When the weather cooperates with the farmers, the bounty is just beautiful! This summer the sun shone through even when it rained! Our spring was cool and rainy, and the summer has proven to be warm, yet not hot. All in all, the mountains and foothills have flourished with lush greenery, abundant flowers and gorgeous, just gorgeous produce. It’s really, really hard to pass up the varieties of tomatoes, squash, lettuces and peppers.
I came home with a basket full…… (ok, two baskets and a bag) of tomatoes, peppers, chard, more peppers (shishito), basil and at least three varieties of baby squash. And the sunflowers… well I filled every vase in my house with these babies, the flowers of which were bigger than my hand!
Look at this haul:
I decided to make soup. The day was one of the few drizzle days signaling what I hope will be a long and languid Indian summer. I pulled out THE SILVER PALATE, one of my favorite cookbooks. There’s a recipe in there for a big batch of minestrone soup.
I used that recipe as I guideline, whilst merging my own farmer’s market ingredients, to create a soup that is just full of veggies, accented with spicy sausage and filling pasta. This recipe makes enough soup for you to share with friends or save for a busy weekday meal.
Maybe you can’t find a market near you, but don’t use that as an excuse not to make this soup. Grocery store produce will do just fine. And you needn’t worry about following an exact recipe… I sure don’t! Enjoy your soup!
Farmer’s Market Minestrone
serves a crowd
45 minute cuisine plus simmering
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 to 5 links Italian sausage, sliced into ½-inch circles
1 large onion, peeled and diced
2 to 3 large carrots, peeled and diced, about 2 cups
1 medium zucchini, diced, about 1 cup
2 medium yellow squash, diced, about 1 cup
2 poblano peppers, seeded and deveined, diced, about 1 cup
6 large garlic cloves, peeled and diced
1 (28-ounce) can diced tomatoes
4 cups beef stock
2 tablespoons dried oregano
2 teaspoons kosher salt
2 teaspoons coarse black pepper
Outer rind of 2-inch piece of Parmesan cheese
1 bunch of kale, stems chopped, leaves rolled and chopped
Parmesan cheese grated
Chopped fresh basil leaves
12 ounces small elbow macaroni
Heat olive oil in a deep soup pot over medium heat. Add the sausage and brown on all sides, about 5 minutes. Remove the sausage from the pan. Add the onion, carrots, zucchini and squash to the pot. Cook until the veggies are soft and beginning to brown, about 10 to 15 minutes. Add the peppers and garlic. Cook for 5 minutes more.
Pour in the tomatoes and beef stock. Season with oregano, salt and pepper. Bring the soup to a simmer. Add the sausage back to the pot. Tuck the cheese rind into the soup. Stir the kale into the soup. Add water to the pot to make sure all the ingredients are covered in liquid.
Continue to simmer the soup until the kale wilts and the cheese melts, at least 45 minutes and up to several hours on the stove over low heat. You can add additional water as needed. Continue to taste the soup and season with salt and pepper as needed. Add the macaroni and continue to simmer while the pasta cooks in the soup. When the pasta is plump and soft, the soup is ready!
Serve the soup with a garnish of grated Parmesan cheese and a drizzle of fresh basil on top.
I’m not sure if this is an authentic Italian recipe or a Northeast American Italian recipe. I do know this, though: there are as many traditional family variations of this pasta sauce as there are Italian Nonnas. What is common is the freshness of the ingredients. Freshly diced onion, minced garlic cloves and fresh basil leaves are used in place of dried herbs and spices. I use Italian canned tomatoes, but if you’re being totally authentic, you can peel and hand-mash sweet plum tomatoes into the sauce.
Where the difference lies is in the meat. If you add meat to the sauce, it’s called gravy. And get a load of this gravy — it’s not finalized yet, but the aroma filling your kitchen is going to make you wish it were!
I like mine with beefy short rib, Italian sausage and of course, meatballs like these!
Others prefer to slow cook braciola in the sauce. Both Sunday sauce and Sunday gravy benefit from slowly simmering all-day long. This can be accomplished in a large pot on the stovetop, in a slow cooker or my preference, in a Dutch oven, cooked in my oven, set on low heat. Regardless of which you use, the pot does matter. You need a heavy pot to handle the day-long cooking.
Browning the meat is essential to get those yummy flavors into the pot, as well as searing the tenderness into the beef and sausage. In contrast, when you add the onions and garlic to the pot, you want softness, not too much color. Make sure to turn down the heat so you don’t burn the veggies. Deglazing the pot with a bit (or a lot) of wine, gathers all those tasty brown bits for the start of the sauce.
Whichever sauce you choose, make a big batch. Leftover gravy not only freezes well, but you can use the sausage and meatballs in hoagies; the short rib meat is an excellent filling for ravioli. Making Sunday Gravy on Sunday is freeing! The recipe allows you to prepare it in the morning and walk away for hours. When it’s time to call the family to the table (and they will be pestering you all day from the aroma wafting around the house), drop the pasta into boiling, salted water and take the top off that simmering pot. The rich sauce is done and ready to ladle. If you’re more of a visual learner check out my #AtHomeIntheKitchen segment below…
And here’s the recipe for nonnas, nanas or just about anyone who loves a good pasta!! A disclaimer, though: a starving grandchild ate every last meatball from my plate before I took this shot…
Serves 6 or more
All Day Cuisine
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 meaty beef short ribs
3 teaspoons kosher salt
2 teaspoons coarse black pepper
4 links Italian sausage
2 large white onions, peeled and diced, about 2 cups
6 garlic cloves, peeled and minced, about 2 tablespoons
2 cups red wine
2 (28-ounce cans) crushed tomatoes
1 (6-ounce) can tomato paste
1 quart homemade beef stock, or prepared low sodium broth
2 teaspoons granulated sugar
12 (2-inch) meatballs (see Cook’s Tip for recipe)
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
1 pound dried fettucine pasta
Heat the olive oil in a Dutch oven (or large pot) over medium high heat. Season the short ribs with salt and pepper. Brown the short ribs on all sides until they are well browned. This should take you about 10 minutes. Transfer the short ribs to a platter.
Cut the sausage links in half creating two smaller links. Cook the sausage in the oil until well browned, about 3 to 4 minutes. Transfer the sausage to the same platter as the short ribs.
Reduce the heat to medium, add the onions to the oil, and cook until softened and beginning to turn golden, about 3 to 5 minutes. Stir in the garlic. Pour in the wine. Simmer until the wine almost completely disappears. Pour in the crushed tomatoes. Stir in the tomato paste. Pour in three cups of the beef stock. Stir in the sugar and season with salt and pepper. Add the short ribs and sausage back to the sauce. Cover and simmer on very low heat until the rib meat is falling off the bone, 4 hours or more on the stove top, 8 hours on low in a slow cooker, or 6 hours in a 250°oven.
Preheat the oven to 400°. Coat a rimmed baking sheet with 1 tablespoon olive oil. Place the meatballs onto the baking sheet and gently roll them in the oil. Bake until the meatballs are cooked through and the outside are golden brown, about 15 minutes. Gently place the meatballs into the sauce. Add the fresh basil. Simmer for at least another 30 minutes. If your sauce is too thick, you can add more beef stock. If your sauce is too thin, you can stir in more tomato paste. Taste and add more salt if you like.
Cook pasta in salted boiling water according to the directions on the package. Drain the pasta and pour into a large bowl. Ladle some of the Sunday Gravy over the pasta and toss to coat the noodles. Ladle more sauce over the pasta and include the short rib meat, sausage and meatballs. Sprinkle with additional fresh basil. Serve family style with grated Parmesan cheese on the side.
You can purchase prepared meatballs in the butcher department of the grocery store. But, if you would like to make your own, it’s easy to do. Soak 2 to 3 slices of bread with about ¼ cup milk for 10 minutes. Place ¾ pound of lean ground beef with ¾ pound ground pork in a small bowl. Season with ½ teaspoon dried oregano, 1 teaspoon chopped fresh parsley, 1 tablespoon of grated Parmesan cheese, salt and pepper. Add the bread and any excess milk to the meat. Use your hands to gently combine all the ingredients and form into 2-inch balls. The gentler your hands, the fluffier the meatball.
It’s HOLIDAY PARTY time! Invite your besties over for an intimate holiday dinner party. My recipe for Veal Chop Milanese with Baby Broccoli yields four nice, big portions and is ideal when gathering your nearest and dearest to toast the holiday season! The recipe is an Italian classic, and pairs well with red wine. Think Cabernet Sauvignon and subtlety sweet Merlot, and plan on sparing a bottle per every two guests.
An intimate Christmas dinner by a roaring fire, or under the glow of a candelabra should hit all the right sweet, subtle notes, and that’s why this DISH OF THE DAY features baby broccoli as its side.
In case you’re wondering what Baby broccoli looks like, it’s in season now through early spring; it’s different than standard broccoli in that it has a mild, peppery and subtlety sweet taste. The entire plant is edible. Remember that baby broccoli, sautéed with a bit of garlic and lemon, is always an elegant and welcome side dish. SUNDAY BEST runneth over with festive dishes like these.
If you want 2018 to be elegant and gourmet year, order SUNDAY BEST DISHES for the foodie on your Christmas list! Nothing will delight me more than getting a hand cramp, personalizing copies, so shoot me an email with your address. I’ve always believed truly great recipes make the season warm and bright, and that’s why I’m sharing them with you on this Christmas Countdown! Only 16 days left. Tick tock!
Veal Chops Milanese
with Baby Broccoli
MAKES 4 LARGE SERVINGS
4 veal rib chops, about ¾ pounds each, about 3-inches thick
1 teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon coarse black pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoon butter, room temperature
1 cup prepared Italian bread crumbs
2 or more large lemons
1 bunch baby broccoli, trimmed and blanched
Use a sharp knife to cut through the chops, splitting the veal into halves without detaching from the bone. Place the butterflied chops onto your work surface in between layers of plastic wrap. Use a meat mallet to pound the meat to ½-inch thickness. Season the chops with salt and pepper.
Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil and 2 tablespoons butter in a large skillet over medium high heat. Place the bread crumbs into a shallow bowl or plate. Lay the chops into the bread crumbs pushing down so that they adhere to the meat. Place the chops (one at a time depending on the size of your skillet) into the hot oil. Squeeze lemon juice onto each chop. Cook until the bottom is golden, about 5 minutes. Turn, sprinkle with additional juice and cook on the second side until golden, about 5 minutes more.
Toss the broccoli into the pan. Season with salt, pepper and lemon juice. Cook for 1 to 2 minutes.
Serve the stuffed veal chops on a platter with the broccoli draped on top.
With 20 days until Christmas, it’s time to get into the spirit! My recipe for Baked Eggplant with Ricotta Cheese is perfect for a veggie weekday meal. You can prepare in the morning, and finish it in the oven for Tuesday’s dinner.
Before I dish out the recipe, here’s a gentle reminder to order your copy of SUNDAY BEST DISHES today! It’s the perfect Xmas gift for the foodie on your Christmas list! Jorj.com subscribers — OR any subscriber who emails me, actually — gets a FREE autographed bookplate to insert into the book! Send an email to Jorj.com that includes your mailing address and the name you want me to personalize!! Oh, and get cooking!
The prep work on this one fills your kitchen with an incredibly pleasing aroma. See what I mean?
Another bonus is that the herbs have an almost Christmasy look – well, in my holiday kitchen they do:
Baked Eggplant with Ricotta Cheese
MAKES 6 SERVINGS
This vegetarian delight is every bit as filling as traditional lasagna, and special because of its closeness, yet differences to eggplant parmesan. It’s ooey, gooey and totally yummy!
2 (1-pound) eggplants, sliced into ¼-inch rounds, about 27 slices
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 cups Italian style breadcrumbs
Preheat the oven to 350°. Season the eggplant slices with salt. Place into a colander in the sink for 1 hour. This will take the bitterness from the eggplant. Rinse the slices and pat dry. Heat 2 tablespoons canola oil in large non-stick skillet over medium high heat. Dredge the eggplant in the breadcrumbs, pushing the crumbs into each slice. Add as many eggplant slices that easily fit into your skillet. Brown on one side, turn and brown on the other side until golden. (As the eggplant cooks, it will immediately absorb most of the oil. As it continues cooking, it will start to exude that oil back into the pan. Watch carefully as you cook.) Remove the eggplant to a baking sheet, lined with paper towels. Season with salt and pepper. Continue until all of the eggplant slices are browned. Add more oil as you cook a new batch.
½ cup whole milk ricotta cheese
¼ cup organic half and half
1 large egg
2 ounces Parmesan cheese, grated, about ½ cup
½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
2 ½ cups marinara sauce
12 ounces fresh mozzarella cheese, thinly sliced
Whisk together the ricotta cheese, half and half, egg, Parmesan cheese and nutmeg. Coat an 11 x 7 x 2-inch baking dish with vegetable oil spray. Spoon ½ cup of the marinara into the bottom of the dish. Place a layer of eggplant slices into the bottom of the baking dish. Top with 1 cup marinara sauce. Place ½ of the mozzarella cheese over the sauce. Top with another layer of eggplant. Repeat with 1 cup marinara and the remaining mozzarella cheese. Top with the last layer of eggplant. Pour the remaining marinara sauce over top. Spoon the ricotta cheese topping over all. Bake until the casserole is bubbling and the top is golden, about 30 minutes. Increase the oven temperature to the broil setting. Place the casserole under the broiler for a few minutes to brown the topping.
Let the casserole rest for 15 minutes before cutting into squares.
I love it when a versatile recipe comes together, and practically forces you to eat something that you normally wouldn’t. I’m talking about BREAD! No other food has been so greatly loved (bread of life) and hated (it’s a white carb, for goodness sake!), than bread. I mean really, who partakes of that bread basket when you are dining out? I’ve notice lately that waiters offer you the basket before they bring it to the table and then, look at you with dismay if you actually take a piece. What lifestyle diet puts bread at the top of the list of approved foods for you to eat? None! What cooking school offers classes is bread baking? None! How many of your friends actually know what a dough hook is? None! I can go on….
However, there comes a time in dining, when bread is a NECESSARY part of the meal. I’m talking spaghetti and meatballs. Bread is a mighty part of the sauce slurping experience. It’s practically a utensil since we don’t always have an oversized spoon for twirling. And what makes the bread even better? Garlic, butter and cheese, of course.
So, when my sweet brother-in-law came to visit, and after three grueling days of mountain golf, when we decided to stay in for dinner, I made his favorite and ours, spaghetti with gravy. Luckily, I had a loaf of bread tucked into the back of the freezer (for emergency purposes – purely medicinal, I’m sure). I defrost the bread, split it in half and spread it with butter. I toast the bread in a hot oven until the edges begin to turn brown. Then I remove it from the oven and get down to business.
This is where it gets fun. For garlic bread, I mix together two kinds of cheese with mayo, garlic powder, salt, and pepper. Spread this topping onto the toasted bread and place it into a hot oven until the ooze and bubble of the cheese, just a couple of minutes. Voila! Really good garlic bread. But, here’s where it gets FUN. You can mix anything into the cheese. You can use any cheese and add veggies like chopped green onion, diced sun-dried tomatoes, and chopped olives. You can mix cooked, diced chicken and hot sauce for an open-face Buffalo Cheese bread. Or leftover shredded pork and sautéed onions for a Southern-Style Cheese bread. How about chopped corn beef and sauerkraut for a Rueben Bread (with a side of Thousand Island, of course). I’ve even mixed in diced cooked shrimp for a cheesier version of Shrimp Toast!
But start with this carb-filled and oh-so delightful template. Haters gonna hate…but they gotta eat too!
Overhead view of a cheese grater with parmesan cheese on a rustic wood kitchen table. A plate of spaghetti and garlic bread on board are also shown.
Really Cheesy Garlic Bread
20 Minute Cuisine
Just bite into this cheesy, gooey garlicky bread and relive a childhood memory or two. It’s just that good!
12 ounces cheddar cheese, grated, about 3 cups
4 ounces Monterey Jack cheese, grated, about 1 cup
2 ounces Parmesan Cheese, grated, about 1 cup
½ cup mayonnaise
1 bunch green onions, thinly sliced, about 1 cup
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
1 loaf crusty French bread
½ cup butter, 1 stick
4 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
Preheat the oven to 425°. Stir together the cheeses, mayo, green onions and salt in a bowl.
Cut loaf of bread in half horizontally, and place onto a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil. Melt the butter in a skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook until soft and fragrant, about 1 to 2 minutes, being careful that the garlic does not burn. Brush the garlic butter over the cut side of the bread. Place the bread into the oven and toast until just golden, about 3 to 4 minutes.
Spread cheese mixture on warm loaves and place back into the oven until the cheeses melt and begin to bubble, about 8 to 10 minutes. Slice the bread into wedges and serve warm. To prepare garlicy bread in advance, simply wrap the bread in the aluminum foil and keep warm.