Marinara Sauce with Meatballs

This produces some of the best marinara sauce with meatballs I’ve ever tasted, because the sauce actually cooks the meatballs. That’s right, they’re not browned first,  just dropped into the simmering sauce and cooked until done.

It helps to have the sauce at a point where it needs about another hour of cooking. This assures that the meatballs will be cooked through.


Ingredients



Meatballs 
 
2 lbs. of lean ground Beef
2 tbsp. Breadcrumbs
2 Eggs, well beaten
3 Tbsp. grated Parmesan cheese
1 Tbsp. Olive Oil
1 Tbsp. Marsala wine, Cream Sherry can be substituted if Marsala isn’t available.
1 large sautéed Onion
2 Tbsp. freshly chopped Parsley
1 tsp. Salt
Fresh ground Black Pepper
 
Makes approx. 15 to 20 meatballs depending on the size. After prepping, put them into the refrigerator.

 
Marinara Sauce

Ingredients
 
1 large finely chopped Onion
1 large finely chopped Carrot
2 finely chopped stalks Celery
4 cloves of Garlic, finely chopped
2- 28 oz. cans of crushed Tomatoes, or whole tomatoes that are lightly chopped in the processor. San Marzano’s are the best
1 cup of Marsala wine
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Salt and freshly ground Black Pepper
 
Put enough olive oil to just cover the bottom of the saucepan. The key to this sauce is to use a stainless steel or cast iron pan that will maintain heat. The cheap aluminum pans will not work, as they can’t maintain an even heat. My favorite is Le Creuset.
 
Just heat the oil slightly, and then add the onion, carrots, celery and garlic. You want to just sweat the mixture sweat gently. Don’t let it brown, as the flavor will become bitter.
 
After the mixture has become soft, add the Marsala and cook until the alcohol is gone. Add tomatoes, salt and pepper. Now bring it back to a boil, and then reduce the heat down and just let it cook. The longer you cook it, the better it will be.
 
After about 2 hours, you should add in the meatballs and cook for another hour. Afterwards, you will have a beautiful, hearty marinara sauce with meatballs. Serve with your choice of pasta. I suggest spaghetti or penne if you prefer a heartier pasta. 

Mountain Dew Cake

I can’t imagine something being more Southern than a Mountain Dew cake. By now, I’m sure most people have heard of Mountain Dew soft drink, but there was a time when it was relatively unknown outside of the South.

I remember as a child that I loved the glass bottle it came in, because it had an imprint of a hillbilly man drinking a Mountain Dew. I always thought he was funny. That glass bottle is long gone, but this recipe remains and is incredibly moist and good.

Ingredients


Cake:
1 box of Yellow Cake Mix, my grandmother always used Duncan Hines
1 box of Vanilla or Lemon Instant Pudding
1 cup of Vegetable Oil
4 Eggs
1 10 oz Mountain Dew that has gone flat
 
Icing:
1 large can of crushed Pineapple
3 tsp. Corn Starch
1 cup Sugar
1 stick of Butter
1 cup unsweetened Coconut
 
Preheat the oven to 325F. Mix together all ingredients, making sure that the fizz is gone from the Mountain Dew before mixing it in. 

Pour entire mixture into a large greased baking pan, or two cake pans and bake until the cake is light brown and done through. 


When cake is almost cooled, make icing by mixing pineapple, sugar and corn starch in a sauce pan and simmer until thick. Add butter and coconut and mix thoroughly. Finally spread over the cooled cake while the icing is still warm.

Carne en su jugo – Mexican Beef Soup

One of the wonderful things about living in California is we have fantastic Mexican food. However, while the food in most restaurants is really good, it is not the real home cooking I really enjoy. So, when we went to visit our neighbors, Monica made a completely authentic Mexican soup and it was stunning. It was honestly one the best things I have ever eaten, so I asked Monica to send me the recipe. Here it is and I can promise you, it is just amazing. Enjoy!

Ingredients

1/2 lb  Bacon cut into small pieces
2 lbs. Flap/Skirt Steak (ranchera), cut into small strips
Garlic Salt (to taste)
Black Pepper (to taste)
1 can Pinto Beans, cooked
16 Pearl Onions, boiled
Lemon or Lime wedges

Sauce:
5 Tomatillos
1/2 a bunch of Cilantro
3 Garlic Cloves
1 Jalapeño or 2 Serrano Chilies

1 tsp. Salt
1 1/2 cups water or chicken broth
2 heaping teaspoons Chicken Bullion

In blender, add all the sauce ingredients and blend until liquefied.  (I added 1 cup of water to the blender first and then when I poured the sauce in the meat mixture, I poured the other half cup of water into the blender to swished it around to get whatever got stuck to the blender. Don\’t leave any goodness behind.)


Fry bacon until crisp. Remove bacon and put on paper towels to drain. Add meat to bacon grease and fry until just about done (medium-high heat). As you\’re frying the meat add garlic salt and pepper to taste.
Most of the meat will be browned but you\’ll see tiny bits of pink. Toss in the peeled pearl onions. Fry for a couple minutes more. Add the sauce and simmer on low for about 45 min. to one hour. (Taste test… you may need a bit more garlic salt).
In a bowl, add a large spoonful of freshly cooked pinto beans (without the broth), and  chop up the other half of the cilantro bunch and serve as garnish along with bacon and lemon wedges. Serve with flour or corn tortillas
Serves about 4

Golden Mountain Sauce

I love making Thai food at home, and I\’ve always prided myself on getting that authentic Thai flavor, but if I’m completely honest, I have to admit it always seemed to be missing a little something.

Well, I have found out what that little something was. It\’s called Golden Mountain Sauce and it has been called the \”secret of Thai cooking\” and has been used in Thailand for over 50 years.

Use it as you would soy sauce, but mix it equal parts with fish sauce to get the real Thai flavor. Here is the perfect dish to try it out.

 

Gai Pad Prik Grapao/Chicken with Hot Chilies and Basil

Thais’ love fresh basil, and use many different types. Most of us are familiar with Sweet Basil, and this is easy to find in any market. However, it’s the “Holy Basil”, known as Bai Grapao, which is the most flavorful and authentic.

This basil has an anise type of flavor and gives this dish an amazing flavor and dimension that just doesn’t taste the same with sweet basil.

You should always use fresh basil for this recipe, as the dried variety will not give acceptable results, unless you can find the authentic dried Thai Grapao.

Ingredients 

¾ lb. skinless, boneless Chicken Breast, coarsely ground and marinated in about 1 Tbsp. of fish sauce, and 1 Tbsp. of Golden Mountain sauce.
1 large Onion, Sliced
1 Sweet Red Pepper, sliced
2 Thai Chilies, finely chopped
2 Tbsp. of Peanut or another vegetable oil
3 cloves Garlic, finely chopped
1 Tbsp Fresh Ginger Root, Finley chopped
Handful of fresh Basil, pulled apart just before adding to the dish. Chopping fresh basil causes it to turn black while cooking.

Sauce, this will be added at the end.

1 Tbsp. Fish Sauce
1Tbsp Golden Mountain Sauce
2 tsp. white sugar, brown sugar or palm sugar


Start the heat under your wok, or a large skillet may also be used. Add the oil and then quickly add the ginger and the garlic. Stir-fry for about 1 minute.

Add the chicken and stir-fry until the pinkness is just gone. This takes only about 2 to 3 minutes. 

Add the onions and peppers, and cook until they soften slightly, then add the sauce and the fresh basil and cook for 1 to 2 minutes until the basil starts to release its wonderful fragrance. Serve with steamed white or brown Jasmine rice.

Tandoori Chicken

I always thought that this dish was made with a brightly colored reddish orange paste that stained the fingers and I was surprised to be told by my Indian friends that they do not use any artificial coloring in their food, as they feel it is not healthy. And all this time, I thought it was the spices that gave it that color.
This is very simple to prepare and is fantastic when marinated overnight and then cooked on the grill or under a very hot broiler.
 
It will melt in your mouth like butter, and it is a wonderful way to grill most any meat. This can also be used to make the most amazing baby lamp chops.

Ingredients


1 lb. boneless Chicken Breast
1 tsp. crushed fresh Ginger
5 tsp crushed Garlic
1 Tbsp of fresh Coriander, chopped
Juice of one Lemon
1 tsp Salt
1 tsp. Cayenne Pepper
1 tsp. Turmeric
Freshly ground Black Pepper
1 tsp. Dhania Zeera(available at any Indian market)
1 tsp. Garam Masala(available at any Indian market)
2 Tbsp. Heavy Cream
2 Tbsp. Yogurt
 
Blend all ingredients together, except heavy cream and yogurt, and pour over chicken and coat well. Then add heavy cream and yogurt and mix thoroughly. Marinate overnight and grill until done.
 
Serve with chutney, basmati rice and naan bread (flat Indian bread, but warm pita will substitute).

Lemon and Clove Cookies

I found a version of these cookies in the Chez Panisse Cookbook by Alice Waters. I am always amazed by her ability to take the simplest ingredients and combine them to create something that is a perfect blend of each ingredient. 

 

While they are lovely just as they are, I did add a bit more lemon zest, and I dust them with a little powdered sugar when they are still warm from the oven


Ingredients

½ lb of Butter softened
2 Tbsp Lemon zest
1 tsp Vanilla extract
¼ tsp of ground Cloves
2 1/3 cups of AP Flour
¾ cups of White Sugar
1 Egg, beaten
Pinch of Salt
Powdered Sugar for dusting

Sift the dry ingredients together. Cream the butter until whipped and then add the rest of the wet ingredients and then incorporate the dry little by little.

Once it forms a dough, remove the dough from the mixer and split into two equal halves. Roll each half out into a 2 inch roll, wrap in plastic wrap and then put into the refrigerator for 2-12 hours.
 
Hint: If you find the dough to be tacky, just sprinkle a bit of powdered sugar on your counter and continue rolling it out.
 
When ready to cook, preheat the over to 350, and then cut into ½ inch thick cookies an bake for 10 minutes, or until the bottoms are golden brown. After removing from the oven, give them a light dusting of sifted powdered sugar.
 

Arroz con Pollo

This is one of those dishes that’s a perfect example of comfort food. It is almost a national dish and will instantly remind you of sunny Spain. There are so many variations on this dish, each reflecting the unique regional produce of Spain.
 
 
There are a few ingredients here that I feel are indispensable. One is the smoked sweet paprika and the other is the green olives. Both of these ingredients add something that can’t really be substituted.

Ingredients
 
8 Chicken thighs or one whole roaster cut up
1 link of Chorizo sausage, cut into 1 inch pieces
6 Tbsp of Extra Virgin Olive Oil
2 cloves of Garlic, sliced
One Large Onion, chopped
One Red Pepper, chopped
2 cups of medium grain Rice, a Spanish arroz or paella rice is perfect as well.
4 cups of Chicken stock, warmed
2 Bay leaves
1 pinch of Saffron
2 Tbsp of smoked sweet Paprika
2 dried whole Chilies, if desired.
Juice of one Lemon, ends cut off and reserved
¼ cup of Madeira
1 small jar of pimento stuffed Manzanilla green Olives
 
Place the olive oil in a cast iron casserole (Le Cruset is perfect) or some pot with a cover that can go from stovetop to oven. Over medium heat bring the oil up to temperature, and then brown the chicken. Remove from oil and set aside.
 
Now add sliced chorizo, garlic, chopped onion and chopped red pepper, and cook until onions are brown and soft. Add all spices and combine well.
 
Add juice of lemon, the ends of the lemon and the Madeira and allow alcohol to cook away. Then add the rice and coat thoroughly with oil. Add warmed stock and saffron, mix well and then add back the chicken and the olives and bring to a slight boil.
 
Cover and put into a preheated 350 degree oven for 40-50 minutes. Remove from oven, stir and then recover and allow to rest on stove top for 5 minutes. Serve with a salad and white wine. 
 
Wine: Albarino is a good match as is a Rose’ or a Vinho Verde.  Serves 4 – 6.

Braciole- Italian Meat Parcels

This is a wonderful Sunday meal and tastes just like your Nonna was cooking all day. These little meat parcels are a common dish in Italy, but often go by other names depending on the specific region. It can be made with pork or beef. As an added benefit, the house smells amazing.

 
Ingredients

Parcels

6 pieces of pork or beef pounded flat, like a scaloppini. About 2 lbs.
Aged Provolone Cheese
Romano Cheese
Parsley
Garlic, crushed
Prosciutto, sliced thin
Salt and Pepper
Olive Oil
Butchers Twine
 
Sauce
1 large Onion, finely chopped
½ cup Carrot, finely chopped
½ cup Celery, finely chopped
3 Tbsp Olive Oil
½ cup Marsala Wine
3 28 oz cans of crushed Tomatoes
Salt and Pepper
 
Begin by preparing your sauce. Take a large cast iron or heavy duty pan and heat the olive oil. Then add the onion, carrot, celery and salt and pepper and cook on medium heat for 10 minutes or until translucent. Then add Marsala wine and cook until alcohol is gone. Then add tomatoes and bring to a simmer and allow to cook for 1 -2 hours. More is better.
 
While the sauce is simmering, prepare your braciole. Lay the piece of meat flat and layer with the cheese, prosciutto, parsley and a little bit of crushed garlic. Add a bit of pepper, but no salt, as the prosciutto is salty enough.
 
Tie up with the butchers twine, by making a first circle around the parcel and tying a knot and then going around 3-4 more times until you are at the end, make another knot and then come back vertically to bring the ends together and tie it off.
 
Heat your olive oil in a sauté pan, and brown the parcels thoroughly until browned on all sides and gently transfer them to the simmering sauce for at least 45 minutes.
 
Remove them from the sauce, then cut off the twine, and allow to rest covered for 10 minutes while you prepare your pasta. Serve with pasta of your choice, sauce and extra Romano cheese.

Thai Masaman Curry

Thai curries use coconut milk as a base, and while some southern Indian curries also use coconut milk, Thai curries have unique curry paste blends. Thai curries come in different colors and each are unique as to their make up and as to which meats work well with each.

Normally the standard curries are red (chicken,beef or seafood), green (chicken with Thai eggplant), yellow,(chicken, beef or seafood) Penang (beef, chicken or seafood) and Masaman(beef or chicken). I have arranged them in order of spiciness from hottest to mildest.


However, they can be deceiving as all can still be quite spicy, but you can control the heat by cutting down the amount of curry paste or using a milder version.

Ingredients

1 lb of Beef or Chicken, cubed in 2 -3 inch pieces. Boneless short ribs or chicken thighs
2- 3 Tbsp Masaman Curry Paste. Maesri, in the can is a good quility brand.
2 14 oz cans of coconut milk
1 large potato peeled and cubed into 1 inch pieces
1 large onion, cubed into 1 inch pieces
1 medium red pepper, cubed into 1 inch pieces
5 Green Cardamom pods, or ½ tsp ground cardamom
1 Cinnamon stick, or ½ tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp Sugar
Juice of one Lime

Bring 1 ½ cans of coconut milk and curry paste to a simmer and then add beef or chicken and cook until tender. Beef will take a bit longer and should be cooked for at least 30 minutes prior to adding the other ingredients.

Once meat has cooked add the onions, red pepper and all other spices. Allow to cook for an additional 15 minutes and then taste for sweetness and sourness and add sugar and lime juice as needed. If the mixture becomes too thick, you can add your reserved  coconut milk.

After mixture is cooked through, approx 30 minutes, then serve over jasmine rice.


Coq au Vin (Chicken with Wine) – Pure French comfort food.

This is a staple in bistro menus all around France, and is a favorite winter dish of mine. There are so many complicated ways to make this, but I have discovered that complexity does little to add to the flavor – the key is slow cooking.


It’s the subtle blending of the flavors that makes this a classic. I find that this is best if you can take it from stove top to oven, so a cast iron pot like Le Cruset is perfect. If not, it can be done on the stove over very low heat.

Ingredients

4 pounds of skinless Chicken thighs, or 4 pounds of skinless Chicken breasts if you prefer, or any combination.
½ pound Bacon, with a soft smoke or unsmoked or salt pork
2 Tbsp. Butter
½ cup Flour, optional
2 tsp. Salt
1 large Onion, finely chopped
1 large Shallot, finely chopped
3 cloves of Garlic, sliced
5 sprigs of fresh Thyme, or 1 tsp of dried thyme
3 Bay Leaves
1 lb. of peeled baby Carrots
½ lb. Mushrooms or any fresh mushroom you desire. Keep them whole if possible.
¼ cup of Cognac
1 bottle of Burgundy or Pinot Noir

 Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Add the butter to the pan and render down the bacon over medium heat.

Remove the bacon with a slotted spoon and brown the chicken.  It is your choice to either flour the chicken lightly prior to browning or not.

Remove the chicken and set aside and add the garlic, shallots, onions and cook until golden brown. Normally, about 10 minutes will do. Then add carrots and lightly sauté.

Now add back the browned chicken and pour in the cognac and cook until the alcohol is gone, and then add the thyme, bay leaves, cooked bacon, mushrooms and wine. Bring to a boil and put into the oven covered for 2 hours.

When finished, remove the cover and stir well. Recover and allow to sit outside of the oven for 5 to 10 minutes and then serve with thick sliced Como, sourdough bread or a baguette.

Hint: If you don’t use skinless chicken, you will need to skim the fat off the top. If you prefer this method, then skim just before serving.