The “Mom, I’m Sick” Soup

This is a bowl of Italian Stracciatella soup.  A friend of ours that is Italian also calls it the “Mom, I’m Sick” soup as this was the way he was given the all important dose of chicken broth when he was sick as a child.  We like it because it is quick and easy to make when you feel like a bowl of soup for lunch or dinner.  The ingredients are really simple, but the flavor really packs a punch.  So when you’re feeling low or just in the mood for some good chicken soup, give this recipe a try.

Ingredients:

  • 4 cups (32 ounces) chicken broth
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh Italian flat-leaf parsley
  • 1/4 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon black pepper
  • 4 ounces fresh spinach
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced

Directions:

Heat the chicken broth to boiling in a medium-size saucepan.

In a small bowl, beat the eggs together and stir in the cheese, parsley, salt and pepper.

Slowly, in a steady stream, pour the egg mixture into the boiling broth.  Stir slightly.  Reduce the heat to medium and let cook for 1 minute.  Drop the spinach into the broth to wilt.

Stir in the garlic.  Serve immediately.

Nothing beats home-made chicken soup.  Believe this or not, but I’ve read that when you are sick, chicken soup really does help a person eating it get well again.  The chicken broth acts as an anti-inflammatory.  The soup keeps a check on inflammatory white blood cells (neutrophils).  Cold symptoms, such as coughs and congestion, are often caused by inflammation produced when neutrophils migrate to the bronchial tubes and accumulate there.  So Grandma did know best!!  What do you eat when you are not feeling great?

Healthy Eating Now – Quinoa And Turkey Patties In Pita

This is proof that eating healthy and dieting doesn’t have to taste bad. As we have said, all of us here on Glen Road are trying to shed a few pounds. Being on a diet is hard enough, but being on a diet on the weekend (especially in a house that loves to cook and eat) is crazy difficult. So we decided to plan out a few meals that we would cook and eat over the weekend to make sure we were still in the kitchen, but eating foods that are healthy and good for us. This is a recipe for a healthy sandwich we put into whole-wheat pita pockets. We modified it from a recipe that is in a cookbook titled ‘Power Foods’ which is from the editors of ‘Whole Living Magazine’. These patties are inspired by the Middle Eastern dish kibbe, most often made with ground lamb and bulgur wheat. This pita is stuffed with great vegetables, patties made up of a mixture of turkey and a grain called quinoa and finally topped with a drizzle of an easy tahini dressing. The combination of turkey and quinoa is very rich in protein, with a chewy texture that contrasts nicely with the crisp vegetables and the creamy tahini dressing drizzled on top. Tahini is a very thick ground sesame seed paste. The paste is turned into a dressing by adding lemon juice and garlic. Let’s dig in!

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup white quinoa (We got ours at the health food store from a bulk bin)
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1/4 cup tahini (Again, we got ours at the health food store)
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 12 ounces ground dark-meat turkey
  • 1/4 teaspoon plus 1 pinch ground allspice
  • 1/2 teaspoon plus 1 pinch ground cumin
  • Pinch of crushed red-pepper flakes
  • 2 tablespoons chopped Italian flat-leaf parsley
  • 2 scallions, finely chopped
  • 3/4 teaspoon coarse salt
  • Canola or safflower oil for frying
  • 6 lettuce leaves, torn into large pieces
  • 1 English cucumber (10 ounces), thinly sliced into rounds
  • 1 small red onion, cut into thin half-moons
  • 6 whole-wheat pita breads

Directions:

Rinse quinoa thoroughly in a fine sieve; drain. Bring 2 cups water to a boil in a medium saucepan. Add quinoa; return to a boil. Stir quinoa; cover, and reduce heat. Simmer until quinoa is tender but still chewy, about 15 minutes. Fluff quinoa with a fork; let cool.

Meanwhile, process garlic, tahini, lemon juice and 1/4 cup cold water in a food processor until smooth. If necessary, thin with water until pourable. Transfer dressing to a small bowl; cover. Refrigerate until ready to use.

Put turkey, spices, parsley, scallions and salt in a clean bowl of the food processor; pulse until a smooth paste forms. Add quinoa; process until mixture clumps around the blade, about 2 minutes. Transfer to a bowl. The mixture is somewhat sticky.

With dampened hands, roll about 2 tablespoons quinoa mixture into a ball; flatten slightly, and set aside on a plate. Repeat with remaining mixture. We scooped the mixture out of the bowl with an ice cream scoop to ensure each patty was uniform in size.

Heat a skillet or grill pan with 2 teaspoons of the oil over medium heat until hot. Working in batches, cook patties in skillet, turning once, until cooked through, about 8 minutes per side. Transfer patties to a clean plate and loosely cover with foil to keep warm. Replenish oil in pan as needed.

Divide lettuce, cucumber and red onion among pita breads; top each as many quinoa patties as needed to fill pita. Drizzle each sandwich with tahini dressing.

The Glen Road group is a tough crowd when it comes to food. They tell the truth. You can be cooking in the kitchen for two days straight and they’ll look you in the eye and tell you that what you cooked didn’t taste very good. As a cook, someone’s honest opinion is the best feedback. These pita sandwiches got thumbs up from everyone. No one even complained that they were good for us as well. So if you are looking for something different for lunch or dinner (and good for you, but you don’t have to tell this little secret if you don’t want to), try these quinoa and turkey patties in pita. Very tasty! What recipes do you have that are good for starving Connecticut dieters?

A Field Trip To Le Farm Restaurant

This is Le Farm restaurant in Westport, Connecticut.  We were lucky to go there for dinner over the weekend.  Le Farm is one of those great restaurants where it seems one dish is better than the one you ate right before it.  It is an absolute great place for dining.  What else is great about it is that it is one of the front-runners in the farm to table movement.  Bill Taibe is the executive chef and here is how the restaurant and local farmers operate together to make the food at Le Farm some of the best and freshest food in the area.  This is from the website for Le Farm:

Farmers like to grow things.  They don’t like to market, advertise and transport them.  Bill Taibe likes to cook.  He loves using local ingredients — the fresher the better.  The convergence of area farmers and Taibe is good news for diners — and not just fans of Le Farm, Taibe’s restaurant that earns raves for showcasing market-based food cooked and presented in a homey, comfortable and very sustainable atmosphere.  Thanks to RSA — “Restaurant Supported Agriculture,” a concept that Taibe knows needs a zippier name — 5 local restaurants now offer the best in local products.  Banding together, they guarantee farmers a market for their goods.  Promising to buy takes pressure off the farmers.  They reciprocate by planting what the chefs request.  Make no mistake:  It’s not just lettuce, tomatoes and corn anymore.  Taibe — who built 2 previous restaurants on the barter system, and admits he “may have been born in the wrong century” — explains that RSA is based on the Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) model.  RSA is less structured – shares are not bought in advance from farmers — but the concept is similar.

Once a week — via the Green Village Initiative — 5 restaurants (Le Farm, the Boathouse and Dressing Room in Westport, CT, plus Wilton, CT’s Schoolhouse and Fat Cat Pie Company in Norwalk, CT) receive a list from local growers of whatever is ripe.  By 4 p.m. each Monday, the chefs respond with their own list:  what they want.  The farmers pick the crops on Tuesday morning.  By 2:30 that afternoon, Green Village Initiative volunteers have gathered it and it’s ready for pick-up by the restaurateurs.

Le Farm is a very small restaurant.  We counted 11 tables and were told that the restaurant holds 34 people at capacity.  That doesn’t mean there are 34 people dining there at one time.  The hostess told us that the kitchen cannot accommodate that many diners at one time.  So when you dine there, you are eating with a relatively small number of people and the atmosphere is really quiet and relaxed.

Wooden tables line the walls in a very homey and country sort of way.  Glass jars filled with dried split peas hold the silverware.  Water for the table is brought to you in country-style bottles.  There is a wine list for sale and limited cocktails are available made with spirits that were hand selected by Le Farm.  Have you ever heard of:

  • Tito’s Hand-Made Vodka
  • Caeden Head Old Raj Gin
  • Gran Centennaro Plata Tequila
  • Ben Riach 12 Year Scotch?

After you’ve secured the beverage of your choice, the food starts to roll in and you can’t believe what you are feasting on.  Let us show you some of the things our party ate while at Le Farm.

Let’s start with appetizers.

This is roast pork belly with whipped cornbread, collards and sweet bacon vinegar.

How about foie gras terrine with cherry marmalade, pistachios and toast?

This is smoked duck potato hash with black truffle and a fried egg.

This is an aged beef meatball salad with green cabbage, pignoli, parmesan and pickled cipolinis.

Last, but definitely not least, here is some cavatelli for the table made with sweet 100 tomato pan sauce, spicy oregano and parmesan.  We asked what sweet 100 was and we were told it was a type of tomato.

Who said we were done eating yet?  Now it is on to our main courses.  Not as many pictures as many of us got the same dish.  Great minds think alike I guess???  Here is what we had.

A Southern classic.  This is shrimp and grits with italian sausage, roasted corn and shrimp sauce.

A little comfort food?  Brisket braised in beer with beet tops, potatoes with horseradish and dill.

You can’t leave without dessert can you?  We couldn’t, that’s for sure.  Take a look at these treats.

This is a chocolate pot de creme with peanut butter cream and salted pretzels.

A brown-butter almond shortcake with strawberry gelato and cajeta caramel.

Some bourbon white raisin bread pudding with vanilla gelato and hazelnuts.

We’ll admit we were stuffed.  Well, with all this food, we were beyond stuffed.  If you are ever in Westport, Connecticut, Le Farm is a restaurant you must go to and enjoy.  We think you can tell a difference when you are eating really fresh and local ingredients prepared in such fun and inventive dishes like those served to us.  Tell us about your favorite farm to table restaurants in your neck of the woods?

Clams And Sausage In Parsley Sauce With An Anna Pump Shout Out

This is a dish from one of my favorite chefs and one of my favorite cookbooks of all time.  It is clams and sausage in parsley sauce over linguine by Anna Pump.  I’ve written about Anna Pump before.  Anna has never had a television show that I know of and I don’t think her cookbooks have made her millions of dollars, but her and her store in the Hamptons, ‘Loaves and Fishes’, have inspired so many people to make great food using simple and fresh ingredients.  She has inspired people like Ina Garten and Martha Stewart, who both have taken her philosophies to the masses.  In 1985, she wrote ‘The Loaves and Fishes Cookbook’ and I have loved using it since the day I bought it.  There are a lot of cookbooks out there, but Anna Pump’s cookbook is one where you can feel how much she loves food and cooking.  A lot of cookbooks are printed to make the author lots of money.  Anna’s is not that type of cookbook.  You can read it and tell that she has a deep and true love for the art of food.  She is the rare type where the mission is the food and whatever comes after that is secondary.  If she published or not, if she became famous or not, it doesn’t matter.  The craft comes first and this craft is the art of making great food.  The only other chef I can think of with this same philosophy is Julia Child.

I love the idea of mixing clams with sausage.  This recipe is somewhere between a paella and a pasta dish with seafood.  The sauce starts out very pale and reddens up after the addition of the chorizo sausage.  The sausage also adds a little heat to the recipe which is another thing I like.  Don’t get me wrong…this is not over-the-top hot, but just enough kick to make it interesting.  The parsley is also a nice addition.  I always use Italian flat-leaf parsley because I think it is less bitter than the curly variety.  The recipe below is modified from the original.  I use less clams, onions, red pepper and parsley than the original.  I just think the original will make too much food.  For example, the original says to use 6 dozen littleneck clams…that seems like a lot to me.  Try making this recipe….it’s like a delicious beach clambake in your own dining room.

Ingredients:

  • 3 dozen littleneck clams
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 cups peeled and finely chopped onion
  • 4 large garlic cloves, peeled and minced
  • 1 red pepper, seeded and diced
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 1 1/4 cups clam juice (can be found in a bottle in the supermarket)
  • 1 cup dry white wine (I used a Chardonnay)
  • 1 1/2 cups minced Italian flat-leaf parsley
  • 1/2 teaspoon hot red pepper flakes
  • 3 cups sliced chorizo sausages
  • 2 pounds linguine

Directions:

Scrub the clams and set aside.

Heat the oil in a large saute pan.  Saute the onion, garlic and red peppers for 5 minutes over low heat.  Sprinkle the flour over the vegetables.  Stir to mix well.  Add the clam juice, wine, parsley and hot red pepper flakes.  Stirring constantly, bring the mixture to a boil.  Simmer for 5 minutes.

Add the sausage and the clams.  Cover and bring to a boil.  Simmer just until the clams open.  This will take no more than 5 to 10 minutes.

Place cooked linguine in a large pasta bowl and empty clams and sauce over the top.  Serve immediately.

This meal is easy because it doesn’t require a lot of side dishes to round it out.  We ate it with just a green salad on the side.  How easy is that?  This dish has so much flavor.  I was so happy how it turned out, but then again, Anna Pump’s recipes never seem to disappoint me.  Give this dish a try, and if you like it, go find some more Anna Pump recipes.  She is a really talented chef and worthy of the recognition.  What favorite chefs do you go back to time and time again that you would like to tell us about on Acorns On Glen?

Comfort Food With A Twist – Meatloaf

This is some real comfort food if there ever was some.  It’s good old fashioned meatloaf with some creamy mashed potatoes.  But it’s not your ordinary diner-style meatloaf.  It’s not dense and dry and covered in brown gravy.  No, this meatloaf recipe is a twist on that old recipe and produces a light and juicy meatloaf topped with a sweet and sour glaze made from ketchup and brown sugar.  It also is pretty quick to prepare because all of your vegetables just need to be chopped in large chunks and then ground in the food processor.  You don’t need to stand for hours dicing celery, carrots and onions.  It also incorporates three kinds of ground meat to make the meatloaf light and full of flavor.  I also use Pepperidge Farms as my white bread of choice when I make this recipe.  Why only Pepperidge Farms?  When I was younger and used to go to the grocery store with my parents or my Grandma, I used to beg to buy a loaf of Pepperidge Farms bread.  I figured since it was so much more expensive than the other loaves than it had to be like a slice of heaven when you ate it.  I would explain to them the facts of how it was made with care by jolly looking bakers who kneaded the dough with their own hands with tender loving care.  I would tell them about the ovens where the bread was baked and how it was wrapped in paper and then placed in the plastic bag for extra freshness.  Not only that, but they wrapped it while it was still warm from the oven.  This is why too much television is bad for a small child to take part in every day!  My parents or my Grandma would stare at me in disbelief that here was this small child reciting facts he had learned from a bread commercial.  It must have been this scary little feeling inside of them that always made them tell me no.  My parents and Grandmother were tough because I remember begging (and many times probably crying and screaming) to buy a loaf of this special bread.  Why don’t they see what I see in this delicious loaf that is so much better than the other white breads out here on this rack?  Now that I have my own money, I always buy Pepperidge Farms white bread to use at home.  I’ve come to realize that it doesn’t necessarily taste any better, but it’s just the whole principle of the matter, if you get my drift.  Bread aside, if you are looking for a comfort food classic with a twist, give our meatloaf a try.  Your family will love it.

Ingredients:

  • 4 slices Pepperidge Farms white bread, crusts removed and torn into large pieces (I just know it is the best!!)
  • 3 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 medium onion, chopped into eighths
  • 1 celery stalk, chopped into quarters
  • 1 medium carrot, chopped into quarters
  • 1/2 cup flat-leaf parsley
  • 12 ounces ground beef chuck
  • 12 ounces ground pork
  • 12 ounces ground veal
  • 1 large egg
  • 3/4 cup ketchup
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 2 tablespoons light-brown sugar

Directions:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Pulse bread in a food processor until finely ground (you should have about 2 1/2 cups breadcrumbs).  Transfer to a medium bowl.

Pulse the large chunks of garlic, onion, celery, carrot, and parsley in food processor until finely chopped.  Remember to let the food processor do all the hard chopping work.  This is a huge time saver.

Add to breadcrumbs.  Add meats, egg, 1/4 cup ketchup, the mustard, Worcestershire sauce, 1 tablespoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper; mix together using your hands.

Transfer mixture to a 5-by-9-inch loaf pan.

Stir together remaining  1/2 cup ketchup and the brown sugar until smooth; brush onto meat.  I also poke six deep holes into the top of the meat with my finger before I brush on the ketchup mixture.  This enables the ketchup to penetrate farther down into the meatloaf and increase the flavor.

Set pan on a rimmed baking sheet and bake until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the center reaches 160 degrees, about 1 hour 20 minutes.  Let cool slightly before serving.

Always a family pleaser, this little meatloaf with a twist is great as your dinner’s main course and then equally as good the next day in a sandwich or two.  It is also easy to pair up with almost any side dish.  A potato dish, a vegetable dish…..it all works with meatloaf.  Hope you like this new twist on an old fashion main dish staple.  What old classics do you cook up with some modern twists to them?

Easy Chicken….Like Really Easy Chicken

This is our first harvest of green beans from the garden.  What should we do with them was the question?  I had an answer for that, based on a recent recipe I saw on a cooking channel.  Fresh green beans are perfect for a chicken paillard with fresh greens and beans.  We had been on such a food overload since our early July 4th party where we ate an incredible amount of food over the span of the event.  This recipe was perfect for us in the sense it wasn’t heavy, wasn’t grilled and was quick and easy.  It also called for very fresh ingredients, which is always a plus.  Even on the 4th of July, I was able to get to a fresh farmer’s market that was open for some of the other ingredients needed that I couldn’t get out of our garden.  If you are lucky enough to find a place that sells fresh, organic produce, it is well worth the price.  The fresh tastes can’t be beat.  This is the perfect Summer go-to recipe and hit the spot for our 4th of July dinner.

Ingredients (serves 4):

  • 1 pound trimmed green beans (sliced lengthwise on a sharp bias)
  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves (8 ounces each)
  • 3+ tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • Coarse salt and ground pepper
  • 32 sage leaves
  • 8 ounces pancetta (finely chopped)

  • 1 sliced red onion
  • 2 tablespoon red-wine vinegar
  • 6 cups lettuce (the lettuce is going to wilt a little because you will put a hot dressing/skillet gravy on top of it…..get some greens that can take that..romaine, red leaf, frisee mixed together work well)

Directions:

Steam string beans until al dente, 3 to 4 minutes.  Dump them into a bowl and set aside.  Slice chicken breast halves in half horizontally; pound lightly, to an even thickness to make 8 paillards.  Season paillards with salt and pepper.  Top each with 2 sage leaves.  Saute in a skillet with olive oil over high heat for 3 minutes.  Flip, and top each with more salt, pepper and 2 more sage leaves.   Heat until cooked through, about 3 minutes more.

Transfer to a platter.

When all 8 paillards are cooked, heat 1 tablespoon oil in skillet over high heat.  Cook pancetta for 2 minutes.  Add red onion; cook until soft, about 3 minutes minimum.  Make sure to scrape up all of the chicken bits that are attached to the bottom of the pan.  They have excellent flavor.

Add red-wine vinegar; stir in green beans.  Simmer for about two minutes to let the vinegar cook down a little and to heat up the green beans.  Toss with lettuce.  Serve over paillards.  There is a lot of greens and beans as you can see.  You can barely see the chicken under all of this salad.

Simple and quick.  We were not in the mood for crazy and difficult. Very tasty and hit the spot.  The warm dressing on the slightly wilted lettuces was a nice touch.  The pancetta, onion and vinegar had a nice mix of flavor.  Believe it or not, the chicken also kept its sage taste which surprised me given that I thought the flavor would be in the olive oil and not the chicken.

This is absolutely a new go-to Summer meal when we need something in a jiffy.  When it’s 100 degrees outside, who wants to spend all day cooking in front of a hot stove and oven?  Not us, that’s for sure.  What is your favorite go-to me meal for the Summer?

Our Happy 4th of July Picnic Celebration

This is our second day of recovery from our July 4th celebration held on Saturday.  Our party started five or six years ago and was really a small affair.  We would invite our immediate family and close friends over for a barbecue.  The kids would swim most of the day and the adults would gossip about what was going on over the beverage of their choice.  Oh yes, we also ate…and ate…and ate.  Each year after that first party, the July 4th celebration just kept getting bigger.  We weren’t really increasing our immediate family so that wasn’t the reason for the growth.  I guess we were just meeting more friends that we felt we wanted to come over.  So this year, it was our biggest party to date.  125 people big.  So big that we thought we needed a tent for people to sit under to ward off the sun.  That was a good idea as temperatures hit 85 degrees with full sun.  The tent that we got was like a circus tent.  We were joking that later that night, one of us would be performing a Cirque du Soleil performance at the top of it.  Festivities went from 1 in the afternoon until about midnight.

Believe us when we tell you that 125 people can eat.  We had food on the barbecue grill outside and lots of good old Italian food on the inside.

We will try now to the best of our ability to document all the food that we enjoyed.  I am sure we forgot a lot, but here’s a good try:

  • 20 pounds of hot dogs
  • 30 pounds of hamburgers
  • 20 pounds of skirt steaks
  • 30 pounds of baby lamb chops
  • 20 pounds of boneless chicken thighs
  • Large tray of chicken marsala
  • Large tray of eggplant parmesan
  • Large tray of sausage and peppers
  • Large tray of penne marinara
  • Large tray of rigatoni with sausage and broccoli rabe
  • Tomato brushetta with ricotta salata
  • Filet mignon on toast points with carmelized onions and balsamic reduction
  • Shrimp cocktail
  • Potato croquettes
  • Antipasto (cheese and sliced meats)
  • Pigs in the blanket (because it is not a party without pigs in the blanket)
  • Italian sausage wrapped in phylo dough
  • Salad
  • Bread, buns, rolls (you can’t imagine how much starch there was)

Now the dessert.  Our Brooklyn Italian Grandmother put out the call for all Brooklyn and Staten Island bound guests to hit their best Italian pastry shops.  You can imagine the results.  We had so many pastries, cookies and cakes that we actually took many of the leftovers to the homeless shelter the next day.  There was no way we could eat all of the desserts that entered our house on Glen Road.  Here are some cupcakes (which are always a favorite):

Each year, I also ask one of my best friends to make her famous flag cake which is from Ina Garten.  She always obliges.  The flag cake sort of ties it all up here…you know, a symbol of why we are celebrating.

So Happy 4th of July to all of you from all of us here on Glen Road.  We also want to take this opportunity to thank all of our women and men in the armed services who risk their lives to protect all of us.  We appreciate your dedication.  By the way, if you are looking for us, we are still recovering from the big party.  Our beverage of choice was not lemonade, so that fact, coupled with the number of hours that we partied have made all of us Glen Road old people tired.  Thank God we have to go back to work tomorrow.  At our age, work is much easier than partying.  What are you doing today to celebrate the 4th of July?

Friday Dance Party – Mumford & Sons ‘The Cave’

This is another edition of Friday Dance Party on Acorns On Glen.  It’s the time where we give thanks for making it through another week and for being alive and present here on Earth.  How do we celebrate another week of living?  We dance.  So, are you alive this Friday?  Are you and your family safe and sound?  Take a few seconds now to be in the moment and realize what a great life you truly have.  Did you give thanks for that?

Good, now let’s dance.

We’re getting ready here on Glen Road for a big 4th of July party.  125 people are coming and we just keep inviting more people.  It’s crazy.  Everything is set for a good time.  Plenty of food-the BBQ kind outside on the grill and the Italian kind inside the house.  The pool is heated to a warm temperature.  Since it is forecasted to be 90 degrees outside, it is important that the pool be kept at a constant 80 degrees, right?  Speaking of the temperature, we have had a large tent put up in our back yard so anyone not wanting the sun beating down on them can sit under it.  The tent itself could host a circus.  At night, it has lights in it so the party can go on late into the night.  Oh, and did I mention the booze?  Needless to say, there are bottles everywhere.  All the makings of a great 4th of July!  Now all we need is the music.  Music is always a tough one because at a party like we are having, you need to please people from 5 to 90 years old.  However, this song will absolutely be played because it is one of our favorites this month.  It’s Mumford & Sons ‘The Cave’.  It’s one of those songs that is a cross between several genres of music.  Great strings.  The best part of it, we have absolutely no idea what the lyrics mean.  Internet surfing says everything from a song about recovering from addiction, getting over depression to getting over a failed relationship.  Sounds great for a party, right?  Whatever it means, its our dance number for this week.  So turn the speakers up and celebrate another week of living.  Happy 4th of July and enjoy your dance.  You deserve it.  What are your plans for the 4th of July?

Italian Braciola From Our Own Notorious B.I.G.

This is baked ziti with a piece of Italian braciola on the side.  It was made by our own Notorious B.I.G.–our Brooklyn Italian Grandmother.  Yes, she is back and making another one of her all-time favorites.  Most Sunday dinners always include her famous sauce and meatballs/sausage, but she doesn’t always include braciola.  Her braciola takes thin slices of sirloin, adds a seasoned breadcrumb mixture along with cheese, egg and sausage and then they are rolled and secured with a wooden toothpick or cooking twine.  After lightly browning them in olive oil, they are added into her gravy (sauce) to cook along with the meatballs and sausage.  When I first met B.I.G., it was one of the first things she made and served to me.  I loved it that very first time and all the times since then during the thirteen years I have known her.  There is something so delicious about this little Italian meat dumpling that stands its own against the big pile of macaroni that always sits right beside it.  I really don’t need the pasta at all.  I could be very happy with just the braciola.  I have always wanted to learn how to make it and I have finally gotten my wish.  So here is B.I.G.’s recipe for Italian braciola–one of the best I’ve ever had.  It all starts with the same bread crumb mixture she uses in her other recipes.

Ingredients:

  • 8 – 10 thin slices of braciola meat or sirloin steak (our local butcher cuts sirloin for us)
  • 5 cloves of garlic, chopped into small pieces
  • 1 1/2 cups of seasoned bread crumbs
  • 3/4 cup of grated parmesan cheese, plus more for shredding
  • 4 thin slices of Italian sopressata, chopped (nothing is bad with a little sopressata on it)
  • 1/4 cup of finely chopped Italian parsley (I am told to tell you that it must be Italian–do not use curly)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 Italian sausage (about 6 – 8 inches long), hot or mild (whatever you prefer) cooked in olive oil
  • 3 hard-boiled eggs
  • 1/2 cup olive oil

Directions:

Begin by preparing the Italian sausage link and the hard-boiled eggs and let them cool until they can be handled.  While they are cooling, combine the garlic, bread crumbs, cheese, sopressata, parsley, salt and pepper in a medium bowl.  Mix all ingredients until combined with each other.  Lay out meat slices and sprinkle bread crumb mixture over the top of each slice.

Next, take the cooled sausage and remove the skin.  Chop it into small bite-sized pieces and spread them on top of the meat slices as well.

  She’s back with jewelry galore.  A ring on each hand for balance.  You don’t want one hand being heavier than the other.

Do the same with the boiled eggs.  Chop the eggs into small bite-size pieces and spread them on top of the meat slices.

  Tennis (bracelet) anyone?

Finish by grating some additional parmesan cheese on the finished meat slices.

  A diamond ring, a gold ring and a gold bracelet.  The only way to shred cheese.

Carefully roll each meat slice and secure with a wooden toothpick.  You may need more than one toothpick to ensure that the inside stuffing does not come out during browning and then simmering in the gravy.

Heat the olive oil.  When hot, add each braciola and lightly brown the meat.  Continue turning until they are lightly browned on all sides.  At this point, you can continue cooking if you would like until the braciola are completely cooked and eat them on their own.  Most of the time, you will put them into your prepared gravy (sauce) after lightly browning them and let them continue cooking in the simmering gravy (sauce) until they are completely cooked through.

I have been to some of the finest Italian restaurants in the world and have quit ordering braciola because nothing compares to the braciola made by B.I.G.  I tend to find that many times the restaurants where I have ordered it bring it out with little taste.  Maybe they are scared to serve it to large numbers with too much seasoning in it or our family just loves large amounts of flavor coming from garlic, sopressata, egg, cheese and sausage?  Who knows!  However, these braciola pack a lot of flavor and taste.  I can see them being eaten on their own with a salad or a side of broccoli rabe or as part of the traditional Italian dinner with macaroni and gravy.  Whatever way you choose, you are in for a treat.  Man, our Notorious B.I.G. knows how to cook.  Did you learn to cook on your own or with the help of a relative like our Notorious B.I.G.?