Roasted Squash and Pancetta Risotto Perfect Combination of Sweet and Salty

Roasted Squash and Pancetta Risotto Perfect Combination of Sweet and Salty

I’ve shared my method for making risotto in an earlier post. I love that risotto is a blank canvas for whatever flavors you want to add. All you need is time, patience, and arborio rice!

This time I decided to pair two of my favorite flavors, squash and pancetta. Butternut, acorn, delicata, or whatever variety you prefer will work just fine in risotto. I chose butternut this time.

Ingredients
1 butternut squash
Nutmeg
1 package diced pancetta
Fresh sage, chopped
Butter
Olive oil
Arborio rice
White wine
Chicken stock
Chicken boullion
Onion or shallot, finely chopped
Heavy cream
Parmesan cheese

Directions

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Peel and cube squash into bite-sized pieces. Toss with olive oil, salt, pepper, and a hint of fresh grated nutmeg on a baking sheet. Roast in 400 degree oven until golden, or to desired doneness. This takes about 20-30 minutes.

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While squash is roasting, render out the diced pancetta on the stovetop until crispy. I tossed in a small handful of fresh chopped sage too. Drain off fat and save for later.

Pour stock into pan and warm it up.

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In a separate pan sauté diced shallot or onion in some olive oil and butter. Add rice and toast slightly.

Slowly add stock one ladle at a time, stirring often and allowing each ladle to absorb before adding the next.

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After the rice starts to puff up and look creamy, taste a few kernels for doneness. It should have a slight bite in the center. If it is still too raw, keep adding stock until it reaches desired doneness. Do not overcook it, unless of course you prefer mushy risotto!

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Once the rice is done, fold in the roasted squash, pancetta, a splash of heavy cream (this is optional), and a tablespoon of butter (also optional). Season with freshly ground pepper and salt to taste.

Grate some parmesan cheese over the top and serve immediately.

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Pasta with Cauliflower – Not Very Colorful – But Very Satisfying!

Pasta with Cauliflower – Not Very Colorful – But Very Satisfying!

My friends and family know how much I love to prepare pasta. I learned while in Italy that you can use nearly anything to flavor pasta so I frequently raid the fridge or pantry to come up with something new to me. My latest pasta adventure featured cauliflower.

Ingredients
1 head fresh cauliflower
1 pound pasta (any shape you like)
Olive oil
1 cube chicken boullion
3-5 cloves garlic, crushed
1/4-1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1-2 cups breadcrumbs
Salt, pepper
Grated parmesan cheese

Directions

Break up cauliflower into florets and blanch in boiling water for 1-2 minutes. Drain – but keep the cauliflower water and cook your pasta to al dente in it.

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In a large, flat pan over medium heat sauté garlic, chicken bouillon cube, and red pepper flakes in a splash of olive oil. Do not burn the garlic. Break the chicken cube up with your utensil.

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Toss drained cauliflower into pan with garlic and pepper mixture. You may need to add another small splash of olive oil.

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When the pasta is ready and the cauliflower is cooked, but still firm to the bite (5-6 minutes), toss the pasta in with the cauliflower. Add some of the pasta water to moisten. While pasta is finishing up, mix some olive oil into 1-2 cups of breadcrumbs and sauté until light golden in color.

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In a large serving bowl right before you are ready to serve, mix the toasted breadcrumbs in with the pasta/cauliflower combination. Top with parmesan cheese and season to taste.

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The cauliflower really works with the pasta. It is a little too white in color. I think next time I will try this with orange, green, or purple cauliflower to add some interest.

That’s all there is to it! Quick dinner, kind of healthy, and delicious!

If you have a favorite way to serve cauliflower, please let me know. This is the season it tastes best and I am always looking for new ways to serve it up.

Gnocchi and Sausage Soup Warms the Soul

Gnocchi and Sausage Soup Warms the Soul

The great thing about homemade soup is that it is such a forgiving meal. You can forage through your pantry, swag measurements, and make each pot your own creation. The downside is that I can never quite replicate the same pot twice!

That said, this pot of gnocchi and Italian sausage soup was delicious.

Gnocchi and Sausage Soup

Ingredients
1 lb. bulk Italian sausage (I used hot)
1 red bell pepper
1/2 cup diced onion
2 cloves crushed garlic
1-2 chopped fresh tomatoes (optional)
1/2-1 bag spinach
4-6 cups chicken stock (See recipe for homemade.)
1 package gnocchi
1/2-1 cup heavy cream
Salt and pepper to taste

Directions
Brown sausage in the bottom of a stock pot and drain off grease. You could use turkey sausage or links. If you do, remove casings before browning.

hot sausage, onion, pepper

Add diced onion, chopped bell pepper, and crushed garlic. Sauté 3 minutes longer. I had a homegrown tomato in the windowsill and chopped it up and added to the pot. It was not an essential ingredient, but like I said before, it’s soup so be creative!

Tip: If using a milder sausage, add 1/8 tsp. crushed red pepper for some heat. If using your own chicken stock, add 1-2 chicken bullion cubes to intensify the flavor.

Add chicken stock and bring to gentle boil. Add gnocchi and cook 5 minutes or until gnocchi are cooked through. Add spinach and heavy cream. Stir until warmed through and spinach is wilted. Season with salt and pepper.

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Italian sausage is a great soup ingredient since it comes with its own built-in seasoning. I’ve also used kale instead of spinach. Of course kale needs to cook a bit longer so I add it during the sauté step. You could leave out the heavy cream or substitute with coconut milk and a tablespoon of red thai curry for a completely different outcome.

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Serve with a warm slice of home baked French bread. Here’s my recipe!

Let me know how you like it.

Buon appetito!

Chicken Thighs: Budget-friendly and Delicious

Chicken Thighs: Budget-friendly and Delicious

I happened upon this video from Epicurious last week and then gave it a try using items already in my fridge and pantry. It’s brilliant…simple, delicious, and looks like I spent hours. I’ll be trying more combinations over the coming weeks. This will be the best 2 1/2 minutes you’ve ever spent! Watch it!

Lemon Rosemary Chicken Thighs with White Beans

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Ingredients
8-12 chicken thighs
1 fresh lemon, thinly sliced
4-5 cloves fresh garlic, slivered
1-2 Tbsp olive oil
1 cup chicken stock
1/2 cup white wine
Salt, pepper
2 cans white beans or 2-3 cups dried beans you’ve soaked and cooked

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Directions
Please rack in top third of oven and preheat to 400 degrees.

Season chicken thighs with salt and pepper. Arrange in 9×13 baking dish. Brush top of each piece with a small amount of olive oil.

Spoon beans around chicken. Space out the slivered garlic. Tuck in the lemon slices. Pour liquid so that it comes about halfway up the chicken. Leave tops exposed. Lay rosemary sprigs around dish.

Bake in top half of oven until chicken browns, about 30-45 minutes.

It was really that simple!

For a more exotic way to prepare chicken, try spicing things up with chipotle and ancho chili!

Include a Hedgehog at Tea!

Include a Hedgehog at Tea!

mygrandmasrecipebookThank you Morgan for this delightful recipe! If you’ve never visited mygrandmasrecipebook.com, you are in for a treat – or two! Morgan chronicles some great old-fashioned recipes including this one she sent exclusively for my blog!

Chocolate Hedgehog Slices

This is a very nice, traditional Australian recipe from the 70’s and 80’s that is often served for afternoon tea or parties.  I remember my grandmother and mother both making this for children’s birthday parties or just a special treat.

Ingredients
400 grams (14oz) plain sweet biscuits/cookies (shortbread or plain graham crackers would work)
250 grams (9oz) unsalted butter
1 cup caster or granulated sugar
6 tablespoons cocoa powder
4 tablespoons shredded coconut
2 eggs
1 cup chopped pecan nuts


Putting the biscuits/cookies in a zip-loc plastic bag, crush the biscuits with a rolling pin or other heavy tool until they are small pieces.


Melt the butter in a large bowl.  Add the cocoa powder and stir until mixed.


Add the other ingredients and the biscuits, and then stir to combine.

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Line a lamington tin (13” x 9” slice tin) with baking or greaseproof paper and spread the mixture into a thick layer.

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Refrigerate for 1 hour; before the slice is set too firmly, cut into squares.

Keep refrigerated until served.

Notes:
It is possible to substitute walnuts or almonds for the pecans.

This is an unbaked recipe using eggs, so it is not advised for young children or pregnant women. Please practice good egg safety.

Note from Brad: This no-bake dessert really hits the spot when you need a chocolate fix.  And since it uses cocoa powder and nuts, it’s a bit healthier than other sweets! Give it a try and let me know what you think! Better yet, make it at home and tag me (@GourmandBrad) and Morgan (@grandmasbook) on a photo of your concoction in Twitter.

10 Apps No Cook Can Live Without

I know this is a dramatic title. Maybe I’ve been reading too much Huff Post lately! But seriously, these are the apps I rely heavily on while in my kitchen. And as always, feel free to chime in and share what apps you find indispensable to cooking.

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iPhone camera
What would I do without my smartphone camera? I use it to take pictures while I’m cooking which is handy. But more importantly, I take photos of recipes in magazines whenever I am in a waiting room! Remember the days when you were in the doctor’s office and found a recipe you wanted to try, so you had to either write it down on a scrap of paper or secretly tear it out of the magazine? (OK, I never did that!) Now I snap a photo and refer back to it when shopping or ready to cook.

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Epicurious
This was the first cooking app I ever used and it continues to be a mainstay. I’ve compiled many of my favorites in the recipe box feature. I like the categories such as “picnic ideas,” “main course salads,” or “Mexican tonight.” Photos, reviews, ratings, and step by step instructions make this a user-friendly resource that is loaded with recipes. Epicurious features a suite of mobile applications, including one for your smart Samsung fridge!

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Grocery Store
I’m not going to recommend any specific grocery store since I have no idea what’s available in your area. I will tell you however, that if your favorite store has a useful app, download it! I really like the Wegmen’s app. I can add all my ingredients to the list and it will organize them by aisle for faster shopping. It gives me a total of what I’m about to spend. Other cool features include tons of recipes and even a prescription refill option.

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Coupons
You might already have a favorite coupon app since there are a few out there. This one from coupons.com allows you to register your loyalty card, add applicable coupons to your account, and redeem them right at checkout. It takes some time to scroll through the available coupons whenever you go shopping, but saves you the trouble of clipping and storing paper coupons. Since I love to cook, it helps keep costs down on my grocery bills.

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Grill
If you like grilling, then the Weber’s Grill app is one to consider. Besides a slew of grilling recipes, it serves up grilling techniques and a handy timer. It has a grocery list feature, but since I use my grocery store app, I haven’t really taken advantage of that section.

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Thermometer
This is more of a product than an app, but it’s the app that makes it so cool. Weber’s iGrill products mean you are no longer tethered to the grill or oven when cooking. The app on your phone keeps you updated on internal temps. If like me you start talking to your guests in the kitchen while your meat is cooking out on the grill, then this is a lifesaver.

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Converter/Calculator
If you’re a baker, this app is for you. Scale recipes up or down like a pro. Convert between metric and non metric measurement.

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Substitutions
Have you ever been up to your elbows in a recipe only to find you are missing a critical ingredient? I sure have! Substitutions is a handy app to have when you need to find a way to make a recipe work when running to the grocery store that minute is not an option. Even better, the app helps you find substitutions for ingredients that cause allergic reactions. Brilliant!

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Pairing
If you are an average Joe (or in my case, Brad) like me, your knowledge of beer, wine, and cheese is limited to what you like. But that’s not always helpful when it comes to entertaining. That’s why it’s important to have a couple of useful apps for wine, beer, and cheese pairing suggestions. Unfortunately, I have not come across one app that does it all, but I have a couple that I rely upon. Here they are:

Pocket Wine Pairing
PairWise

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Plus one bonus!
Cheese & Wine

What’s on your smartphone that makes home cooking easier? I’d love to know!

Brad’s Stromboli, That’s Amori

Brad’s Stromboli, That’s Amori

If you are a Stromboli aficionado, please don’t be offended. I know I broke a few rules, but honestly, this recipe I whipped up is delicious. Like it’s relative, the pizza, you can use whatever ingredients you’ve got on hand. I highly recommend you get a bit adventurous and try a few new combinations.

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This is where the purists will pitch a fit…

I used my French bread recipe as the base. Most recipes call for a pizza dough, but I like the sweet, chewy texture of the French bread I make, so I took culinary license!

Follow the recipe linked to below, but STOP when you get to the directions for punching down the risen dough and separating it into two halves.

French Bread Recipe explained in excruciating detail with photos!

Ingredients for Filling
2 packages or 1 pound sliced Black Forest ham
1 package sliced pepperoni
1 package or 1/2 pound sliced mozzarella cheese
1 package or 1/2 pound sliced provolone cheese
1 bell pepper, sliced
1 egg, beaten

Directions
While your dough is rising, prepare your filling ingredients. I sliced and sautéed a green pepper in some olive oil. If you wanted to use spicy sausage, you would cook, drain, and cool it. You could slice and fry up an onion.

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Roll out dough on a floured surface into a large rectangle. Layer cheese, meat, and vegetables. For my two Strombolis, I used mozzarella, ham, and peppers on one and I used ham, pepperoni, mozzarella, and provolone on the other. Season with salt and pepper. Roll tightly. Please on cookie sheet and brush on egg wash.

Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes. Baking time will vary depending upon your oven. Let it sit for a few minutes before slicing. Serve with a small dish of pizza or red pasta sauce for dipping. Please note I did not spread sauce inside of the Stromboli before baking. I was worried it might get a little soggy after sitting. Since the recipe makes two, any leftovers are easily wrapped in tin foil and reheated later.

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How do you like your Stromboli? Please share your preferences!