Posts Tagged ‘cooking’

Soul Food

Posted on May 2nd, 2012 by Tonia 1 Comment

Since the play has taken over my life for the past couple weeks, I haven’t been very good at fulfilling my usual role in the family as Cooker of Delicious Dinners. Mike is understandably upset about this, since he was the main benefactor in that arrangement.

Yesterday I had a day off from the play {which Mike has taken to calling “Dorklahoma”}, so I told him I would make whatever his hungry little heart desired. He pointed to this recipe in this cook book.

There’s nothing like soul food to give you the strength to perform the heck out of “Oklahoma” for the second week {and to give your husband the strength to tolerate it.} This meal is exactly what the doctor ordered.

And it was made even better because it was shared with great friends and paired with tangy home-brewed beer and lots of immature jokes, which the doctor also ordered.

And a nutty Maple Layer Cake to top it off {recipe note: I used cinnamon instead of ground ginger and was very happy with the change. I also used waaaay less frosting than Martha suggests, because the cake was already plenty sweet.}

I feel rejuvenated and ready to give the second week of performances my all! And Mike has about a week’s worth of leftover fried chicken to work away at in the ‘fridge, so he’s a happy camper. Oh, the wonders of a good meal. Yeow!

How to Make Pasta from Scratch Even if You’re Half Irish.

Posted on April 17th, 2012 by Tonia 2 Comments

It has been a while since I have shared a recipe on the blog, so it’s very convenient that last night I had a dream that I was a rosy, round, jolly old Nonna {much like my own Nonna}, standing behind a kitchen island with a huge smile on my face, kneading a ball of perfectly smooth, yellow pasta dough.

This is hopefully exactly what will be happening in about 50 years when I am in fact a jolly old Nonna. It was a cute dream, but I woke up needing to eat pasta immediately. Only, the stupid pantry was void of store-bought pasta. NOOOOOOOOooooooooooo!

Ok, it’s fine, I can do this, right? The ability to make amazing homemade pasta from scratch is one of the perks of having Italian blood. It’s part of my genetic code. It’s the trade-off for having to share the race with Snooki. We have to put up with her, but we’re really awesome at cooking so it’s fair.

But…..I’m also half Irish, and everyone knows that Irish people think that cabbage and potatoes boiled in a pot of water is a delicious, flavorful soup that can be eaten every day forever without ever getting sick of it. Also they love capers on everything.

What ARE capers? Beans? Peas? Bugs? Tiny round green things that taste so awful that they need to be pickled and salted the hell out of in order to be edible? Bingo. {Don’t be mad, fellow Irishman. We have lots of great qualities that make everyone who’s not Irish envy us. But our food isn’t one of them. Besides Irish Creme. Good job there.}

So I get a little nervous every time I cook, because you never know which side of my genetic inheritance is going to surface that day. There’s a 50/50 chance this pasta is going to taste like the Blarney Stone.

I decided it would be wise to follow instructions instead of resting solely on my magical Italian powers unreliable cooking skillz.

Here are the steps:

Measure out 3/4 cup flour + 1 egg for each person that’s going to eat. I like to use 1/2 semolina flour and 1/2 all-purpose flour.

Spoon the flour on your work surface, form a well in the middle, and crack the eggs into the well. Add a drop of olive oil.

Use a fork to break the yolks and gently pull in the flour until the eggs are mixed in.

Scrape your work surface clean or move your ball of dough to a new surface that is lightly sprinkled with flour. Start kneading the dough with your hands, adding water if it’s too dry, or more flour if it’s too sticky. Knead until soft and pliable {about 7-10 min.}

If the dough springs right back after you poke it, it’s ready. It should look smooth and pillowy. Pat the dough into a ball and place a bowl over it. Let the dough rest under the bowl for 30 min {a good time to prepare a sauce to go with the pasta!}

Roll out or shape your pasta however you want, either using a pasta-maker or by hand. I went the easy route and rolled my pasta into a half-inch thick snake, sliced it like a banana, and pressed my thumb into each slice to form little “ear” shapes.

Toss the pasta with flour as soon as you shape it. Otherwise, the pasta will start drying and stick together, and will cook in a big yucky clump. Bring a large pot of salted water to a rolling boil. Reduce heat and simmer pasta for 3 minutes. Test. Cook more if needed.

Drain and toss with whatever sauce you cooked up {fellow Irishmen: do NOT put capers on this pasta! Back away from the capers!}


Posted on January 23rd, 2012 by Tonia 5 Comments

My family visited this weekend to celebrate my 27th birthday, which is today.

They cooked the most amazing meal: antipasti on fresh bread, chicken risotto {the original recipe of Nonna Tonia- my dad’s grandmother and my namesake}, salad, a browned-butter-hazelnut-pear cake with an orange-cranberry filling, and espresso poured over vanilla ice cream with dark chocolate shavings on top. Holy-moly it was all so good!

Cake, candles, and singing…because we’re never too old for that.

Games, laughter, winners and losers…

Birthday kisses from my favorite little peanut…

And the next morning, a big breakfast made by my handsome husband…how does he get the pancakes so perfect like that?

Thanks for the great birthday, family! I am so blessed!!…And my belly is very full and happy. ♥

Late-August Garden Treats

Posted on August 29th, 2011 by Tonia 7 Comments

These are the sorts of things that have been coming out of our garden recently. They have inspired a bunch of great meals.

I’m afraid we’re getting really, really spoiled with all these fresh-from-the-ground tastes, and it’s about to be a long, hard winter without them.

I already made and froze a bunch of pesto from our basil, and we’re going to have enough tomatoes to preserve as well, but there’s nothing like just-picked basil garnishing raw tomatoes on a slice of grainy bread.

And the peas. Crunchy, sweet, delightful peas! I spent an hour the other day plucking them off the vine, cracking them open and alternating popping them in my mouth and tossing them to the chickens; one for me, one for you, one for me, one for…

Those red peppers might look like harmless sweet little bell peppers, but holycow no they are not. They’re spicy little Italian peppers!! They pack just the right amount of punch to liven up sauces, soups, stir fries, and more.

Blueberries- not from our own garden but from one nearby– that burst in your mouth with a flavor that can only be described as sunshine in berry form.

I will miss them like this: fresh, with maple syrup and Greek yogurt on our hot-cereal every morning. This is how we always start the day.

But at least we are prepared with bags of frozen ones already piled high in our freezer for the winter. Bleeeehck! Let’s not say the W-word again for a long while! It’s still summer, it’s still summer, it’s still summer.

Every night is a new culinary adventure- usually enjoyed on the porch with the stars overhead and the owls hooting through the trees. After a long day of work, food tastes so good.

Last night I had a craving for something savory and nutty to pair with our sweet tomatoes. I found a generic tarte crust recipe and substituted regular flour for almond flour, and added diced rosemary to it.

I blended up some quick pesto, sliced up the tomatoes, and loaded the tarte crust up with both. It got topped off with chunks of fresh mozzarella before going in the oven {I broiled it at the end to get the mozz bubbly and brown}. The extra pesto got frozen along with the rest of my stash.

Mmmmmm! It was perfect- exactly what I wanted. We gobbled it down before I could snap a photo of it, so you’ll just have to trust me that it was a handsome meal and very flavorful. Here’s what I did for the crust:

1 1/2 cups blanched almond flour
1/4 tsp salt
1 tbsp minced fresh rosemary
1/4 cup grapeseed oil
1 tbsp water

Preheat oven to 350F. Combine the almond flour, salt, and rosemary in a bowl. Whisk together the grapeseed oil and water in another bowl. Stir the wet ingredients into the almond flour mixture until thoroughly combined. Press the dough into a 9-inch tarte pan.

Bake for 15 min or until golden brown. Remove from the oven and let cool for about 30 minutes. Place in the fridge for about 45 minutes {this helps them come out of the tarte pans easier, without crumbling}. Remove tarte crust fridge, top with pesto, tomatoes or whatever your heart desires. Bake under the broiler until golden- watch the edges of the crust so it doesn’t get too brown. You can cover the edges with tinfoil if necessary. Serve warm with a salad of fresh greens.

What’s on your summer menu?