(Sorry this picture is blurry… it was taken with my iphone.)
I just got back from a work conference in Columbus, OH. It was my company’s conference, so I was working the entire time. It was a crazy 4 days, but now I’m back home and back to the grind. Before I left for the conference, I decided to make a hearty, Italian stew called Ciambotta (chom-bow-tah). Ciambotta is the name of an Italian stew that is made up of a medley of vegetables and/or meat or seafood. When I was growing up, my mom used to make this dish all the time. Sometimes she would make little meatballs and add those to the ciambotta instead of the sausages. Italian Americans like to use the term to refer to anything that is a mish-mash or jumbled together. This recipe is easy to make and gives you the freedom to add whatever vegetables and/or protein you desire. This dish is also great because it makes enough leftovers for lunch!
- 4 Italian sausage links (mild or hot)
- 2 large carrots, peeled and diced
- 1 sweet potato, peeled and diced
- 1 large onion, diced
- 1/2 lb green beans, cleaned and halved
- 1 can diced tomatoes (14 oz.)
- 1 can cannellini beans (14 oz.)
- 1 cup dried lentils
- 1 cup chicken stock (or water)
- 2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 tbsp dried thyme
- salt & pepper to season
- In a saute pan over medium heat, cook sausages until browned in middle and set aside to cool.
- Meanwhile, in a large stock pot, heat olive oil over medium-high heat and add the onions, carrots, and sweet potato. Cook until soft, about 8 minutes.
- Add the string beans, diced tomatoes, cannellini beans,*cooked lentils, chicken stock, garlic, bay leaf, thyme, salt, and pepper and simmer on low until the liquid has been absorbed, about 10 minutes.
- Cut the sausages into small bites and add to the stew. Simmer on low for another 5 minutes.
- Serve stew warm with fresh bread.
* Lentil Directions:
- Soak dried lentils according to package directions.
- Drain lentils, place in a sauce pan, and cover with water.
- Bring water to a boil for 2 minutes.
- Lower heat and simmer until lentils are tender.
(I realize this photo stinks b/c you can’t see any corn, but I swear it’s in there somewhere!)
As the weather gets cooler, I naturally begin to crave soups and stews. At my husband’s urging, I decided to make some corn chowder. It came out tasting delicious with a hint of heat due to leaving the seeds in the jalapenos. This chowder had a bit more liquid than I would’ve liked — I was really looking forward to a thick, chunky chowder. While the taste was spot on, the next time I make this, I’ll use less chicken stock (at least 1 cup less). This is such an easy recipe to make because you can add whatever vegetables you like and tweak the liquid based on the consistency you want. We ate this chowder with fresh olive bread that soaked up the broth nicely. Also, I used frozen corn since fresh corn is at the end of its peak. If you don’t use fresh corn, be sure to use frozen rather than canned. Canned vegetables and fruits should be your last option after fresh and frozen (respectively). They have less nutrients and more added preservatives and sodium. Feel free to make this chowder in your slow cooker as well, just be sure to sauté your vegetables beforehand so they soften up a bit. Enjoy!
- 3-4 tbsp olive oil
- 2 cups diced onions
- 2 large carrots, diced
- 2 jalapenos, diced (seed removed for less heat)
- 1 lb small potatoes, peeled and diced
- 5 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth (3 1/2 – 4 cups for thicker chowder)
- 2 fresh thyme sprigs
- 3 cups corn (fresh or frozen)
- 1 1/2 cups heavy cream
- 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 1 teaspoon black pepper
- Heat olive oil in a heavy stock pot and add onion, carrots, and jalapenos and cook for about 8 minutes.
- Add potatoes, broth, and thyme and simmer, covered, until potatoes are just tender, about 15 minutes.
- Add corn and cream and simmer, uncovered, 10 minutes.
- Add sea salt and pepper.
- Serve with a thick, crusty bread.
It has been a busy, long work week, so I decided to make something comforting — warm apple crisp. This is my mother’s recipe, and it’s simple, but so delicious and satisfying. It’s not exactly healthy, but sometimes when you’re having a tiring week, you need some food loving. This is the perfect dish just for that occasion; it doesn’t require a lot of ingredients, and it’s easy to whip up on a moment’s notice. Also, if you have apples that are starting to go soft, this is a perfect way to use them up. You can eat this cold, but I love to eat it warm, right out of the oven. A dollop of yogurt, whip cream, or vanilla ice cream makes it even better. Enjoy!
What are some of your favorite comfort foods?
- 1 cup old fashioned rolled oats
- 3/4 cup flour
- 3/4 cup dark brown sugar
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter, cold
- 6 cups peeled and sliced apples, like McIntosh
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 1 tsp maple sugar (optional)
- 3 tbsp water
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- Mix oats, flour, and sugar in a large bowl.
- With a pastry cutter or two knives, cut butter into oat mix until crumbly.
- In another bowl, peel and roughly slice the apples.
- Add sugar, cinnamon, maple sugar, and water and mix.
- Coat a 13 x 9 inch pan with cooking spray.
- Distribute apples on the bottom of the pan.
- Sprinkle crumb topping generously over.
- Bake for 30 minutes or until golden brown.
- Serve warm with yogurt or vanilla ice cream
Concord grapes are currently in season and are not only delicious to eat alone, but to bake with as well. I decided to make Schiacciata con L’uva
, or Focaccia with grapes, using a recipe I found from Gourmet
. Schiacciata (ski-a-cha-ta) means “flattened down,” and in Tuscany, the term generally refers to flatbread or focaccia. During the grape harvest season, Tuscans make this not-too-sweet dessert that is said to be of Etruscan origin. When baked, the flavor of the Concord grapes is enhanced and gives that wonderful Welch’s grape juice flavor that is reminiscent of childhood. This bread is moist, soft, and has a distinctive grape flavor that will make you want to grab a jar of peanut butter out of your cupboard. Hope you enjoy this recipe as much as I have!
Have you ever baked with Concord grapes? If so, share your recipe.
- 1 package active dry yeast
- 3 tbsp Chianti or other dry red wine
- 1 tbsp honey
- 3/4 cup warm water (110–115°F)
- 2 1/2-3 cups half all-purpose flour and half cake flour (not self-rising)
- 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 1/2 tsp fine sea salt
- 3 1/2 cups Concord*
- 1/2 cup sugar
*Do not pit the grapes—it’s difficult to do and too much liquid will exude from them into the dough.
- Stir together yeast, wine, honey, and warm water in a large bowl until yeast is dissolved. Let stand until bubbly, about 10 minutes.
- Stir in 1 cup flour (mixture will be lumpy). Cover bowl with plastic wrap and a kitchen towel and let rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk, 40 to 50 minutes.
- Add oil, 1 1/2 cups flour, and sea salt and stir until a sticky dough forms.
- Knead dough in stand mixer or on a floured work surface, gradually adding up to 1/2 cup more flour if necessary to keep dough from sticking, until dough is smooth and elastic but still soft, 8 to 10 minutes.
- Transfer dough to an oiled large bowl and turn to coat. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and a kitchen towel and let rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk, about 1 hour.
- Turn out dough onto work surface and knead several times to release air.
- Cut dough in half. Roll out 1 piece of dough, keeping remaining piece covered, with a lightly floured rolling pin into a rough 12- by 10-inch rectangle. Transfer dough to a lightly oiled 15- by 10- by 1-inch baking pan and gently stretch to cover as much as possible of bottom (dough may not fit exactly).
- Scatter half of grapes over dough, then sprinkle grapes with 1/4 cup sugar.
- Roll out remaining piece of dough in same manner and put on top of grapes, gently stretching dough to cover grapes.
- Scatter remaining grapes and 1/4 cup sugar on top and gently press into dough. Cover pan with plastic wrap and a kitchen towel and let rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk, about 1 hour.
- Preheat oven to 400°F.
- Bake schiacciata in middle of oven until well browned and firm in middle, 30-40 minutes.
- Loosen sides and bottom of schiacciata with a spatula and slide onto a rack to cool. Serve at room temperature.
I went to my farmer’s market this past weekend and bought some beautiful beets that my husband and I decided to cook for our Sunday dinner. I found this wonderful Beet risotto recipe on Epicurious that is easy to make and uses very few ingredients. Normally, I use chicken stock for my risotto, but the beets are so flavorful that I used water and a 1/2 cup red wine. The risotto came out creamy and rich; the color was a beautiful, deep red. This dish was perfect with a glass of Italian red wine and a slice of fresh bread.
Have you ever used beets in risotto before? What other unique ingredients have you used in risotto?
- 1 onion, diced
- 1 pound red beets with greens (about 3 medium)
- 3 1/2 cups water
- 1/2 cup dry red wine like Chianti
- 1/4 cup unsalted butter
- 1 cup Arborio rice
- 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
- 1 tablespoon bottled horseradish
- Dice the onion, trim and cut the beet greens into rough slices, and dice the beet stems. Peel beets and cut into fine dice. In a small saucepan, bring water to a simmer and keep at a constant simmer.
- In a large saucepan, cook onion in butter over moderate heat until softened about 5 minutes.
- Add beets and stems and cook, stirring occasionally, 5 minutes.
- Stir in rice and cook, stirring constantly, 1 minute.
- Stir in 1 cup simmering water and cook, stirring constantly and keeping at a strong simmer, until absorbed.
- Continue cooking at a strong simmer and adding water, about 1/2 cup at a time, stirring constantly and letting each addition be absorbed before adding next.
- After 10 minutes, stir in greens and continue cooking and adding water and the wine, about 1/2 cup at a time until rice is tender and creamy-looking, about 8 minutes more (You might not use up all the water).
- Remove pan from heat and stir in Parmesan.
Apple brownies are something that I’ve grown up with; they are similar to blonde brownies except with diced apples inside them. The recipe I have listed is my mom’s recipe. It’s simple and has very basic ingredients which is why I love it. These brownies are perfect to use your seasonal apples with. They are wonderful to eat by themselves or served with some vanilla ice cream on top. I decided to make these last night to share with my co-workers today. We have a conference coming up and we’ve all been extremely busy. Hope these brownies make everyone’s Friday better!
- 2/3 cup butter (10 tbsp plus 2 tsp) at room temperature
- 1 3/4 cup brown sugar
- 2 eggs
- 1 tsp. vanilla
- 2 cup flour
- 1/4 tsp. salt
- 2 tsp. baking powder
- 2 cup diced apples (I used McIntosh)
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and grease a 13 x 9 inch pan.
- Cream butter and sugar until creamy.
- Add eggs and vanilla and beat until smooth.
- In another bowl, combine the flour, salt, and baking powder.
- Add the flour mix to the butter mix and beat until combined.
- Fold in the diced apples.
- Bake 30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.
This past Labor Day weekend, my husband and I went up to the Catskill Mountains in NY. My husband’s aunt and uncle own a log cabin up there, so we met up with my husband’s side of the family and my mom also came down from Syracuse. It was gorgeous up there; the weather was crisp and cool – usually in the lows 60′s during the day. It was the perfect fall weather. We spent the weekend relaxing, riding around on golf carts and quads, and of course… eating. My mother-in-law’s birthday was the 7th, so we had a little party for her. She loves fresh figs, so I decided to make this fig and raspberry tart that I found on Leite’s Culinaria via David Lebovitz’s Ready For Dessert. I made the tart beforehand back home in my kitchen and carried it up with a cake carrier. I brought along the topping (figs, raspberries, and honey) and assembled it right before we ate it. It was delicious! The crust had a beautiful almond flavor and the presentation was really lovely. This recipe is not difficult… it definitely looks more elaborate than it really is. Try this recipe out; it’s sure to be a crowd pleaser!
For the tart dough:
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/2 cup sliced blanched almonds
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- 6 tbsp unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces and chilled
- 2 large egg yolks
- 3/4 tsp almond extract (use vanilla if you don’t have almond)
For the tart filling:
- 1/4 cup raspberry jam (with seeds or seedless)
- 12 ripe fresh figs
- 1 1/4 cups raspberries
- 3 tbsp honey, warmed
- In a food processor fitted with the metal blade, grind the flour, almonds, sugar, and salt until the almonds are very fine and powdery.
- Add the butter and pulse until the butter is in very small pieces about the size of grains of rice. (Be careful not to over-process the mixture or the resulting crust will become dense and tough.)
- Add the egg yolks and the almond extract to the processor, then let the machine run just until the dough starts to come together.
- Transfer the dough to a work surface, knead it briefly with your hands until smooth, then press the dough into a disk.
- Very lightly butter a 9-inch tart pan (a pan with a removable bottom is best, but if you do not have one, you can just serve from the dish).
- Transfer the disk of dough to the pan. Using your hands, lightly press the dough as evenly as possible into the bottom and up the sides of the pan. Freeze the dough-lined tart pan for at least 30 minutes.
- Preheat the oven to 375°F.
- Set the tart pan on a baking sheet and prick the frozen tart dough about 10 times with a fork. Line the dough with a sheet of aluminum foil and fill with pie weights or dried beans.
- Bake the tart shell on the baking sheet until the dough is set, about 20 minutes.
- Remove the foil and pie weights and continue to bake until the tart shell is deep golden brown, about 10 more minutes. Let cool completely.
- Spread the raspberry jam over the cooled tart shell in an even layer.
- Trim the hard stem ends from the figs and quarter each fig lengthwise. Arrange the figs in the tart shell in 2 concentric circles, cut sides up, fitting the figs snugly against the sides of the tart shell and each other. Arrange the raspberries snugly in the center of the tart.
- Drizzle the warm honey over the tart.
After making my applesauce a few days ago, I still had some Paula Red apples leftover that were starting to go soft. I decided to make an apple buckle to share with my family this Labor Day weekend. I’ve blogged about buckles before, but I love making them because they are so easy and you can use whatever fruit is in season. Plums, peaches, pears, apples or blueberries all work well. Also, it’s called a buckle because the cake batter actually buckles around the fruit. I always like to sprinkle my buckle with some powdered sugar after it cools (The picture above is right after I took it out of the oven, so there’s no powdered sugar). You can also serve it with some vanilla ice cream or whip cream. This is the perfect dessert to make for a family get-together. Enjoy!
- 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 2 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 1 cup plus 1 TBSP sugar
- 2 eggs, at room temperature
- 4 large baking apples like Paula Red, Northern Spies, or Granny Smith peeled cut into wedges
- 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
- Powered sugar for sprinkling
- Position a rack in the lower third of an oven and preheat to 350°F and coat a 9-inch round cake pan with vegetable oil spray.
- In a bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt.
- In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the flat beater, beat together the butter and the 1 cup sugar until pale and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.
- Add the flour mixture and mix well.
- Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and spread evenly. Poke the apple slices into the batter, placing them close together.
- In a small bowl, combine the cinnamon and the 1 TBSP sugar and sprinkle over the surface.
- Bake until the top is golden, the edges pull away from the pan, and a skewer or cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean, 45 -55 minutes.
- Transfer the pan to a wire rack and let cool for about 30 minutes before serving.
- Sprinkle with powdered sugar. Can be served with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream.