Farm Fresh Sweet and Sour Beans

The actual name of this dish from The Italian Mama’s Kitchen is Sweet and Sour Green Beans or in Italian Fagiolini all’Agro.

Early in the recipe for this it was mentioned to use French beans. That got me thinking, are these French-Italian beans and if so, who is the sweet and who is the sour? Cultural stereotyping tells me that both can be such, but just like a Japanese eggplant and Chinese eggplant are both eggplants, they are also not the same.

So, I did a quick investigation and what did I find? Agro in Italian means sour, but it also means countryside. Given that Agro was capitalized in the naming of this dish, it would appear to be going for the countryside term, but this is also a truly sweet and sour dish.

I’d like to think the Italians were being clever when they named this since the naming means both. If we were to do a direct translation to Californian we’d call this Farm Fresh Sweet and Sour Beans, but’s that’s long right? So Italians were like, it’s from the farm, it’s sweet and sour. Let’s just called it all’Argo so people get that it’s both!

Still doesn’t explain the whole French bean thing, but maybe that’s just a side note anyway.

What you’ll need

  • 1 teaspoon of salt
  • 10 1/2 ounces of fresh green beans, trimmed
  • 1/2 teaspoon of fresh lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon of white wine vinegar
  • pepper
  • Lemon wedges

The first step is to fill a saucepan with salted water and bring it to a boil. Once boiled add the beans and cook for about 5-8 minutes or until tender. Drain the water and set the beans aside.

We are now going to mix our sweet and sour dressing. Do so by mixing in a small bowl the lemon juice, olive oil, and vinegar with your to taste addons of salt and pepper. Once everything has been properly mixed pour it over your beans and toss.

The beans should have a nice glossy coat and you should be ready to serve and eat with lemon wedges on the side.

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Lemon wedges not included

This is another dish that turned out well! It’s amazing how a simple dressing can transform a vegetable into something delectable.

This is exactly what’s happening here. The olive oil gives the beans a smooth silky texture and the lemon juice and vinegar give it a slight kick that dances around your tastebuds.

If you need a simple side dish for dinner then I highly recommend you give these beans a try!

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Penne with Angry Sauce

According to Classic Pasta at Home red pepper flakes make pasta sauce angry.

Look Williams – Sonoma, I’m here to tell you the sauce isn’t angry, it’s just talking! And boy does this Penne with Spicy Tomato Sauce love to talk!

What you’ll need

  • 1/4 cup of olive oil
  • 4 cloves of garlic minced
  • 1/4-1/2 teaspoon of red pepper flakes aka angry flakes
  • 2 tablespoons of minced fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 1/2 pound of ripe Roma tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and chopped
  • salt
  • 1 lb of penne
  • 1/2 cup of grated pecorino cheese

Your first step is to heat some olive oil over medium heat in a nice large saute pan. Then add the garlic and red pepper flakes. The actual cookbook has a see note asterisk for this. This said note is basically letting you know that if you don’t use the full 1/2 teaspoon of flakes then you won’t be like a Roman.

My reaction to this note is represented below,

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I guess Ron and I are just “angry”

A 1/2 teaspoon is not that much sissies! I’d put at least a whole tablespoon.

Ok, I know. I’m being a spice snot. I will get over my spice elitism and advise you to adjust to whatever level you desire. Afterall, I did a ramen spice challenge this past weekend and none of my friends could handle it. One even asked me if I had magical powers.

If that is a power, well you can enlist me in The Mystery Men.

Seriously can someone do that for me?

Once you’ve determined your spice level, saute for about a minute and then add the parsley. Stir that for a few seconds and then add the tomatoes. Kick the burner heat up to medium-high to allow the tomatoes to simmer until they break down. Stir occasionally as you wait for this to happen. In about 15 minutes they should break down into more of a sauce consistency. Feel free to add water to thin out the sauce if necessary and salt to taste as well. Once you feel satisfied with the sauce texture, reduce the heat to low.

We are now ready to cook our pasta. Do so the usual way with boiled water and such. Follow your pasta box instructions for cooking time and when it’s time to drain the water, keep about a 1/4 of a cup for later use.

Combine the pasta and sauce together and toss to allow sauce to cover evenly. Then add the cheese and do the same, adding the reserved water as you toss.

Once the cheese and reserved water has been mixed evenly you are now ready to serve!

Do so by placing each serving in a pasta bowl and then topping with some cheese and parsley like below.

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Angry pasta with crostini

I was quite satisfied with the results of my angry pasta. It was simple, fresh, and “angry.”

Normally I love thinner and longer pastas like linguine, but the chunky tomatoes added to the texture of the penne making it juicy with just the right amount of chewiness. Also, there’s something about how the parsley and cheese fall into the grooves of the penne that make it bellisimo.

If you enjoy a little kick to your meals and want an easy, light pasta meal then this angry little pasta is your man!

Crostini, aka tiny garlic bread

My next recipe comes from Light and Healthy and the good news is that mini garlic toast doesn’t need much tweaking if you need to lay low when it comes to food consumption.

The only tip Light and Healthy has given us is to use olive oil spray so one can control the amount of oil and avoid infomercial level embarrassment like below

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We’ve all been there

Other than that this is your standard garlic bread recipe which consists of rubbing garlic on bread.

In case you don’t know how to do that, here’s what you’ll need.

  • 1 large baguette, cut into 1/2 inch slices
  • 1 large garlic clove, peeled
  • olive oil spray
  • salt and pepper

The first step is pre-heat the oven to 400 and place your rack in the middle.

Once the oven is heated, place the toast on a baking sheet and bake for 8-10 minutes. You’ll want to turn them over half way through this process as well.

When baking time is up, take them out of the oven and immediately rub the garlic on each toast. You only need to do one side as well.

After the garlic rub, spray each toast with oil, lightly season with salt and pepper, cross your fingers, throw salt over your left shoulder, and then you should have some mini garlic bread.

For those of you who are not aware of my sarcasm, you don’t have to do the last two steps.

My point with the jokes is that this is elementary cooking my friends and I have faith each and every one of you can make this.

It’s so easy that I don’t know how to elaborate more on this or how to even end this post. So, on that note, check out this cute cat plate with crostini and have a good day!

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Crostini makes kitties happy

 

 

 

Spareribs with Paprika Sauce

“Hey brother can you spear a rib?”

“Yes I can! Put that rib on a spit, light it up and call it a…  ribbesper/sparerib?”

I was so close to making a catchy song, but the name of the dish just isn’t working. Whether you go with the German origin of ribbesper or our modern sparerib terminology.

I’ll just have to visit this later and figure it out.

Stay tuned on that coming attraction and now enjoy the main attraction provided to you by I Love Spice.

What you’ll need.

  • Spanish olive oil (it’s ok to use regular fyi)
  • 2 lb 12 oz pork spareribs
  • 1/3 cup of dry Spanish Sherry
  • 5 tsp Spanish paprika
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1 tablespoon of dried oregano
  • 2/3 cup of water
  • salt

You may have noticed a Spanish theme in the ingredients. I say ignore that if you already have an equivalent of those ingredients. I do believe regional ingredients differ from the other, but I also know a dish can turn out well even if it’s not a 100% accurate recipe wise. Spoiler alert that I didn’t have all Spanish ingredients and this turned out well.

Our first step is to preheat the oven to 425 and grease a pan big enough for your ribs.

Not your personal ribs, but the ones you bought for this dish. Although, a pan big enough for your personal ribs would work in this case.

The next step is to either cut the ribs into individual ribs or be resourceful like me and buy them cut that way already. I recommended being resourceful unless you’re planning on becoming a professional chef. Even then, though, asking for help from a pro butcher doesn’t seem shameful to me.

After you’ve weighed those decisions down move on and place them in the oven to roast for 20 minutes.

While roasting you can make the sauce by combining sherry, paprika, garlic, oregano, water, and salt together.

When the 20 minutes are up on the ribs, reduce the temperature to good ole 350. As you do so, examine the ribs for fat residue. I’d be surprise if there was none, but you’ll want to pour out that fat residue because we are now ready to coat the ribs with our sauce.

Do make sure to coat each side, but reserve some sauce as well because basting is required in this cooking process.

Roast under 350 for 45 minutes and about halfway through is when you’ll need to baste. Again, don’t use up all your sauce because this will essentially become your bbq sauce as well.

Once the ribs are cooked, the final step is to boil your leftover sauce. Once boiled, reduce the heat to a simmer and allow that to cook until the sauce has been reduced to half. Once reduced pour over the ribs and enjoy!

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Realize I could have cleaned the plate up a bit, but ribs are messy and so is life. Deal with it.

This turned out nicely for me! Despite the sauce it came off as almost a dry rub in taste. Which was not a disappointment in the slightest. I am a huge sauce lover when it comes to all foods, but dry rubs are flavorful and give an earthy tasteful coat without taking away from the natural, chewy juiciness of the meat.

As I mentioned it turned out well despite the fact I didn’t use all Spanish ingredients, but I’d like to make this again with all things Spanish to see if it’s even better that way.

I’m sure it’ll be enjoyable as well and hope those of you reading this try this out!

 

 

Plum Preserves

I’m going to admit something slightly embarrassing to all of you.

I took the term preserve too literally and didn’t realize that this was actually a jelly or jam if you will. Preserves to me are vegetables and fruits that are preserved. I mean that’s what I call a “preserve.”

This is exactly what jam and jelly are as well, but I interpreted the term for a broader base.

After trying to eat this preserve as a side item, I realized that this was more of a jelly. That and a phone conversation with my boyfriend who is mostly from the south. Why mostly? He moved around a lot as a kid. I’d say he’s a southern boy with a dash of mid-west.

Below our conversation,

“What are you making this time?”

“It’s a plum preserve…it’s kinda like a sweet plum applesauce type of thing.”

Boyfriend pauses for a moment. “….I think that’s a jelly! Ooh I’m excited! I’m pretty sure a preserve is a jelly.”

Being the sweet southern man that he is I’m pretty sure he knew this all along but didn’t want to make me feel stupid. Those southerners like to preserve your pride when they like you. I appreciate it.

Wherever you hail from and whether you enjoy jellies, jams, or preserves then you should try out this plum preserve from Cooking Light. It’s surprisingly easy to make and delicious!

What you need

  • 6 cups of sliced ripe plums (about three pounds)
  • 2 1/4 cups of sugar
  • 1/2 cup of water
  • 2 tablespoons of fresh lemon juice
  • 1 4-inch cinnamon stick

The first thing you’re going to do is combine plums and sugar in a bowl. Once combined, cover and leave on your room temperature counter for 8 hours.

Then combine all the ingredients, including your plum mixture into a large pot and bring to a boil. Reduce your heat so that it only simmers and cover the pot for 15 minutes.

Once those 15 minutes are up, uncover and cook for an additional hour.

While this cooking process occurs be sure to stir and mash the mixture every few minutes or so. When the hour is up you should have a nice even consistency that resembles a jelly.

Pour this into a large bowl to cool and throw away your cinnamon stick.  Once it’s chilled out you can then enjoy your jelly!

This turned out really well and it tasted like apple pie to me. Granted these are plums, but the taste of cinnamon and the slight gooey and chewy plums reminded me of that coveted pie.

Once I realized this was a jelly, I served it with cream cheese on a cracker as you can see below.

I also brought some to work and a co-worker liked it so much she took some to her grandmother. I was told the grandmother approved. She apparently is a preserve connoisseur.

If you haven’t gotten the hint, then let me be east coast blunt and tell you that you need to try this as soon as you can! It’s delicious and so easy to make! You’d be a moron not to try!

Midwest translation, “I think you should try this. It’s good and easy to make.”

Southern translation. “Honey you gotta try this! My grandma used to make preserves for me as a child and I’m telling you this is just so easy to make. You won’t regret it.”

West coast translation, “You should really think about making your own jelly. When you’re in control of your own food intake you can cut out all the preservatives and chemicals that are being forced fed into our body by the food industry. It’s a real comfort to know my jelly is completely organic.”

Plum preserve in a bowl

Jelly and cream cheese

 

Little Cheese Puffs aka Gougère

Gougère is basically a Gruyère cheese biscuit reminiscent of the cheddar biscuits from Red Lobster.  Red Lobster better be careful because the French Farmhouse Cookbook gave me a fun little history tidbit that could possibly lead to a lawsuit.

You see it is believed that the French bought the copyright for these little cheese puffs from the Flemish back in the 14th century. According to the cookbook these two cultures were more interested in dealing with recipes for food than money.

No wonder the French were always having issues with the Brits. Can you imagine?

French King: Knock knock…

British King: Yes?

French King: Hey, so we’ve got this cheese puff recipe, would you like to make a trade for….I don’t know, bangers and mash?

British King: (looks at the recipe, looks at the King, looks back at the recipe) Do you think I’m a fool? Last time foreigners tried to invade us they offered us spaghetti! Get out of here!

French King: Oh! No, we just want to experience the delicacies of…(door is slammed in French king’s face) Well, that was rude! I guess we’ll just have to fight for our recipes!

A couple of weeks later, this happened.

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Thankfully in present time, sharing recipes hasn’t resulted in violence and we can safely spread the cheer of the French cheese puffs.

What you’ll need

  • 1 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg
  • 1 cup of water
  • 3/4 teaspoon of sea salt
  • 7 tablespoons of unsalted butter, chilled, cut into chunks
  • 4 large eggs
  • 3/4 cup of grated Gruyère cheese
  • 1/4 cup of minced chives

The first step is to pre-heat the oven to 400 and get your baking sheets out.

Then get some wax paper and sift the flour and nutmeg together on top of the paper.

You are now ready to mix water, salt, and butter in a pan. Heat the pan to medium high heat until the combo starts to boil. Allow that process to go on for 30 seconds and then remove. Add the flour and butter mixture into a bowl you can whisk the mixture in. Whisk away until the dough is no longer sticky. This will take some time and you’ll know when it’s ready when it doesn’t stick to the side as you whisk.

Make sure the dough isn’t warm from the heated butter and then add the eggs, one at a time. Whisk each egg add-in until everything is combined evenly and then add the cheese and finally the chives.

We are finally ready to bake!

Do so, by scooping around a tablespoon of the dough for each puff. Be sure to leave room for the puff to grow so it does not slide into the other. Once you’ve used up the dough, bake in the oven for about 35-40 minutes.

You’ll know they are ready when they are slightly browned and puffy. When this occurs take them out of the oven and the pan and allow them to cool on a wire rack.

Side note, I need to get a wire rack and if you don’t have one, the best option is to remove them from the pan and place on a cool surface. It’s still better to use a rack if you’ve got it though.

I was pleased with the final result. As I implied earlier these are like Red Lobster cheese biscuits only French style. You can’t go wrong with cheese biscuits so really there isn’t much to say.

The only thing I can say is that the Gruyère gives it a slight bitter taste in comparison to cheddar biscuits. The chives balance out the bitter taste and give it a pop of flavor that will add a twist in taste for all you chedder biscuits lovers out there.

So go ahead and give this a go. If not, the French might fart in your general direction.

Cheese Puffs from France

Polenta Alpina aka Polenta of the Alps

For those of you who have never heard of polenta, it’s a cornmeal based dish that is similar to grits.

As a child I used to call it Italian mashed potatoes even though no potatoes are involved. I hadn’t experienced grits yet so it seemed logical to associate them with mashed taters.

This logic is understandable if you knew the way my mother prepared it. She would serve alongside shredded chicken and marina sauce. The sauce was my Italian mashed potato gravy which funny enough is what some Italian-Americans would call their marinara.

This version is more of a Northern Italian style and doesn’t call for any type of gravy, in fact the author Mrs. Catherine Vincenti from my hometown’s Little Italy Festival Town Cookbook instructs us to get “a large bowl of leaf lettuce salad with oil and vinegar dressing, a glass of wine, fresh fruits and cookies, and finish with a strong cup of coffee.”

I like Mrs. Vincenti, so far she’s put the best little hint of flair at the end of her recipe.

What you’ll need

  • 2 cups of cornmeal
  • 6 cups of water
  • 2 teaspoons of salt
  • 2 1/2 cups of shredded brick cheese
  • 1/2 pound of butter

Cooking the cornmeal is similar to cooking rice and pasta in the sense that you want to put it in a pot of boiling salted water. Once you do that, stir the cornmeal constantly for about a half hour,

You’ll know it’s ready when the corn meal has thickened and is easily scrapped off the side of the pan.

Once this happens you are ready to bake your polenta. This process is similar to lasagna because you will be layering up your cheese and polenta. The first layer is the polenta, then the cheese. Continue to do this until you reach the top where the final layer will be polenta along with some pepper seasoning.

Before you place that polenta in the oven, we have one more topping to add and that topping is butter my friends.

Get your butter and a pan, melt it, and then pour it on top.

Now we are ready to bake and we will do so for a half hour at a temperature of 325-350.

At the end of the day, I prefer my mother’s version of polenta. My Italian people come more from the southern portion of Italy. That doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate the northerners style. My genes just gravitate towards red gravy and slightly spicy dishes.

This is still a good recipe and I had a lot of fun making it with my LA bestie who had never had polenta before. She loved this recipe and I was glad she did, but I still want her to try my mama’s.

The cheese strangely gives the polenta a slight bitter flavor which I’m not used to. My experience with polenta has more of a slightly grainy and sweet flavor that gets a pop of taste when you add the marina in the mix. I’ll still give it an Italian like, despite my preferences.

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Cheesy polenta from those northerners

 

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Italian like