Tag Archives: parmesan

Sizzling Spuds

30 Aug

Potatoes. It’s a love hate relationship sometimes. Either you love potatoes but want to eat low carb or you don’t like them and they are on every menu. Potatoes can be made a zillion ways and have SO many personalities. They can be dressed as a spectacular side dish (garlicky and mashed), as a magnificent main dish (brisket and cheese loaded baked potato), or as a super little snackie (name your fav chip). Easy or complicated, it doesn’t matter. When the craving strikes bring on the spuds!

I am still not what you would call a huge fan, so I don’t eat potatoes often, but sometimes that nagging craving just won’t pass. Exactly my predicament recently. And I gave into my craving. Creamy potatoes were on my mind, but that wasn’t all. Crispy creamy to be more to the point. Wait…what? Can you have it all? You betcha!

First the right potatoes are needed. For baked, Idahos are the best-good and starchy. And for mashed, I use Yukon Golds. But fingerling potatoes are creamy and can crisp up under the right circumstances. What is better than creamy inside and crisp outside all at once? Soooo yummy! If I am cooking up some spuds, that is the way I want them. And achieving it is easy.

The key is using a cast iron skillet-the perfect utensil to get a nice pleasing char on the potatoes. I started by getting a mixing bowl out and halving the potatoes.

Next these spuds needed seasoning. So I used some fresh chopped basil (my summer garden is still overflowing with basil so I couldn’t help myself!), 2 cloves of fresh garlic roughly chopped, a bit of lemon zest (delicious and bright for summery spuds) and a drizzle of butter and olive oil. I dusted this gorgeous mixture with salt and pepper too.

Into a bowl they go for a bit of seasoning-including chopped garlic and lemon zest!

I gave it a good stir, but something was missing. After a peek in the fridge, I made my decision.

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I couldn’t resist just a sprinkle of freshly grated parmesan cheese to add another savory layer. Another good stir and these were ready for cooking. Got my trusty cast iron skillet out. It is the perfect pan for this job.

I heated the pan up over medium heat, and tossed the spuds in. I patted them into an even layer to let them crisp up a bit. Now patience comes into play.

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The cast iron skillet is just what these taters needed!

They sizzled on the stove top without being stirred for a couple of minutes. This made sure the skin was crisping up. After a stir to move them around, they went into a 400 degree oven to finish up.

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These were delicious! they paired perfectly with a hot spicy pork sandwich!

After about 10 minutes in that hot oven these guys were perfection! I took them out of the oven, let them sit for a minute to cool down, then loaded onto my plate next to a sandwich. This definitely hit all the marks and satisfied my tater craving! I wonder how I will cook them next time! What is your favorite way to cook your spuds?

 

 

 

Basics

12 Feb

If you don’t have one, run out and get one. What in the world am I talking about? A cast iron skillet. It is a kitchen must have. A basic. But don’t go to an expensive kitchen store to get one. Go to your local hardware store. You will find the best brand at your good old hardware store-Lodge.

As I love to cook, I have a couple cast iron skillets. One  of my favorites has ridges to sear a lovely tenderloin, grill some delicious hamburgers. or make a creamy warm panini. There are a zillion ways to use your cast iron skillet. If you keep it seasoned, it will also become something you can hand down through the generations. Here is one of my well seasoned cast iron skillets.

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How do you season it you ask? It is easy. But remember, you need to continue to season your cast iron skillet every so often. Here are some tips to season your skillet:

  • Wash the cookware with hot, soapy water.
  • Rinse and dry completely.
  • Apply melted solid vegetable shortening (or cooking oil of your choice) to the cookware inside and out. Too much oil will result in a sticky finish so keep your application thin.
  • Set oven temperature to 350 – 400 degrees F.
  • Place cookware upside down on the top rack of the oven to prevent pooling.
  • Bake the cookware for at least one hour. After the hour, turn the oven off and let the cookware cool in the oven.
  • Store the cookware uncovered
  • Repeat as necessary
  • When I use and wash my skillet, I dry it not with a towel but over low heat on a burner.

I recently used this skillet to sear some zucchini for dinner. I simply split the zucchini lengthwise, and sprinkled it with salt, pepper, and olive oil. Next, I got my cast iron skillet good and hot on the stove. Then I seared the zucchini halves with the flesh side down first.

Grilled zucchini in my (very inexpensive) cast iron grill pan.  It was sizzling and searing.  Yum! I seared it much like a piece of meat. After searing one side, I turned it over and seared the second side. I flipped the fleshy side of the zucchini up and put a little freshly served parmesan on top. Ooh! So yummy!

I flipped the fleshy side of the zucchini up and put a little freshly served parmesan on top.  Ooh!  So good!

This recipe is a keeper.  It was super quick, hardly any ingredients, and so very tasty!  It was beautiful on the plate as well.  So look for variety not only in your food, but in ways to prepare them.

 

 

 

Soup Time!

30 Dec

Cold weather is soup weather. When the chill sets in, the soup goes on. I decided to try making a soup I had never made before. And I wanted to make it from scratch. My darling Denis talked about his sister Kathy’s Italian Wedding Soup. He remembered it being quite delicious. Decision made.

Italian Wedding Soup has meatballs, so my first order of business after finding a recipe that I could start with (while making it my own) was to make meatballs. I used a couple of types of ground meat, bread crumbs, a beaten egg, and some italian seasoning. While some epicureans fry their meatballs, I bake mine. I cooked up a big batch so there were extra to put into the freezer for another day.

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While the meatballs were cooling, I assembled the rest of my ingredients. Cooked meatballs, chicken stock (both homemade and store bought), shredded carrots, celery, arugula and spinach, orzo, eggs, parmesan cheese, and finally salt and pepper were set to come together in one magnificent soup. The homemade chicken stock was loaded with succulent herbss-and would perfectly season the soup.

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Next I started chopping. I like everything ready when I begin making something, It just makes it easier to assemble.

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Just a little FYI…when I use celery in a recipe, I use both the outer stalks and the leafy insides. I don’t waste any flavorful tidbit when I cook.

Next I sautéed the carrots and celery in a little butter. Then I added the stock. My first  ever soup kettle of Italian Wedding Soup was underway. The tantalizing aromas floating through the house brought my darling Denis to the kitchen. One of the many things I love about cooking…the kitchen becomes an impromptu gathering place.

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The soup was bubbling away, and the scents wafting through the house made the frosty day outside fade away . Next, more building of the flavors when the chopped arugula and spinach went into the broth.

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Then it was time to froth up the eggs. When I add eggs to any recipe, they sit on the counter for about 20 minutes to come to room temperature before adding them to a recipe. Eggs work better in recipes when they are room temperature.

 

After whipping the eggs, I stirred the soup and slowly drizzled the eggs in-they cooked slowly as they were added. The soup was coming together beautifully.

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The house was filled with the warmth of bubbling soup.

In went the meatballs. They just had to be heated through and the soup was complete. Time to dig in!

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Freshly grated parmesan garnished the soup. Cripsy garlic bread completed the meal. While it was chilly outside, inside it was warm and oh so delicious.

Soup lends itself to personal csutomization. It can be easily tailored to taste. Love pepper? Grind some flavorful heat into the soup. Want more veggies? Chop them up and toss them in. Is vegetarian soup your preference? Use tofu and vegetable broth. Easy Peasy. Let your food express your personality and have fun!

 

Zucchini-Grilled

30 Mar

I really like vegetables. Even more than fruit.  Eating seasonally and taking advantage of farm fresh vegetables all year long not only provides great flavor and variety, but eating seasonally is budget friendly. My kids and I are adventurous when it comes to food, so I am challenged to find new ways to cook veggies.

Since it is winter, root vegetables have been the staple lately.  Luckily, my family enjoys carrots, potatoes, squash,beets…all the delicious colorful winter vegetables.  Did I say all?  Um, I meant most.  My kids aren’t crazy about one winter vegetable…brussel sprouts.

My kids tend to delight in normal kid stuff like, well, farts.  Brussel sprouts, closely related to cabbage, are notoriously gas producing.  Shouldn’t that be my number one selling point in adding brussel sprouts to our dinner repertoire?  I mean, what could be more fun than that for my kids….seriously.  With their competitive nature, I see this as a win win food offering, if you catch my drift (waft, hang time…).

And that’s how I tried to sell it to my kids. They know enough to know what a cruciferous vegetable is, and what that produces.  Slow roasted fresh brussel sprouts gently browning in the oven smell, well, cabbage like.  Rats.  That wasn’t going to sell my kids on these delicious sprouts.  Of course my mouth is watering, but the kids are scrunching their nose up.  So in the interest of family peace, I now reserve brussel spouts for when I dine at a restaurant.   So I took the sprouts out of the family dinner rotation, but continue on a quest for a fresh seasonal change.

Still wanting variety, I reverted back to another inexpensive vegetable…zucchini.  I like to roast these with olive oil and balsamic vinegar, with perhaps a few shreds of fresh parmesan.  But on this particular night, I was pinched for time and looking for a quick veggie option.  I still used zucchini, but took it in a super quick and easy direction.

Splitting the zucchini down the middle, I then pulled my cast iron grill pan out and heated it up.  I drizzled with zucchini with olive oil, and onto the grill pan it went.  I seared it much like a piece of meat, not quite knowing how it would end up.   After searing one side, I turned it over and seared the second side.  I then put a bit of fresh parmesan cheese on top.  The result was fantastic.

Grilled zucchini in my (very inexpensive) cast iron grill pan.  It was sizzling and searing.  Yum!

Grilled zucchini in my (very inexpensive) cast iron grill pan. It was sizzling and searing. Yum!

I flipped the fleshy side of the zucchini up and put a little freshly served parmesan on top.  Ooh!  So good!

I flipped the fleshy side of the zucchini up and put a little freshly served parmesan on top. Ooh! So good!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is a keeper.  It was super quick, hardly any ingredients, and oh so tasty!  It was beautiful on the plate as well.  So look for variety not only in your food, but in ways to prepare them.

Oh, and  you may want to take a page out of my book and order your brussel sprouts out at your favorite place Saturday night!

 

 

The Art of Layering

26 Feb

Layering is important.  I grew up in the midwest and made it through countless winters there, so I know a thing or two about layering.  When it is so cold that the moment you walk outside your nose hair freezes (and it aint pretty!) you learn about the importance of layering.  That brings me directly to another point.  Fashion goes out the door when the temperature is below zero, the furnace doesn’t shut off, and it’s just plain cold.  Which works for me.  I seem to have missed the “fashion” girl gene anyway.  So I layer for reasons not related to fashion…my sister got that gene!  She always looks cute.   Me?  Well, lets just say I try.

I apply most of my sense of layering to food, of course!  As a (self proclaimed snobby) foodie, I like to layer flavors when I cook.  What does that mean?  I add ingredients slowly while cooking if the recipe and time allows, perhaps with a soup or a sauce.  When pinched for time, a sauce can be thrown together quickly.  However, if time allows, layering food flavors while cooking is worthwhile.

Secret tip: throwing a parmesan rind into a sauce or soup early on to simmer adds flavor.  I love this tip.  Not only because of the amazing flavor that this imparts, but the premise is wonderful when cooking.  Layers.  Like a cake.  And using every single part of food.