Sunday, December 26, 2010

What a Meatball!

veal meatball sandwich with fennel and mushrooms

If you grew up in New England like I did, then you know that the word "meatball" has more than one meaning. It's more common usage refers to the food -- a small, round ball of meat that is cooked and served with tomato sauce. It's less common but more colorful usage refers to someone, usually a big, beefy guy -- also called a "chooch," -- who does something rude or bone-headed. In that situation, you'd say, "What a meatball." Get it? Good.

Now you need to get yourself some ground veal from Strauss Free Raised Veal, a Wisconsin based company committed to raising calves more humanely, to make my Veal Meatballs with Fennel, Mushroom, and Shallot Tomato Sauce.

Now, it's time for a meatball.

Strauss veal hot dog DSC_0015
Italian Style Veal Hot Dogs with Onions, Peppers, and Mushrooms. 

Veal Meatballs with Fennel, Mushroom, and Shallot Tomato Sauce
Serves 4
Printable recipe.

1 pound ground veal
1/2 cup bread crumbs
1/3 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
1 egg, lightly beaten
3 tablespoons fresh flat leaf parsley, chopped
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large shallot, thinly sliced (about 3/4 cup)
1 small fennel bulb, thinly sliced (about 1 cup)
1 cup sliced white button or cremini mushrooms
1/4 cup dry white wine
1 (32 ounce) can crushed tomatoes with juices, preferably San Marzano tomatoes
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
4 (6-inch) torpedo rolls
Grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese and crushed red pepper flakes for garnish

1. Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil.

2. In a large bowl, combine all meatball ingredients. Using your hands, mix until the consistency is moist and the meat holds together well. If it's too dry, add a little bit of water, or another egg. If it's too moist, add some more bread crumbs. Using your hands, roll meat into 1 1/2-inch balls. It should yield 14-16 meatballs.

3. Place meatballs on prepared baking sheet. Bake for 20 minutes until golden brown.

4. Meanwhile, in a large skillet over medium heat, warm 2 tablespoons olive oil. Add shallots and saute 2 minutes until just wilted. Add fennel and saute 3-5 minutes until just softened. Add mushrooms and saute 5 minutes until lightly browned. Add white wine and let cook for 3 minutes. Add the tomatoes, red pepper flakes and salt. Bring to a boil, then simmer for 5-7 minutes. Add cooked meatballs to the sauce and cook over medium heat for 5-7 minutes until heated through. Turn off heat, and stir in basil.

5. Place torpedo rolls under the broiler until lightly toasted. Place 3-4 meatballs per roll, and top with a couple of spoonfuls of sauce. Garnish with grated cheese and a sprinkling of crushed red pepper flakes. Serve hot.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Book Signings In Rhode Island This Week

Thursday 16 December, time TBD
Radio Interview
The Buddy Cianci Show, WPRO 630 and 99.7 FM
Friday 17 December 5-7 pm
Book Signing
Borders Books, Providence Place Mall, Providence, RI
Saturday 18 December 1-3 pm
Book signing
Borders Books, Garden City Shopping Center, Cranston, RI
Sunday 19 December 1-3 pm
Book Signing
Stop & Shop, Frenchtown Rd, Hunt River Commons, North Kingstown RI

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Last Minute Christmas Gifts for Foodies by Foodies!

Freak of Nature.

There are only 10 days left until Christmas. Shocked? I  know. Don't let it panic you. I'm here to help. I've got gifts for foodies by foodies. 

You can never go wrong with cookbooks. These books are extra special because each one is written by a talented blogger, each of whom I have met. So let's spread the love and the cookbooks.

Cookbooks by bloggers: 

Deliciously Organic by Carrie Vitt.
Carrie shows you how to create deliciously organic meals every day. Every recipe features only organic, unprocessed, whole foods and run the gamut from breakfasts to desserts.
Why I like it: Vitt's tone is conversational rather than preachy.
Best for: Anyone who wants to cook and eat more healthfully.

Gluten-Free Girl and The Chef by Shauna James Ahern and Daniel Ahern.
Why I like It: It's a cookbook intertwined with a romance story.
Best for: Hopelessly romantic, gluten-insensitive women.

Why I like it: Elana makes gluten-free baking accessible and enticing.
Best for: People with gluten intolerance or sensitivity who crave dishes like pizza, sandwiches, and cakes.

The Indian Slow Cooker by Anupy Singla.
Anupy demystifies Indian cooking for the average home cook.
Why I like it: Anupy says that only a few Indian spices are needed to create a wealth of flavorful, authentic Indian recipes. Good bye Indian recipes that call for 20 ingredients!
Best for: The harried mom who wants a healthy, easy Indian meal on the table at night.

Make It Slow. Cook It Fast. by Stephanie O'Dea.
Stephanie is one of the most bubbly, affable people I have ever met. So much so, that I bought a copy of her cookbook which includes 365 crock pot recipes, and I don't even own a crock pot.
Why I like it: It's honest, real, and practical.
Best for: The busy mom, one who preferably owns a crock pot.

The Reluctant Entertainer by Sandy Coughlin.
Why I like it: Sandy tells women that entertaining is less about perfection and more about making memorable, meaningful connections with others.
Best for: Women who need some emotional boosting to entertain without fear.

Artisan Foods and Crafts for Foodies:

Antique Soap Dispensers

The Gourmet Farm Girl Antique Soap Dispenser by Deb Mahon.
Why I like it: In case you didn't know, Ball jars are hip again. So get this hip soap dispenser for someone with style.
Best for: People who like hand-made items and unique pieces.

La Cense Beef
Why I like it: It's 100% pure grass-fed beef that tastes great.
Best for: Serious carnivores.

Foodie Art by Nicole Docimo such as whimsical prints and organic, reusable tote bags.

Sugar Daddy's Brownies from Columbus, Ohio.
Why I like it: Their brownies are unabashedly flavorful and so prettily wrapped that you feel guilty opening the package. Plus they're shipped from the oven to your door in 24 hours!
Best for: Kids and anyone who wants to feel like a kid again.

Of course, I think my book, Recipes Every Man Should Know, makes a great Christmas gift. With over 60 easy-to-make, manly recipes for just $9.95, it's the ideal gift for guys in your life. Plus, it fits perfectly into a stocking!

Flick photo credit, Welsh Poppy, creative commons. 

Friday, December 10, 2010

Share Our Strength's NO KID HUNGRY Progressive Dinner

This holiday season will not be festive for all Americans. Consider this:

1. Over 15 million Americans are currently unemployed.
2. Over 50 million Americans are currently on food stamps.
3. Over 1 million American children go to bed hungry each night.

What can you do? You can support Share Our Strength's NO KID HUNGRY campaign to ensure that no kid in the US goes hungry. NO KID HUNGRY has made a commitment to end childhood hunger in America by 2015, and they need your help.

Here's how you can help:
1. Visit the Share Our Strength's NO KID HUNGRY website.
2. Click on "Take the Pledge."
3. Act now by choosing any of the options provided.
4. Click here to make a donation.
5. Spread the word. Tell your friends and family about it. Are you a blogger? Visit Share Our Strengths' Blogger Resource Center to find out how you can help.

I'm helping to spread the word about ending childhood hunger in America by partaking in a Share Our Strength Progressive Dinner. Michelle Stern of the blog What's Cooking with Kids?, Gaby Dalkin of the blog What's Gaby Cooking? and Clay Dunn of Share Our Strength, have united 50 food bloggers who will create a virtual dinner. Each day from December 6-14, we will offer family friendly, vegetarian, gluten-free and gourmet recipes ranging from appetizers to desserts. (Click here for the complete list of bloggers.)

Today, Gaby of What's Gaby Cooking? and I are sharing recipes for gourmet entrees. Since the holiday season leaves many us harried, I wanted to share a recipe for a fuss-free gourmet entree. Rather than a labor-intensive stuffed pork tenderloin recipe, I chose a quick and simple pork medallion recipe that still impresses: Pork Medallions with Maple-Balsamic Apples and Pomegranate Arils. The sweet-yet-tangy marinade renders the pork tender and succulent, while earthy rosemary, tart apples and zippy pomegranate arils lend complexity of flavor. Easy yet elegant.

Pork Medallions with Maple-Balsamic Apples and  Pomegranate Arils

Pork Medallions with Maple-Balsamic Apples and Pomegranate Arils 
Makes 4 servings
Printable recipe.

Pork Marinade:
1 1/4 pounds pork tenderloin, cut into 1/2-3/4-inch thick rounds
2 rosemary sprigs
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup pure maple syrup
1/4 teaspoon salt1/4 teaspoon black pepper

3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 tablespoon butter
1 large yellow onion, thinly sliced
2 medium apples, with skins, sliced into wedges, preferable a mildly tart variety such as Pink Lady doused with lemon juice
2 tablespoons pure maple syrup
2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh rosemary, plus a few sprigs for garnish
2 tablespoons fresh pomegranate arils

1. Place pork and rosemary sprigs in a large Ziploc bag or air-tight container. In a small bowl whisk remaining marinade ingredients. Pour into the bag. Seal and shake the bag until the meat is well coated. Place in the refrigerator for a minimum of 1 hour or up to 4 hours. When ready to cook, remove meat from the bag and discard marinade.

2. In a large skillet over medium-high heat, warm 2 tablespoons olive oil. Add marinated, drained pork medallions. Cook for 4 minutes without touching. Once well browned, flip and cook 2 minutes more until slightly pink inside. Transfer to a plate.

3. In the same skillet over medium-low heat add remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil and 1 tablespoon butter. Add onions, and saute 5-6 minutes, until soft and translucent. Add apples and saute 4-5 minutes until softened. Return pork to pan. Add maple syrup, balsamic vinegar, salt, black pepper and chopped rosemary. Cook for 2 minutes or until thoroughly heated through. Arrange on a plate, sprinkle with pomegranate arils and garnish with rosemary sprigs.

Be sure to visit these other bloggers for more fabulous entrees! 
Gaby of What's Gaby Cooking (gourmet entree)
Niki of life, in recipes (family friendly)
Amber of Blue Bonnets and Brownies (family friendly)
Lydia of The Perfect Pantry (vegetarian)
Chris and Karen of The Peche (vegetarian)
Nancy of The Sensitive Pantry (gluten-free)
Ali of Nourishing Meals (gluten-free)

Thursday, December 9, 2010

5 Stupid and Smart Ways to Not Gain Weight This Holiday Season

'Tis the season of spreading good cheer and spreading waistlines. We have all heard it before --  the average person gains one pound a year during the holidays. That is, except for French women, who apparently don't gain weight, ever.

One pound isn't so bad. What is bad is that most people never lose that pound and then continue to gain a pound each year afterwards.

There is no shortage of articles telling women how not to gain weight during the holidays.  Some are practical; others are, well, simply stupid. Below are a few of my favorite stupid suggestions and my common-sense alternatives. They work for me, and I hope they'll work for you too.

Stupid Suggestion #1: Avoid Alcohol At Parties. 
Telling people to avoid alcohol at a holiday party is like telling women inside of Nordstrom to avoid the shoe department. Ain't gonna happen.

Susan's Suggestion: Imbibe wisely. Light beer and wine have the fewest calories; sparkling drinks like Prosecco are festive yet pretty low in calories. Mixed drinks generally have the most calories, but if it's what you're really craving, then have one, just one. Got it?

Stupid Suggestion #2: Chew Gum to Avoid Eating Too Much.
Chew gum at a holiday party? You want to look classy and glamorous at a holiday party not like Marisa Tomei in My Cousin Vinny.  

Susan's Suggestion: Hold a Glass of Sparkling Water in Your Hand. Sipping on sparkling water or tonic water with lime will prevent you from eating all night long while still looking elegant. Just don't drink too much of the bubbly sparkling stuff, or your belly will be rumble-bumbling all night too.

Stupid Suggestion #3: Look Up Calories Before You Eat.
Ah, yes, won't you look sexy at your holiday party when you whip out your smart phone and say to the hostess, "Um, wait a minute, I need to look up how many calories are in that bacon-wrapped scallop."

Susan's Suggestion: When you're at a party, scan the food offerings before digging it. Overall, try to select the least fattening foods -- those that are not fried, smothered in cheese, or glistening with oil. Allow yourself one sensational indulgence: maybe it's a meaty crab cake or a slick slice of peppermint cheesecake. Once you've made your choice, leave the guilt behind, and enjoy.

Stupid Suggestion #4: Exercise More During the Holidays.
Telling busy women and harried moms to exercise more during the holidays is setting them up to feel more guilty. 

Susan's Suggestion: Exercising more during the holiday season is a laudable goal; it's also impractical for most women. Instead, try to stick with your current exercise regime. If you don't have one, then consider adding quick ways to burn calories -- take the stairs instead of the elevator, play outside with your kids, take the dog for a longer walk. 

Stupid Suggestion #5: When baking holiday treats such as cookies, light a green apple scented candle which can reduce your appetite. 

Susan's Suggestion: Forget the green apple candle, (Does anyone even own that fragrance?) or any candle, for that matter. How often do you get to enjoy the aroma of spicy cloves and sweet vanilla bean? Have some faith in yourself. You can bake and smell cookies without eating an entire tray. Right? If not, then employ Stupid Suggestion #2. I prefer wintergreen or peppermint.

If all else fails, and you end up gaining that unwanted holiday weight, then read this post and plan on making a lot of soup in January 2011.

Do you have any tips or tricks to help prevent weight gain during the holidays? Please share them with us!

Photo credits:
Cooking Light magazine, November 2010
Flickr Creative Commons: KonRuff, twotoneatl

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Eat More Beer. Make Apple, Cheddar, and Rosemary Beer Bread.

Guiness Stout DSC_0019

Eat more beer.

Sure, drinking a cold beer is one's of life's simple pleasures. But why not be happier by eating beer too? Meats like beef and venison taste better when cooked with beer, which is why beer spiked chilis and stews and beer-infused pot pies taste so great.

Beer lends a full-bodied, earthy flavor to braised vegetables too. Collards or kale braised in beer? Oh, yeah. And don't forget thick, gooey beer and cheese soup. And then there's baking with beer, but let's save that for another post.

apple, onion, and cheddar beer bread

Today I'm sharing one of the tastiest, simplest recipes from my cookbook, Recipes Every Man Should Know, co-authored with Brett Cohen. Beer bread is for the man who loves beer and bread but hates to bake. There's no kneading or fancy bread machine required. Just some muscle for stirring.

PLEASE NOTE: If you own a copy of Recipes Every Man Should Know, make the following corrections on pg. 105 for beer bread: Add "1 tablespoon baking powder" and change "2 tablespoons salt" to "1 teaspoon salt." It has been corrected for future printings.

Beer Bread from Recipes Every Man Should Know
Makes 6-8 servings
Printable recipe.

This is the corrected recipe for Beer Bread from the book. Below it are three variations, including Apple, Cheddar, and Rosemary Beer Bread pictured above.

3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons sugar
1 (12-ounce) bottle beer, preferably dark, such as porter or stout (don't use light beer)

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Coat and 8-by-4-inch or 9-by-5-inch loaf pan with cooking spray.

2. In a large bowl, stir together all ingredients. Pour into pan. Bake 40-45 minutes, or until top is golden broan and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool on a rack 10 minutes before removing from pan. Cool completely.

Cheddar-Dill Beer Bread:
Stir 1 cup shredded sharp Cheddar cheese and 1/2 cup chopped fresh dill (or 1-2 tablespoons dried dill) into the batter.

Caramelized Onion-Cheddar-Sage Bread:
1 medium yellow onion, thinly sliced. In a large skillet over medium-low heat, warm 1 tablespoon olive oil. Add onions, and cook 5 minutes, or until lightly browned. Sprinkle with 1 teaspoon sugar. Reduce heat to low, and cook 12-15 minutes, or until dark and caramelized. Stir into batter along with 1 cup shredded sharp Cheddar cheese and 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh sage, about 4-5 leaves.

Apple, Cheddar, and Rosemary Beer Bread:
1 medium crisp, slightly sweet apple, such as Fuji or Braeburn, peeled and diced. In a large skillet over medium-low heat, warm 2 teaspoons olive oil. Add apples, and cook 3 minutes until just softened and lightly browned. Stir into batter along with 1 cup shredded sharp Cheddar cheese and 1 1/2-2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh rosemary or 2-3 teaspoons dried rosemary).

You might also like these recipes cooked with beer:
Boozy Beef Chili recipe from Food Blogga
Brat, Beer, and Cheese Soup recipe from Columbus Foodie
Beer and Bean Stew with Dumplings recipe from Green Giraffe Gourmet
Beer Braised Beef Shank with Garlic Grits recipe from Cooking by the Seat of My Pants
Roasted Sweet Potatoes with Maple-Smoked Bacon and Beer recipe from Food Blogga

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Sweet Potato Pie Recipe from Nancie McDermott's Book, Southern Pies

I'm pie challenged. But I'm working on it. About a month ago, my mom and I spent an entire morning making pie crusts. Two weeks ago I took a class on pie making. And last week, I became the proud owner of Nancie McDermott's cookbook, Southern Pies, A Gracious Plenty of Pie Recipes, From Lemon Chess to Chocolate Pecan

Whether you're pie-challenged like me or love baking pies (apparently there are people for whom the latter is true), you should have a copy of Southern Pies on your bookshelf.

Upon my first perusal, I was captivated by Leigh Beisch's stunning photography and the book's clean, simple design. When I began reading the recipe titles, I realized that I had never heard of many of them, despite the fact that I lived in North Carolina (McDermott's home) for nearly seven years.

Tell me. Have you ever heard of "Syrup Pie," which McDermott describes as "good and plain and pure, just like the syrup in the pitcher on the kitchen tables in many an old-time Southern home"? How about "Sweet Tea Pie" made with strong brewed tea and lemon juice? Or "Irish Potato Pie" made from mashed white potatoes seasoned with cinnamon and nutmeg?

Each of the 60 Southern pie recipes comes with its own story, which is sometimes sweet, sometimes savory, but always delicious. And the recipes are clearly written and easy-to-follow. If you're looking for new-fangled pies, this book is not for you. But if you're looking for a book with classic Southern pie recipes, solid pie making advice and enticing photos, then this is definitely your book.

sweet potato pie from cookbook Southern Pies

With the holidays upon us, I just had to make Sweet Potato Pie, which I knew would be in the book. What I didn't know was that there would be two recipes for it. I chose the second one named "Bill Smith's Sweet Potato Pie" because it's from Bill Smith, the nationally renowned owner and chef of Crook's Corner in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. (Crook's was one our favorite haunts when we lived in Chapel Hill years ago.)

Laced with fragrant cinnamon, allspice, this sweet potato pie smells just like the holidays. And since it's make with sweetened condensed milk, the custard is velvety smooth and dense, just the way I like it. You can eat it plain, but I'd suggest topping it with a dollop  of bourbon-infused whipped cream, because in case you didn't know, sweet potatoes and bourbon are great friends.

I plan on making several more pies from the book including Blue Grass Cranberry Pie, Butterscotch Pie and Molasses Pie. After which I will no longer be pie-challenged. I hope.

Bill Smith's Sweet Potato Pie from Southern Pies
Makes one 9-inch pie
Printable recipe.

Pastry for a 9-inch single-crust pie (store bought or basic crust, see below)

Pie Filling:
2 tablespoons flour
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 cups mashed, cooked sweet potatoes (about 2 pounds)
2 eggs
3/4 cup sugar
1 cup sweetened condensed milk
2 tablespoons butter, melted
1/4 teaspoon lemon extract or vanilla extract (I used vanilla)

1. Heat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line a 9-inch pie pan with crust and then crimp the edges decoratively.

2. In a small bowl, combine flour cinnamon, allspice, cloves, baking powder, and salt and use a fork to stir them together well.

3. Place the sweet potatoes in a medium bowl and beat them well, using an electric mixer at medium speed or a whisk or big wooden spoon. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.

4. Add the sugar and beat to incorporate it completely into the sweet potato-egg mixture. Add the spice mixture, milk, butter, and extract, and beat at low speed to combine everything evenly and well.

5. Pour the filling into the piecrust and place it on the lowest rack of the oven. Bake until the edges puff up and the center is fairly firm, wiggling only a little when you gently nudge the pan, 40 to 50 minutes.

6. Place the pie on a cooling rack or a folded kitchen towel and let cool to room temperature.

Sandra Gutierrez's Butter Piecrust from Southern Pies
Makes two 9-inch single piecrusts or one 9-inch double piecrust

NOTE: Since this sweet potato pie calls for 1 crust only, you will have an extra crust that you can refrigerate or freeze for future use. Please see step 4 for instructions. 

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup very cold unslated butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
4-6 tablespoons ice water
1 teaspoon white vinegar

1. In the work bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade, combine the flour and salt. Pulse for 10 seconds. Add the butter cubes and pulse until the mixture resembles coarse sand with some small lumps., 30 to 40 seconds.

2. Add 3 tablespoons of the ice water and the vinegar and pulse 5 to 7 times, until the dough just barely holds together in the work bowl. Add another tablespoon or two of ice water if needed just to bring the ingredients together. Turn it out onto plastic wrap and pat the dough into two separate disks; refrigerate them for at least 1 hour. Set one or two disks out at room temperature for 10 minutes before rolling.

3. Roll out one of the dough disks on a lightly floored surface, to a circle about 1'8inch thick and 10 inches wide. Carefully transfer it into ta 9-inch pie plate. Press the dough gently into the pan and trim away any excess dough, leaving about 1/2-inch beyond the edge of the pan. Fold the edges up and over, and then crimp the edges decoratively. Or presst he back of a fork into the pastry rim, working around the pie to make a flat edge marked with the tines of the fork. If not filling the crust soon, refrigerate it until needed.

4. To make the crust in advance, wrap it well in plastic and refrigerate it up to 3 days, or freeze it for up to 2 months.

You can buy Southern Pies, A Gracious Plenty of Pie Recipes, From Lemon Chess to Chocolate Pecan (Chronicle Books, 2010) online at Amazon or wherever books are sold.

Special thanks to Nancie McDermott who generously sent me a signed copy of this book ASAP when the one I ordered online didn't show up in time for Thanksgiving. I owe you a lunch at Crook's Corner next time I'm in Chapel Hill, Nancie!