Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Italian Feast On The Grill - Bistecca alla Fiorentina & More

Really special Porterhouse, Photo: NK
The porterhouse really is the king of steak, so when you get a good one, you better treat it right. 

Today, we're using this exceptional cut of meat as the centerpiece to an Italian-inspired Feast that can be made mostly on your good old outdoor grill. The best part? This menu is easy yet super impressive (you know how we love that…). 

Simply adjust the servings to your needs and you'll come out with a really fantastic and completely achievable prep-ahead meal that will wow. Two of three of today's recipes come from a wonderful cookbook that we use often, Mario Batali's Italian Grill. (Check out another great recipe from this book HERE).

Here's the Menu:

Corn As Italians Would Eat It (by Mario Batali) 

Bistecca alla Fiorentina (Florentine Style Steak, by Mario Batali)

Summer Plum Panzanella (our own creation) 

Summer Plum Panzanella, Photo: NK

Summer Plum Panzanella
Serves 4  

5 one-inch thick slices of Italian Bread cut into cubes
1 Tablespoon Olive Oil 
Kosher Salt
Black Pepper 
Teaspoon finely chopped fresh Rosemary leaves (optional)
Two ripe Plums, pitted and sliced in 1/3 inch wedges
1/3 Vidalia Onion, roughly chopped
1/2 head Butter Lettuce, chopped 
15 Small Yellow Tomatoes (grape or cherry sized) such as Sunburst or Zima, cut in half 

1 tablespoon Red Wine Vinegar
1 tablespoon Olive Oil 
Two shakes of Salt
Two shakes of Pepper 


1. Toss Bread Cubes with a Tablespoon Olive Oil. In a toaster oven or oven, toast the Bread until crisp and lightly golden. Remove from oven and sprinkle with Salt, Pepper, and optional Rosemary. Set aside.
2. To make the salad, combine Butter Lettuce with the Onions, sliced Plums, and Tomatoes. Toss gently. 
3. To serve, add the toasted Bread Crumbs right before serving. Dress the salad a teaspoon at a time, tossing gently, so as to avoid sogginess. You may not need all the dressing. Serve right away!  
Thyme, Sage, and Rosemary, Photo: NK 

Next up, let's see about our steak!

It's important to note that Florentine-style steak is usually made using a T-Bone. Because there are only minor differences between the T-bone and Porterhouse (a variation in the length of the tenderloin half of the cut) we'll still call our creation authentic. There's no question that this juicy cut of meat enhanced by fresh herbs and then charcoal grilled was nothing short of delicious. 

Bistecca alla Fiorentina - Recipe HERE

Classic Florentine Steak, Photo: NK 

and finally,

Corn as Italians Would Eat It - Recipe HERE

Corn As Italians Would Eat It, Photo: NK

Sunday, July 27, 2014

In Season: Apricots - DIY Apricot Butter

Fruit Butters are a great way to make use of overripe fruit. They're also a bit easier to make than jellies and jams. Today, we're using the stone fruit star of the season, the Apricot, as the base for a smooth and tangy fruit butter that is irresistible by itself on bread or crackers, or, better yet, alongside butter, cream cheese, ricotta, or even sinful mascarpone. (We admit to an Apricot obsession this summer - check out our recent Apricot Mint Sorbet).

Homemade Apricot Butter, Photo: NK
We love our recipe all the more because it employs ingredients you'll find handy in your pantry (except for the fresh Apricots of course), and in just an hour and fifteen minutes' time, only a bit of which is spent actively cooking, you'll emerge from your kitchen with two cups of Apricot Butter that tastes just as good or better than anything you can find in a gourmet store. Enjoy it yourself or cool the mixture and spoon into a mason jar for a charmingly homemade hostess gift. Apricot Butter can be stored in the fridge for up to a week for a taste of summer anytime the mood strikes. 

Apricot Butter
Adapted from Food & Wine Magazine
Gorgeous, ripe Apricots. Photo: NK
Yield: 2 Cups 

10 or 11 very ripe medium-sized Apricots, carefully pitted and halved
1 Cup Orange Juice
1/3 Cup Water
3/4 Cup Sugar
1/4 teaspoon Real Vanilla Extract
3 Tablespoons Lemon Juice
2 good pinches of Salt

1. Place all ingredients in a large saucepan and bring to a boil. Partially cover and over moderately-high heat, allow the mixture to to simmer. Stir occasionally and keep an eye on it for about 10 minutes. Apricots will become very soft.

2. Uncover the pot and and lower the flame tp just under medium. Continue to cook simmer, stirring every few minutes, until the mixture is very thick. About an hour. 

3. Scrape mixture into food processor or high powered blender (we used our Vitamix) and blend until quite smooth. Allow the mixture to cool fully before refrigerating in an airtight container. Apricot Butter will keep up to a week in the fridge. 

Friday, July 18, 2014

Weeknight Indulgence: Strawberry Pretzel Sundae With Mascarpone Gelato

Strawberries! Photo:NK
How do you get inspired by something you didn't even order? Easy. When the description itself is so mouthwatering that you can't stop thinking about it for weeks. Positively stuffed by a great meal a few weeks ago at The Topping Rose House, Tom Colicchio's new(ish) restaurant venture out in scenic Bridgehampton, we were compelled towards uncharacteristic modesty when it came to our dessert order. We opted for a very spartan scoop of interesting house made ice cream - cream cheese flavor to be exact. An odd choice to be sure but, I must say - delicious! The flavor was not too sweet, a bit tart actually, but overall, very refreshing. 

Still, as time went on, I just could not stop thinking about a dessert on the menu that we'd passed on: a sundae, but not just any sundae, one that incorporated  our tangy cream cheese ice cream with decadent fresh strawberry compote and salty crumbled pretzels. YES. 
A lovely meal was had at Topping Rose House, Photo: NK
With Strawberries in season and so delicious this year, I felt I had no choice but to embark on a mission to find this unique ice cream flavor elsewhere, or at least a worthy stand-in (in this case, Il Laboratorio del Gelato's sinful Mascarpone Gelato was just the thing). 

When to concoct this much anticipated sundae? Any time you could use a little pick me up. The Strawberry Compote is super fast and the final result will pretty much make you day. You can bet this is going to make the summer dinner party rotation. And it's kid friendly too. 

Let's go!!!!!

Fresh Strawberry & Pretzel Sundae with Mascarpone Gelato, Photo: NK

Fresh Strawberry & Pretzel Sundae with Mascarpone Gelato
Inspired by The Topping Rose House / Tom Colicchio 
Serves 2 

Strawberry Sauce Ingredients:
1/3 LB Ripe Stawberries, hulled and sliced uniformly. Slice once in half when done
1 heaping teaspoon Sugar (optional)
Pretzel Crisp make the perfect topping,  Photo:NK
1/2 teaspoon Good Quality Vanilla Extract
1 Tablespoon Water 

Sundae Ingredients:
Mascarpone Gelato or Cream Cheese flavored Ice Cream (you can substitute any other not-to-sweet, relatively neutral flavor  such as malt. Note: if you use vanilla gelato or Ice Cream,  you may want to omit the sugar from the Strawberry Sauce depending on how ripe your berries are) 

1 big handful of Salted Pretzel Crisps or Salted Pretzels of your choice, crushed into coarse pieces

Fox's U-Bet or other good quality Chocolate Syrup

Mint, for an optional garnish
Heavenly Gelato, Photo:NK


To make the Strawberry Sauce, place Strawberry slices in as small pan over medium heat. Add a heaping teaspoon of Sugar, the Vanilla extract, and a tablespoon of water. Allow to cook, stirring, a few minutes until liquids thicken and Strawberries break down a bit. Once sauce has reached the desired consistency (we like ours with good chunks of Strawberry and a nice amount of the sweet syrup), turn off the stove and allow it to cool completely. 

To serve: Scoop two generous balls of Ice Cream or Gelato into a sundae dish. Top with Strawberry Sauce and a handful if Pretzel Crumbs. Drizzle with a little bit of Chocolate Syrup. Garnish with a Mint Sprig. Enjoy!! 

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Ready In Minutes - Summery Seafood Feast For 2

Summer is not the time the slaving over a hot stove, but that's no reason to miss out on a delightfully doable (and a little fancy) dinner at home. When I think about fast and light stovetop meals, seafood often pops to mind as my main ingredient. Today we give you two easy and incredibly flavorful dishes fit for a laid back Sunday meal or completely adaptable to an effortless company dinner. A chilled appetizer of Poached Shrimp with Coconut Water and Lime is bursting with bold spicy flavor, and because it's served cold, it can easily be made ahead. Our entree of Lemony Calamari Pasta is elegant, economical, and also, ready in a flash. After prep, you'll need just under a half hour for BOTH today's dishes - each of which have wow factor and look beautiful. So pat yourself on the back, crack a nice bottle of well chilled white, and enjoy those sultry summer evenings while they last. 

Lemony Calamari Over Spaghetti Rigati, Photo: NK

Note: If you are making both dishes, we recommend you put together the Poached Shrimp with Coconut Water and Lime first as it should sit and chill for 30 minutes - the perfect amount of time to prep and cook the pasta. 

Spaghetti Rigati With Lemony Calamari
Serves 2

1/2 Pound Spaghetti Rigati 
4 Tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil, divided 
2 Large Cloves Garlic, minced
1/2 Pound Fresh Calamari, tubes and tentacles, cleaned, tubes sliced into 1/4-inch rings
(For an easy way to slice tubes, dry Calamari well and fold it over once the long way before slicing. You may want to brace your non cutting hand with some paper towel inside it to minimize slipping). 

3 heaping Tablespoons Parsley, finely chopped  
1/2 teaspoon Crushed Red Pepper
Zest of 1 Lemon
2 Tablespoons Lemon Juice
2 Tablespoons White Wine or Rose, optional but recommended 

1. Set a large pot of salted water to boil for the Pasta. Set all ingredients above out in in preparation to cook, measured out if possible. Once Pasta Water is boiling, Add the Spaghetti Rigati (or other long, thin pasta) and cook according to package instructions.

2. Meanwhile, prepare the Calamari. In a large, high-sided sauté pan, warm 2 Tablespoons Olive Oil over medium-low heat for a minute. Add the Garlic and stir until fragrant and just beginning to turn golden, being careful not to burn it. About 2 minutes.

3. Add the Calamari and turn up the flame to medium. Cook, 2 to 3 minutes, stirring occasionally, until opaque. Calamari cooks quickly and becomes rubbery very fast. Keep an eye on it. As long as it's opaque and the texture's to your liking, it's cooked. Remove cooked Calamari to a bowl and drain off the liquids. Season the Calamari with a good sprinkle of Salt and a few turns of Black Pepper. 

4. By this time your Pasta should be cooked. Drain the pasta and reserve a few Tablespoons of Pasta Water. 

5. Add the Lemon Juice, Lemon Zest, Wine and a Tablespoon of Pasta Water into the deep sauté pan. Turn the flame up to medium again and warm through for about a minute. Add the Pasta and toss well. Add Crusher Red Pepper, Parsley, and season with a bit more Salt and Pepper. Stir in the Calamari.

6. To serve, plate the Pasta and drizzle each plate with the extra Olive Oil. Enjoy! 

Zesty Chilled Poached Shrimp With Coconut Water and Lime, Photo: NK 

Poached Shrimp With Coconut Water & Lime
Lightly Adapted from Food & Wine, Edward Lee
Serves 2 - 3 

12 Medium Shrimp, shelled, cleaned, tails on or off depending on your preference
1/4 Cup Coconut Water
2 Tablespoons Red Wine Vinegar, White Wine Vinegar or Unseasoned Rice Vinegar
2 Tablespoons Fresh Lime Juice
2 Garlic Cloves, Minced
1 Tablespoon fresh Ginger, grated
1 Tablespoon Cilantro, chopped (optional)
1/2 Red Bell Pepper, seeded and cut into a small dice
1/2 Sweet White Onion or Red Onion, sliced
1/2 a small Jalapeño, seeded and thinly sliced
Kosher Salt
Pinch of Sugar
Black Pepper

1. In a medium saucepan of boiling water, poach the Shrimp unto cooked through - roughly 2-3 minutes. They will be opaque and springy but not at all tough. Drain shrimp and place in an ice bath or rinse through a colander with ice cold water. 

2. In a medium bowl, mix together the Coconut Water, Vinegar, Lime Juice, Cilantro, Garlic, Ginger and Sugar. Season the liquids with Salt and Pepper. Toss together with the Poached Shrimp and all the leftover ingredients. 

3. Cover the mixture and chill for 30 minutes before serving. Make ahead: you can prepare the Shrimp and the Marinade can be refrigerated separately overnight. 

Buon Appetito! 

Monday, July 7, 2014

In Season: Fava Beans - Gemelli With Fava & Frisee

Meatless Monday is here again and we are using it as an excuse to check out a seasonal specialty, the delicious Fava Bean. Also known as Broad Beans, Favas are a favorite in many corners of the world, but they are notably well loved by my ancestral people, the Italians. Since we often enjoy Meatless Monday with the help of vegetarian pasta preparations, it only seemed right that these herby, firm, green beans be served atop our favorite starch. We were very happy with the result - a garlicky, spicy and lemony mix of flavors that play off the more delicate Fava flavor. Gemelli Is a fun pasta shape with great texture, but any short, curly pasta will do. 
Gemelli With Fava Beans, Frisee, Chili & Lemon, Photo: NK

Some folks describe prepping Favas as a labor of love. They aren't entirely wrong either. Favas are easy to handle but they definitely they take a little time and doing. Never seen a Fava before? Well they look like this when you buy them: 
Fava Beans, before preparation, Photo: NK 

To prepare, pop the Fava Beans out of their pods (as pictured below) and blanch them in boiling water for 30 seconds. Drain Beans immediately
Shelled Favas with waxy skin still on, Photo: NK
under cold water. Taking each individual bean in your hand, carefully slit the waxy outer skin and pop the inside of it out, trying to keep the interior bright green bean whole. Discard the waxy layer. 

Alternately you can actually eat the waxy outer skin, as it doesn't taste badly at all, but when I have the time, I prefer to unsheath the bright green inside, time consuming though it may be! 

It's also worth it to note that this dish tastes fantastic at room temperature and would make a great, innovative pasta salad for your next summer get-together if you so choose. 

Let's get down to the business of building today's satisfying meatless meal. 

Gemelli With Fava Beans & Frisee
Serves 4 

1 Pound Fava Bean Pods, shelled and waxy skin optionally removed (read above)
1 Pound Gemelli or other short, textured pasta
1 medium-sized, moderately spicy Red Chili, (or hot pepper or your choice) minced. (*I like to leave the seeds in but you can omit if you are spice averse)
2 large Cloves of minced Garlic
Frisee, Photo: NK 

Zest of 1 Lemon
1 Tablespoon Lemon Juice
1 small head of Frisee Lettuce, chopped
15 Kalamata Olives, pitted and chopped 
2 Tablespoons Olive Oil, divided
1 Tablespoon Salted Butter
Black Pepper
Grated Pecorino Romano Cheese


1. Prep and chop all ingredients above. 

2. Meanwhile, set a pot of salted water to boil for the pasta. Prepare pasta according to package instructions. Once it is in the boiling water, begin step 3. 

3. In a large skillet over medium low flame, melt one Tablespoon of Butter with 1 Tablespoon Olive Oil. Add the Garlic and sauté 1 minute until fragrant. Add the Chili and sauté another minute. Add the chopped Frisee to the skillet and stir as it wilts a bit, just 2-3 minutes. Turn off the heat. 

4. Season the Frisee with a few turns of Black Pepper and about 3 generous pinches of Salt. Stir. Add the Lemon Zest and Lemon Juice to the Frisee and stir. 

5. By this time, your pasta should be close to done. When it is finish, drain it through a colander and add the Gemelli to the skillet with the Frisee. Sprinkle with chopped Olives and toss Pasta together gently with the vegetables, add add the remaining Tablespoon of Olive Oil. Taste for seasoning and add about 1/4 teaspoon of Salt if you feel it is needed.

6. To serve, plate pasta and sprinkle with Fava Beans and optional Pecorino Romano Cheese. Enjoy!