup chopped chilantro
  • 1/4 cup sliced green onions
  • Tortilla chips

Directions:

  • Heat a large skillet over medium high heat and add 1 tsp of canola oil. Crumble in the ground beef and cook until just browned. Add the onions, tomatoes, poblano, jalapeno, garlic, garlic powder, cumin, chile powder, salt and pepper to taste. Mix everything together well. Bring to a simmer, lower heat, cover, and cook for 25 minutes.
  • Add the milk, cream, 1 1/2 cups Pepper Jack, and Velveeta and bring to a simmer, stirring, until all the cheeses have melted and are smooth. Taste and reseason if necessary.
  • Place in individual small bowls and top with more Pepper Jack then serve with tortillas chips. Garnish with cilantro and green onions.

S.O.S.!

Call it what you want…S.O.S…”Shit On a Shingle”…”Stuff On a Shingle”…Chipped Beef On Toast…Creamed Beef on Toast…whatever you call it, it’s good Old School, nostalgic comfort food. Oh, and a 70’s ABBA song too!

I haven’t had S.O.S. since I was a kid and my mother would make it from time to time, and, she called it Chipped Beef on Toast. If I asked for “Shit on a Shingle” she would have smacked me up the side of my head. It’s painfully simple ingredients: dried (chipped) beef, cream sauce (béchamel), and toast. Of course, we didn’t call it béchamel sauce back in the 50’s and 60’s.

I didn’t need a recipe to make this, but I did look some up on the internet. Just like any other well-known dishes, you will find a few variations on how it is prepared. Know this though: dried beef is very, very salty…so be careful with the salt…hit it with a lot pepper though. And, for some of the 2 cup sauce recipes I found, the amount of beef ranged from 2 ounces two 8 ounces. I used 2 1/2 ounces. Use more if you want. The other variations involve how to make béchamel. Just make sure to not end up with a saucepan of school paste by using too much flour. You want a nice, creamy sauce. And cook it for at least 10 minutes on low, low heat to not only thicken it but to cook out the flour taste. The only liberty I take when I make this is to add 1 tsp of chicken base to a 2 cup recipe…it really adds some flavor to a usually bland sauce.

This dish is very salty and fatty, so only eat it about once a year!

Ingredients:

  • 2 tbsp of unsalted butter
  • 2 tbsp of flour
  • 1 3/4 cups of milk
  • 1 tsp of chicken base (I use Better Than Bullion)
  • Fresh cracked black pepper
  • Pinch of fresh grated nutmeg
  • About 2 1/2 ounces of jarred, dried beef, sliced into 1/2 inch strips
  • White bread toast

Directions:

  • In a medium saucepan over medium low heat melt 2 tbsp of unsalted butter. Add 2 tbsp of flour and whisk for about 2 minutes. Slowly whisk in the milk until it is well incorporated. Bring to a simmer, whisking, and cook for about 5 minutes. Add the chicken base, nutmeg, and fresh cracked black pepper.
  • Slice the dried beef rounds into 1/2 inch slices and add to the sauce. Stir in and let it cook another 2 minutes. Taste and season with more pepper if needed. Cover and keep warm.
  • Lightly toast then butter 2 slices of white bread per plate. Spoon on the chipped beef and season with more pepper if desired.

CHICKEN FRIED CHICKEN BREAST AND COUNTRY GRAVY with COUNTRY GREEN BEANS

What’s better than Chicken Fried Steak? Chicken Fried Chicken Breast…and White Country Gravy, of course.

I love making CFS. But, it can be a little tough at times, even with my recipe made from Beef Tenderloin. This Chicken Fried Chicken Breast is a basic double flour and buttermilk breaded chicken that will work with any fried chicken. It really needs to be deep fried, in other words, completely submerged in the cooking oil. Grandma’s old-school cast-iron skillet method is similar, but just make sure the oil is deep enough to cover the chicken, AND, the oil temperature is 350 degrees to start. It will drop to about 325 degrees when you put the chicken in, so crank it up a bit when you drop the chicken. I use canola oil. Don’t use olive oil as it has a different flavor profile and doesn’t take well to deep frying. Peanut oil works well too. This recipe is for 2 people.

Note as with any recipe, it’s all about the seasoning. Season with salt and pepper to taste. I also seasoned the cooked breasts with a little Lawry’s style seasoning mix (unsalted).

Ingredients:

  • 2 boneless chicken breasts, about 6 ounces each
  • 1 1/2 cups of flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp sea salt or Kosher salt
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 1 tsp granulated or garlic powder
  • 1 cup of buttermilk
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tbsp Frank’s Louisiana hot sauce
  • Canola oil for frying

For the gravy:

  • 2 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 2 tbsp flour
  • 1 1/2 cups half and half or whole milk
  • 1/2 tsp chicken base or buillion
  • Kosher salt
  • Black pepper Pinch of cayenne

Directions:

  • Trim any excess fat from the chicken breasts then place in a large plastic bag and pound them to 1/4 inch thick.
  • In a large mixing bowl, mix together the flour, sea salt, pepper, and garlic powder. Whisk together the egg, buttermilk, and hot sauce and place in another mixing bowl or large flat bowl.
  • Make sure the breasts are dry. Dip them in the buttermilk mixture, then dredge in the flour mixture, then back into the buttermilk, then back into the flour. Press the flour into the breast so it is completely coasted. Place them on a wire rack over a sheet pan and place in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.
  • In the meantime, make the gravy. Heat the butter in a medium saucepan until melted then add the flour. Stir and cook for about 1 minute, making a roux. Whisk in the half and half and let it come to a simmer, whisking the whole time. Add the chicken base and whisk in. Let it cook about 5 minutes on very low heat then add the cayenne and season with salt and pepper. Cover and keep warm.
  • In a heavy skillet over medium heat, add enough oil to make it 1 inch deep. Using a oil or meat thermometer, heat the oil to 350 degrees. Lower the heat and maintain that temperature for a couple minutes before adding the chicken. Carefully lay the breaded breasts in the skillet, one at a time if they won’t fit side by side. They should be submerged in the oil. Monitor the heat to maintain 350 degrees. Cook until golden brown on the first side then carefully turn over and cook until the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees. Remove to a wire rack over a sheet pan. Don’t using the same sheet pan and rack as it had raw chicken on it. Place in a warm oven until ready to use.
  • To serve, place on a plate next to your mashed potatoes, or rice, or other starch. Spoon some gravy on the potatoes. If you soak the cooked breast in the gravy right away, it will get soggy.

For the Country Green Beans:

  • 2 cups of thin French green beans (Haricot Verts), we get ours at Trader Joe’s always
  • 2 thick slices of bacon, 1/2 inch chop
  • 1/2 cup white onion, sliced into slivers
  • Kosher salt and Black pepper
  • Blanch the haricot verts in boiling water for about 5 minutes then drop into a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking. Do this early then set aside at room temperature.
  • Place a medium saucepan over medium heat and add the chopped bacon. Let render down and begin to brown, don’t let it get crispy, about 10 minutes.
  • Add the onions to the saucepan and cook with the bacon until the onions are translucent, about 10 minutes. Season with pepper, salt is probably not necessary because of the bacon.
  • Add the blanched green beans and cook, saute, stirring, until the beans are heated through and finished cooking, about 10 minutes. Keep warm or serve right away.