Holiday Break!

Hey everyone! I will be taking a few days off for the long holiday weekend! But new blogs will be back on Tuesday! I promise!

Enjoy the holiday weekend, stay safe and remember what this holiday is really about! In the meantime check out http://blog.cookingchanneltv.com/2010/05/26/cooking-channel-launch-day-lineup/

p.s. Here in Florida we’re celebrating Memorial Day and the start of Hurricane Season! Woo Hoo!!

Ice Cream White Russians

This drink is easily a contributor to the usual Freshman 15 gained at college. Then again I didn’t discover this drink till Senior year I believe. Some of you will (SUCO Grads!) remember this delicious and decadent concoction from Red’s Filling Station in downtown Oneonta, NY. No it was not a gas station people! It was a bar. What else was Oneonta known for! Anyway, I remember a warm spring day (yes we did have them on occasion), going down to Red’s one Friday afternoon with my BFF Rose. I think we may have been going for what was called “sours”. It’s basically happy hour. Not really sure why it was called “sours” but it was. Well when we arrived at Red’s they had a special drink called an Ice Cream White Russian. Sounded good. I liked ice cream and I liked White Russians. So how bad could it be? It was like a White Russian milkshake really. They served them in large beer mugs with a straw! Boy did they go down smooth! Refreshing, delightful, delicious…But on the other hand LOADED with calories. But we were 20 somethings and we didn’t care about the calories back then. I did the math for this delight (I was curious) and this drink packs a whopping 444 calories, 16 grams of fat, 43 grams of carbs! But it has 1 gram of fiber and 5 grams of protein! Ok so the bad outweighs the good. But if you use low-calorie ice cream you can trim some of the bad away! But once you have one of these it won’t matter! It’s probably been 25 years since I had one but I still remember it like it was yesterday! Oh yeah and if you want, top with whipped cream! Why not!!

Red's Filling Station, Oneonta, NY (1983)

INGREDIENTS:

1 pint vanilla ice cream (of choice), softened

2 oz. vodka

2 oz. Kahlua


DIRECTIONS:

1. Place all ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth but thick.

2. Pour into chilled beer mugs or tall chilled glasses.

Makes 2 drinks

You can make this stretch to 4 drinks if you serve in smaller glasses.

Gelato Affogato (“Drowned” Ice Cream)

An affogato (“drowned”) is a coffee-based beverage or dessert. It usually takes the form of a scoop of vanilla gelato or ice cream topped with hot espresso coffee. This recipe will use coffee flavored ice cream and rum as well. If you don’t like coffee ice cream you can use vanilla or chocolate or any other flavor you like. If you are watching calories you can even use low-fat ice cream. Either way this is a unique Italian dessert. Coffee and dessert all in one! Saves time! If you want you can even add whipped cream to top it off! So much for low cal! This version of the recipe also has dark rum for an extra special treat.

INGREDIENTS:

About 2 pints coffee (or other flavor) premium ice cream

1 cup hot espresso

3 tablespoons dark rum

DIRECTIONS:

1. Scoop the ice cream into six small coffee cups or goblets.

2. Stir together the hot coffee and rum. Slowly pour the coffee over the ice cream.

Serve immediately

Serves 6

Italian Sausage & Peppers

This is a dish that I actually don’t really eat. I love the sausage part but if you remember I don’t like peppers. I know, what kind of Italian am I if I don’t like peppers. I’m trying to like them but it’s not working. Anyway, this is a very popular dish at our family gatherings. My brother-in-law Carl makes an incredible version of this. Nice and spicy, just how my Dad likes as well as my husband. Carl and my husband say it can never be too hot! They both have asbestos mouths so we can’t let them judge how hot things are! The hotness in this recipe will be decided on the type of sausage used. Hot sausage or sweet sausage, that is the question. I prefer sweet but those of you who love to sweat when you eat go for the hot!

Italian Sausage & Peppers

INGREDIENTS:

1½ pounds Italian sausage (sweet or hot, or both!)

2 tablespoons olive oil

4 garlic cloves, minced

3 large onions, slivered

3 sweet red peppers, seeded and cut into strips

3 sweet green peppers, seeded and cut into strips

½ teaspoon oregano

DIRECTIONS:

1. Pierce each sausage in several places with a fork and place in a heavy frying pan with 1 tablespoon olive oil, over medium-low heat. Turn sausage occasionally and cook until well browned on all sides.

2. While the sausages are cooking, add 1 tablespoon olive oil and sauté the garlic and onion. Mix in the peppers and oregano. Don’t cover the pan or the peppers and onions will get steamed.

3. Cook until the onions are lightly brown and the peppers are tender. Cut the cooked sausage into bite size pieces and add to the onion and pepper mixture. Mix well. Place on a warm platter to serve.

Serves 4-6

This dish is great with a nice loaf  of crusty Italian bread and a glass of Chianti!

Eggplant Balls

Eggplant isn’t just for Eggplant Parmigiana or Ratatouille. This is a great vegetarian “meatball”. They can be fried, baked or just put into the sauce and cooked that way. They can be used in an antipasto also! Eggplant is very versatile and this is a new twist on preparing it! Even kids will love these! Serve it with spaghetti or pasta that you like. It goes great in a fresh marinara sauce to don’t be afraid, try it, you’ll like it!

Eggplant Balls

INGREDIENTS:

3 tablespoons olive oil

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 large eggplant, peeled and diced

1 tablespoon water

1 cup of Italian seasoned bread crumbs

½ cup fresh parsley, chopped

2 eggs, beaten

½ cup grated cheese of choice

olive oil

marinara sauce, if desired

grated mozzarella cheese, if desired

DIRECTIONS:

1. In a large saucepan, heat oil and gently sauté garlic until golden brown. Add the diced eggplant, the tablespoon of water and cover. Reduce heat and gently steam until eggplant is very soft.

2. In a mixing bowl, combine eggplant, bread crumbs, parsley, eggs, and cheese. Mix well and let stand 20 minutes. Form into balls and fry on all sides in olive oil.

OPTION:

Place eggplant balls on a greased pan and bake in the oven for 30 minutes at 325°. They can then be covered in marinara sauce and sprinkled with grated mozzarella cheese.

OR you can drop them in spaghetti sauce and serve in place of meatballs!

Serves 4-6

Tuscan-Style Cannellini Beans

This dish is a very popular dish in most restaurants in Tuscany or any Italian restaurant here in the United States. It’s simple and delicious. It’s got lots of fiber too which we all need these days. This version is also much lower in calories than the version in restaurants. I made it the other day and it was really good.

INGREDIENTS:

4 teaspoons olive oil

4 cloves garlic, finely chopped

2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh sage or ½ teaspoon dried

1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh rosemary or ½ teaspoon dried

1 cup canned diced tomatoes (I used the Fire Roasted ones)

1 (16 ounce) can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained

¼ teaspoon salt

black pepper to taste

1 tablespoon finely chopped Italian parsley

1 teaspoon red-wine vinegar

Parmesan or pecorino cheese for topping, if desired


DIRECTIONS:

1. In a medium saucepan heath the oil over medium-low heat. Saute the garlic, sage and rosemary until the garlic turns pale gold, about 5 minutes.

2. Add the tomatoes; raise the heat to medium. Cook, stirring occasionally 5 minutes longer.

3. Add the bean, salt and pepper. Reduce the heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, for about 5 minutes. Stir in the parsley and vinegar. Top with parmesan cheese if desired.

The Italian Kitchen (Part 1)

Italian cooking is one of the most popular types of cooking around. I don’t know anyone who doesn’t like some kind of Italian food. I love pasta in any shape or form. Ravioli has to be my favorite though. From the sauces to cheeses to herbs to wines to olive oil it seems  almost too much to comprehend at times. Everyone knows the basics like spaghetti and meatballs, lasagna, baked ziti, ravioli, chicken parmigiana, veal parmigiana, eggplant parmigiana. And the desserts! My favorite of all time is tiramisu. It’s very hard to find authentic tiramisu. Most restaurants try but don’t come close. The best tiramisu I’ve ever had was actually in Montreal, Canada of all places. Go figure. And of course everyone loves cannolis! I’m getting hungry just thinking about them!

Ok, to start our little journey today I am going to start with a glossary of Italian cheeses. I love cheese. Growing up we always had ‘stinky’ cheese or really sharp provolone. Really sharp provolone is hard to find these days. Another staple in our house growing up was Locatelli Romano cheese. No green can that you keep in the cabinet in my house! On to the cheese! Remember this is just a basic list. There are actually hundreds of different Italian cheeses! But for us Americans this is a good start!

COOKING CHEESES

You can find low-fat versions of these cheeses at your local supermarket or Italian specialty store as well.

Ricotta: Ricotta cheese is usually made from cow’s milk, though it can also be made from sheep’s milk, which has more flavor. The one made from sheep’s milk is not readily available in the United States so you’ll probably always be buying the cow’s milk version. Ricotta is usually a bit grainy in texture with a mild sweet flavor. Depending on whether the milk used in making the cheese was whole or skim, the fat content of ½ cup (4 ounces) ranges from 0-15 grams. FYI: When fresh Ricotta goes through its natural aging process, a hard, pungent cheese, suitable for eating or grating results. This is called Ricotta Salata and is almost white in color.

Whole milk Ricotta (1 oz.): 50 calories/4 grams fat

Part-skim Ricotta (1 oz.): 40 calories/2 grams fat

Fat-Free Ricotta (1 oz.): 20 calories/0 grams fat

Mozzarella: Mozzarella is best known as a pizza topper. It is made from either cow’s milk or in Italy, from water buffalo’s milk. It is milk in flavor and can be found in low-fat varieties as well! Fresh mozzarella is a real treat. It’s made from whole milk and has a softer texture and sweeter, more delicate flavor than regular, factory made mozzarella. It has 4-7 grams of fat per ounce, depending on the fat content of the milk used to make it.

Whole Milk Mozzarella (1 oz.): 80 calories/6 grams fat

Part-skim Mozzarella (1 oz.): 72 calories/5 grams fat

GRATING CHEESES

No Italian meal is complete without freshly grated cheese. Or in my house it’s any meal, not just Italian meals. We like it to snow on our food!

Pecorino: This is made from sheep’s milk and the flavor of pecorino will depend on the area where it was made in Italy. It ranges from a firm, sharp, salty cheese to a milder, semi-firm variety. It has about 110 calories and 7-8 grams of fat per ounce. Locatelli is a pecorino romano cheese and the choice at my house. Has been since forever!

Pecorino Romano: Pecorino Romano is made from sheep’s milk. It is straw-white in color and has a sharper flavor than the other cheeses listed here. Although it is sometimes called “Locatelli” Locatelli is a brand name of Pecorino Romano. Pecora in Italian means sheep and Pecorino Romano is one of Italy’s oldest cheeses. Legend has it that a shepherd filled his flask with sheep’s milk before a long trip and the motion during the trip caused the milk to naturally ferment. The idea for a new cheese was born. Today most Pecorino is made in Sardina Italy. With its fine flavor Pecorino’s popularity as a grating cheese has grown significantly in the U.S. Since sheep only give milk for 6-7 months a year all production must satisfy the public’s demand for the entire year.

Parmesan Cheese: Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese is the Ritz of parmesan cheeses! It is an aged hard cheese made from cow’s milk and is strictly regulated in Italy. This is to control the quality. In the U.S., this cheese is often limited, but the results are different from the Italian cheese. Older, aged varieties from Italy have a stronger flavor and are drier. Stick to freshly grated aged varieties for the most flavor. You’ll be able to use less due to the more intense flavor. It has about 110 calories and 7 grams of fat per ounce. Parmigiano-Reggiano is also very expensive. I have found excellent varieties at a few places, such as BJ’s. The price is still high but a little less painful. Same goes for the Pecorino cheese. In Italy it is so valuable that trucks carrying a load of Parmigiano have been hijacked at gunpoint!

TABLE CHEESES

Asiago Cheese: Asiago is made from cow’s milk. It’s a semi-hard to hard cheese. (My cat Gus loves it! Really!) It is full of many time holes and has a rich flavor and creamy texture when it hasn’t been aged for very long. As it ages, the cheese becomes firmer and can be grated easily. It can also be eaten by itself. It’s similar in fat content to Parmesan cheese. Asiago is from the Veneto region.

Fontina: This is a delicious delicate, sweet, semi-soft cheese with a nutty flavor. It’s also made from cow’s milk and melts easily and smoothly. The more aged the cheese, the richer the flavor. One ounce has about 110 calories and 9 grams of fat.

Gorgonzola: Gorgonzola is a blue-veined cheese made from cow’s milk and has a creamy texture with a slightly pungent, rich flavor. When aged for more than six months, the flavor can become very strong. It’s a great match with fruit, such as apples or pears. It also can be melted into sauces or crumbled over salads. For a milder variety, look for torta di Gorgonzola. This layers Gorgonzola with sweet marscapone. Gorgonzola has about 100 calories and 8 grams of fat per ounce.

Marscapone: Marscapone is super-rich and  tastes like a cross between cream cheese and whipped butter. It’s usually used in desserts but it’s also great as a spread for delicate crackers or fresh fruit, such as strawberries and pear slices. It’s a soft cheese made from cow’s milk and has about 124 calories and 13 grams of fat per ounce. Not exactly a cheese for diets!

Provolone: Provolone is another cow’s milk cheese. It is delicate and creamy when aged for up to two months. When it’s aged longer it begins to take on a spicy, sharp flavor. Most people use provolone as a table cheese with crackers, pepperoni, apples etc. but it’s also an excellent cooking cheese. Aged provolone can be used for grating. One ounce has about 100 calories and 8 grams of fat.