Thursday, May 31, 2012

Neopolitan Macaroni and Cheese

Most of us never tire of a good, homemade Baked Macaroni and Cheese - our all American comfort food.  A lot of recipes you might have eaten would have some form of a roux, cooked flour and milk.  When I saw this recipe - this step was completely omitted.  The traditional cheddar is here, along with some great Italian Cheeses. 


3 cup grated fontina (or cheese of your choice)
5 cups grated cheddar
4 cups milk
1 tsp. dry mustard
1 piece day old Italian bread
2 Tbsp. unsalted butter
2 cups Parmigiano-Reggiano
1 pound Pipette Macaroni

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.  Bring a large pot of salted water to boil for pasta.  In a large pot, combine fontina and cheddar.  Pour milk over.  Let cheese sit in the milk for 30 minutes to an hour, until the cheese begins to break down and dissolve into the milk.

Grate bread on the coarse holes of a box grater to get about 1-1/2 cups coarse crumbs (you could also use Panko breadcrumbs).  In a small skillet over medium heat, melt butter.  Add breadcrumbs.  Stir and toss the crumbs until crisp and toasted.  Butter a large baking dish and coat the bottom with a thin layer of bread crumbs.  Stir 1 cup of the grated Parmigiano into remaining crumbs.

Whisk over medium heat the milk and cheese until cheese melts.  Stir in remaining 1 cup grated Parmigiano.  Meanwhile, add macaroni to boiling water.  Cook until very al dente (3 or 4 minutes shy of package cooking time) and drain.  Return pasta to pot.  Add cheese sauce and stir until all of the pasta is coated with the sauce.  Add pasta into prepared baking dish and sprinkle with the bread crumbs.  Bake until browned and bubbly about 20-30 minutes.

I like to add tomatoes to my mac and cheese.  You can add fresh or canned Italian tomatoes chopped.  My son likes it without tomatoes so I usually wind up putting them in half of the baking dish.

~Adapted from Lidia's Italy

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Grilled Chicken Salad with Garlic Confit

Confit your Garlic!

Oil poach garlic to make confit.  Tender, sweet cloves and infused oil.  Add the cloves to pan sauces, use the oil for drizzling or puree them both into a dressing.

20 cloves garlic, peeled
1 cup olive oil

Bring garlic and oil just to a simmer in a small saucepan over medium low heat.  Reduce heat to low; cook, stirring occasionally, until garlic is golden brown and soft, 20-25 minutes. Let cool completely.  Strain, reserving cloves and oil.

1 lb. skinless, boneless chicken breasts
Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper
2 Tbsp. Dijon or whole grain mustard
2 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
4 cups mixed greens
Roasted peppers from a jar, cut into strips

Heat your grill to high.  Of course, when I went to heat up the grill I was out of propane.  Plan B - George Foreman Grill.  You just can't get the same effect, but it will have to do.

Toss chicken and 2 Tbsp. garlic oil in a medium bowl.  Season with salt and pepper.  Grill until charred and just cooked through 4-5 minutes per side.  Let rest 5 minutes.

Puree 8 garlic cloves, 1/2 cup garlic oil, Dijon mustard and vinegar in a blender.  Season with salt and pepper.

Place remaining garlic cloves and remaining ingredients in a large bowl.  Slice chicken on a diagonal, add to bowl.  Spoon 2 Tbsp. dressing over; toss.  Serve with remaining dressing.
Chill remaining oil for another use.

I would like to have this on hand at all times.  Even though all the garlic was used in this recipe, it was not overpowering - just as sweet as roasted garlic.
This is for 4 servings.  That means 4 sweet garlic cloves per plate.  Yes, you will have garlic breath, but so will everyone else!

Be sure and check out Sue's Nutrition Buzz
for more information on the health benefits of garlic!

~Adapted from Bon Appetit - May 2012
Grilled Chicken Salad and Garlic Confit on Punk Domestics

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Tomato Salad with Tomato Granita #Sunday Supper

One of my simple pleasures in the summer is having a tomato sandwich  from the first picked tomato in my garden.  This presentation would be beautiful with some heirloom tomatoes.  I'm planting some in my garden this Memorial Day Weekend.  So until then, find some nice beefsteak tomatoes, some fresh basil and top them with this cool granita.


1 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
2 tsp. extra virgin olive oil
1/4 tsp. salt
8 ounces seeded, peeled tomato 


4 assorted heirloom tomatoes, cut 1/4" thick sliced
1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1/4 tsp. kosher salt
1 Tbsp. thinly sliced fresh basil

To prepare granita, place vinegar, oil, 1/4 tsp. salt, and seeded peeled tomato in a blender or food processor;  process until smooth.  Place tomato mixture in an 8-inch square baking dish; cover and freeze until firm, stirring twice during the first 2 hours. 

After about an hour, scrape with a fork and break up any big chunks.

 Scrape entire mixture with a fork until fluffy.

Arrange tomato slices on a platter.  Sprinkle tomatoes with pepper and salt.  Top with granita.  Sprinkle with basil. 
You could also top these with Feta or Ricotta Salata.

Enjoy the weekend! 

Sunday Supper Participants:
 Perfect Cocktails:
From the Grill:

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Filled Focaccia AKA Muffaletta

The original New Orleans Muffaletta is made with their signature olive salad and bread made especially for this unique sandwich.  The bread in this recipe comes from "Lidia Cooks from the Heart of Italy".  The bread is baked in a wood oven that is hard to replicate in the home kitchen.  Baking the breads in a cast-iron skillet gives nice results.  What I would give for a wood burning oven!!!

 If you don't want to make the focaccia, get some fresh, crispy rolls and warm them in the oven.

For the Focaccia:

1 package active dry yeast
3-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. kosher salt
1 Tbsp. olive oil

Dissolve the yeast in 1/4 cup warm water in a small bowl and let sit for several minutes, until it starts to bubble.  Put the flour and salt in a large bowl and mix to combine.  Combine the dissolved yeast with 1 cup of warm water and add to the flour along with the olive oil.  You can make this in the food processor, but I did it by hand and it came together very easily.  Turn the dough out on a lightly floured surface and knead for a minute into a smooth round.  Put it in a large, oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and let rise until doubled, about an hour.  

Put rack in the bottom third of the oven and heat it to 450 degrees F.  Deflate the risen dough and cut it in half.  Flatten each piece into a round about 9 inches in diameter and lay in a cast-iron skillet.  (If you only have one skillet, put one piece of dough back in the oiled bowl, covered while you bake the first piece.

Bake about 20 minutes until light brown on top.  Turn out to cool on a wire rack.

Olive Salad

1-1/2 cups pimento-stuffed olives, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup pitted kalamata olives (optional)
1 cup giardiniera (Italian pickled salad)
2 pepperoncinis, chopped
1 Tbsp. capers chopped
1 large celery stalk, finely chopped
3-4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp. oregano
1 Tbsp. fresh italian parsley chopped
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1/3 cup olive oil
Freshly ground pepper to taste.

The Muffaletta olive salad is the most important ingredient in this delicious sandwich.  It's a vinegar and garlic lover's dream (that's me).  You can add or omit whatever you like in this salad, just be sure to include the olives.  I had a few pickled banana peppers and some roasted red peppers in the fridge and added them as well.  Combine all ingredients and refrigerate overnight, if possible.

Split focaccia in half and add a generous layer of olive salad.
Top with your favorite deli meats (have them sliced super thin.
I did provolone, genoa salami, ham and mortadella.
Top with the remainder of the olive salad including any juice left.

This sandwich is better when it sits for a while for the bread to absorb all those delicious juices from the olive salad.

~Adapted fro Lidia cooks from the heart of Italy
   and The Traditional New Orleans Muffaletta

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Summer Three-Bean Salad

Sometimes you want to try something new, something different.  It's not the case with this salad.  I have been making this for years and this is one of our favorite summer salads.  Make sure to make it the day before.  The longer it marinates, the better it is!  Everyone always asks for this recipe, so here it is! 

1 can 14.5 ounce cut green beans
1 can 14.5 ounce wax beans (yellow beans)
 1 can 14.5 ounce kidney beans (or bean of your choice)
1/2 cup diced sweet onion
1/2 green pepper diced

Drain all beans and place in a large bowl with onion and pepper.


1/2 cup canola oil
2/3 cup red wine vinegar
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp. Worcestershire Sauce
1 tsp. salt
1 clove garlic, minced
Pepper to taste

Marinate 24 hours in refrigerator before serving.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Blueberry Cream Biscuits

This recipe is foolproof - there's no blending in butter, no rolling.  Using cream is like having butter and milk combined.  They are just as good for dinner if you make them without the berries and sugar.

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp. baking powder
2 Tbsp. sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. grated nutmeg
1 cup blueberries
1-1/2 cup heavy cream
1 recipe Blueberry Sauce, follows

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
In a large bowl stir together flour, baking powder, sugar, salt and nutmeg.  Toss blueberries into the flour mixture.  Stir cream into the flour mixture just until moistened.

Turn dough onto a floured surface.  Gently lift and fold dough four or five times.  Do not overwork the dough.

Place dough on a parchment lined baking sheet or spray with nonstick spary.  Form dough into an 8-inch square about 1-inch thick.  Using a pizza cutter or knife, cut 12 biscuits, leaving biscuits intact.
Bake in upper half of oven for 18 to 20 minutes or until golden brown.

Cut or pull apart and serve with blueberry sauce.

Blueberry Sauce

In a medium saucepan combine 1 cup blueberries, 1/3 cup sugar and 2 Tbsp water.  Bring to a simmer.  Cook and stir until blueberries pop and sauce has thickened.  Remove from heat and stir in 1 tsp. vanilla and another 1 cup of blueberries.
Serve warm or at room temperature.
This is also great on pancakes.

Enjoy for breakfast with softened butter.
~BHG - April Garden Issue

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Nonna Di Palo's 4-Cheese Meatballs

Lou Di Palo shared his grandmother's recipe for the meatballs that he sells at his family's store Di Palo's Fine Foods in New York City and some fond memories of Sunday Sauce.

"She'd start the meatballs early in the morning, and they'd simmer for a long, long time in the sauce, along with beef bones she'd roasted in the oven, and the house would fill with the most incredible aroma. She'd give me one meatball to try before the meal was ready, but that's it; after that, she'd shoo me away when I asked for more, maybe put some sauce on a plate to sop up with bread, which kept me happy."~Lou Di Palo.

I certainly can relate to that.  When I make a big pot of meatballs and sausage, I'm tasting and dunking bread the whole time it's cooking.  When it comes time to eat, I'm full!  This is quite different from my Sunday Gravy , but if it's grandma''s got to be good!  The addition of the ricotta cheese makes the meat balls very tender and juicy - the addition of provolone cheese makes these extra special!


1/4 cup olive oil
5 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 Tbsp. dried parsley
1 Tbsp. dried basil
1 28-oz. cans whole peeled tomatoes in juice, crushed
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/4 cup sugar*
10 oz. ground pork
5 oz. ground beef
5 oz. ground veal
1/3 cup shredded provolone
1/3 cup whole milk ricotta
1/4 cup grated Parmesan
1/4 cup grated Pecorino
3/4 cup breadcrumbs
3 eggs, lightly beaten
1 lb. pasta of your choice, cooked
2 Tbsp. chopped fresh parsley, for garnish

Heat 2 Tbsp. and 3 cloves garlic in a 6 qt. saucepan over medium heat;  cook until lightly browned.  Add dried parsley, basil, tomatoes, salt and pepper.  Bring to a simmer and add sugar.  While sauce is simmering, mix remaining garlic, meats, cheeses, breadcrumbs, eggs and salt and pepper in a bowl.  Form into meatballs....Nonna made them big!  2-1/2" inches!  Heat remaining oil in a 12" skillet over medium-high heat.  Working in batches, add meatballs and cook turning until browned. 

Transfer to sauce;  cook until cooked through, about 1-1/2 hours.

Cook your pasta and pass around a big platter of meatballs - family style!

**I would reduce the sugar slightly.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Beer Battered Onion Rings with Spicy Aioli

Be sure to make plenty of these - they will be gone in a flash!

  • 1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp. paprika
  • 1-1/2 tsp. sugar
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 3/4 tsp. black pepper
  • 2 eggs, separated
  • 12 ounces amber beer
 In a large bowl, mix together 1-1/2 cups flour, 1 tsp. paprika, sugar, salt and pepper.  In a small bowl, whisk together 2 egg yolks and beer (reserve whites).  Slowly whisk the dry ingredients into the beer mixture until there are no lumps.  Cover and refrigerate at least 30 minutes.

  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 Tbsp. Dijon Mustard
  • 1/3 tsp. paprika
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • Salt and Pepper to taste
  • 1 Tbsp. orange juice
  • 1 tsp. orange zest
  • 2 Tbsp. fresh cilantro
The Aioli in the original recipe was made raw egg yolks, the spices and the olive oil in a food processor.  I chose to substitute store bought mayo.  Combine all ingredients, cover and refrigerate until ready to use.

 In a deep fryer or heavy saucepot, heat vegetable or canola oil to 360 degrees F.  Beat the 2 remaining egg whites to soft peaks.  Gently fold the egg whites into the beer batter.  Cut 2 large yellow onions into 1/4" rings.  Dredge the rings first into all purpose flour (a zip lock bag will hold them all) and then into the batter.  Fit as many as you can into the batter to make frying quick and easy.  Drop into the hot oil and fry for about 3 minutes, or until golden brown.  Drain on paper towels and sprinkle with salt.

Serve with Spicy Aioli and some Ice Cold Beer!

Adapted from Hubert Keller
Sharing with Weekend Potluck

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Orange Mint Tea

This easy orange mint tea recipe actually contains no tea.  The mint is steeped, as tea leaves would be, to make a refreshing, cool drink.  It can be made with honey instead of sugar and is best served cold.  Take advantage of fresh spring mint!


3 cups water
6 sprigs well-rinsed fresh mint (each about 6 inches)
1/3 cup sugar or to taste OR 1/4 cup honey
2 cups fresh orange juice
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
Cold water
Ice cubes
Fresh mint for garnish
Slice of orange or lemon for garnish


In a medium saucepan, bring 3 cups water to a boil.  Add mint, cover, remove from heat and steep 15 minutes or longer.  Remove mint.  Add and stir until dissolved 1/3 cup sugar (or honey).  This concentrate may be cooled and frozen if you like.

Combine orange and lemon juices in a 2-quart pitcher.  Add mint concentrate and enough water and ice to fill the pitcher to the top.  Chill completely and serve with garnishes.
(a little vodka wouldn't hurt either)

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Black Bean Soup with Bananas

Yes, you read it right!  There are actually no bananas IN the soup, but are used as a sweet garnish.  The bananas reminded me of the sweetness of plaintains and how good this would be with the spicy soup.  Of all the versions of black bean soup Jacque Pepin has made through the years, this one ranks at the top of his list of favorites.  Now, it's one of mine! 

You will need:

1 pound dried black beans
3 quarts water
1/2 cup rice
4 ounces pancetta or lightly smoked bacon
2 medium onions, cut into 1-inch pieces
8 large garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
1 Tbsp. herbes de Provence (optional but Essential Pepin)
I used 1 tsp. oregano 
1 Packet Goya Sazon con Azafran
1 Tbsp. chili powder
1 14-1/2-ounce can diced tomatoes with green chilies (Ro-Tel or Del Monte)
Salt to taste
2 Tbsp. olive oil
2 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
1-1/2 tsp. Tabasco sauce
1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup coarsely chopped fresh cilantro

Remove and discard any damaged beans and wash well in cool water.  Drain the beans, place them in a bowl, cover with cold water and soak for 3 hours (or overnight).

Drain the beans, put them in a large pot with the 3 quarts of water, and add the rice.  Cut the pancetta or bacon into 1/4 inch cubes and add them to the pot.  Bring to a boil over high heat, uncovered, stirring occasionally.  Skim off and discard any foam that rises to the top.  Reduce heat to very low, cover and cook for 1 hour.

Add the onions, garlic, herbes (if using), chili powder, tomatoes and salt to the pot, stir well and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to low, cover and cook for 1-1/2 hours.

Remove 2 cups of the mixture and puree it in a food processor or blender and return it to the pot.  You want to thicken the mixture slightly while still maintaining some chunkiness.

Mix together the oil, vinegar and Tabasco in a small bowl and add to the soup.

Just before serving, prepare the garnishes.  Peel the bananas and cut them into 1/4-inch slices.  Toss them in a bowl with the lemon juice and pepper.

Top the soup with banana slices and sprinkle with cilantro.
This soup was delicious!  The banana give a little texture and just a hint of sweetness at the end.
Toast a tortilla over an open flame to toast slightly and serve with the soup.

Slightly adaped from Essential Pepin - Souper Soups for Supper
Sharing with Sunday Night Soup!

Friday, May 11, 2012

Broccoli Cheese Cornbread

Everyone loves broccoli and cheese.  With some corn muffin mix and a few spices, this makes a great side dish.  The cayenne pepper gives this sweet and savory cornbread a little "kick".

4 eggs
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted
1/4 tsp. each salt, pepper and cayenne pepper
1 8.5 oz. box of Jiffy Corn Muffin Mix
1 pkg. frozen chopped broccoli, thawed
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1/2 tsp. each garlic powder, oregano, basil and parsely

Combine all ingredients and mix well.  Bake in a lightly greased 8 x 8 baking dish at 350 degrees F. for 30 to 35 mins.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Dill-icious Refrigerator Pickles

I have been patiently waiting for some beautiful pickling cucumbers that I could easily turn into perfectly easy refrigerator pickles.  At a new Farmer's Market that just opened up, I saw these in their crisp, green, glory and snatched em up quick!

There are so many quick pickle recipes out there.  This one is super easy because you don't have to boil the brine.  The sugar and salt dissolve easily without boiling.

A little bit of chopping and a few minutes later I have the prettiest jars of homemade pickles.

I always save my pickle jars from store bought pickles since I usually make small batches at a time.  Plus they are the perfect size!  Canning jars leave alot of space at the top.  The lip of these jars holds the pickles in well.

To make the brine, mix together in a 1 quart measuring cup.

1-1/2 cups white vinegar
1-1/2 cups water
4 tsp. salt
2 Tbsp. sugar

Stir until dissolved and set aside

To each jar add:

2 whole cloves garlic, peeled and sliced in half
1/2 tsp. whole black peppercorns
1/2 tsp. mustard seeds
1/4 tsp. coriander seeds
Fresh Dill
10-12 Kirby Cucumbers

Pack in your cukes like sardines.  We like them halved, but I cut a few in spears to fit them in.  I fit about 6 in each jar.  Top with more fresh dill.
Pour the brine into each jar leaving a 1/4 inch headspace, make sure cukes are submerged.  Screw on lids and refrigerate.  Let them cure in the refrigerator for at least 4 days.

Enjoy!  Share if you want - you can find the cute pickle labels Here to decorate and give to friends.
Dill-icious Refrigerator Pickles on Punk Domestics

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Cucumbers in Sour Cream - Polish Mizeria

This is one of my favorite ways to eat cucumbers.  A simple recipe with a little legend.

  • 1 large cucumber, washed, trimmed and peeled
  • Salt
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1 tsp. sugar
  • 2 tsp. red wine vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp. chopped fresh dill
Run a fork down the length of the cucumber to form a pretty edge.   In a small bowl, mix remaining ingredients.  Add the dressing and toss with the cucumber slices. Season to taste with salt and black pepper. Chill and sprinkle with additional dill, if desired, before serving.

   Legend has it this dish was a favorite of Queen Bona Sforza, an Italian princess who married Polish King Sigismund I in the 16th century. Homesick for her native Italy where cucumbers were common, everytime she ate it, it made her cry. Hence the Polish word for "misery," derived from the Latin.

This certainly doesn't make me cry - I could eat the whole bowl!

Artisan Cast Iron Dutch Oven Bread

This recipe is a typical one with two rising periods.  Most of this time it's the yeast working and not you! 2 cups water 1...