Sicilian Parsley Manicotti

IMG_1933“I have bread, water, and love—what more can a man ask for? How about pasta, wine, and sex.”
Jarod Kintz, The Titanic would never have sunk if it were made out of a sink.

Well well, hope you are in the mood for something delicious.

Like many who have a mixed blood, my husband is no different. He has a weakness for pasta, the sicilian blood in him I guess.

So, in his honor, I decided to post this recipe, his recipe.

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We like to buy the manicotti shells, among other things, in Coluccio’s, an Italian store in Brooklyn.

It is small, cozy. But best of all is the smell. Chestnuts, prosciutto and cheese. It may not sound very good as well, but really it’s great.

Anyway, sorry… I feel I’m getting out of track…

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This is, definitely, a delicious dish with different textures and full of flavor. Hot, so it is perfect for those cold nights, when you want to make your kitchen a rather more cozy place.

So, get the apron, clear your mind, turn up the volume of the music and get ready to start.

::SICILIAN PARSLEY MANICOTTI::

1 pound fresh parsley, stems trimmed and well washed

Kosher salt, plus 1/2 teaspoon

12 manicotti shells

3 cups tomato sauce (recipe follows)

1 1/2 cups ricotta cheese (about 1 pound)

1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

1 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese

2 large eggs, lightly beaten

Pinch freshly grated nutmeg

Freshly ground pepper

::TOMATO SAUCE::

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 medium onion, diced

3 cloves garlic, chopped

1 28-ounce can whole, peeled, canned tomatoes

1 tablespoon dried oregano

Fresh basil

2 teaspoons kosher salt

Freshly ground black pepper

Bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat, and season generously with salt. In the same large pot of boiling water, cook the pasta shells until al dente, tender but still slightly firm. Drain and pat dry.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Cover the bottom of a 9- x 13-inch ovenproof baking dish with 1 cup of the tomato sauce. In a medium mixing bowl, evenly combine the ricotta, mozzarella, and 1/3 cup of the Parmesan, the eggs, and the parsley. Season with the 1/2 teaspoon salt, nutmeg, and pepper to taste. Spoon the cheese mixture into the manicotti shell and line them up in the baking dish. Cover with the remaining sauce, scatter the remaining cheese on top and cover with foil paper. Bake for 30 minutes and remove the foil. Bake for another 15 minutes. Serve immediately.

Tomato Sauce

Heat the oil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Saute the onion and garlic, stirring, until lightly browned, about 3 minutes. Add the tomatoes and the oregano and basil, and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer, covered, for 10 minutes.

Remove and stir in the salt and season with pepper to taste.

DIY PSL

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The surest thing that let you know fall has arrived, needs no introduction.

For you, my pumpkin spice latte recipe!

::PSL::

2 1/4 cups organic soy milk

1/4 cup espresso

2 1/2 tablespoons organic pumpkin puree

1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon ginger

1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

1 tablespoon vanilla

Combine the pumpkin puree, vanilla and spices in a small saucepan. Whisk in the milk and espresso and bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Pour into two mugs and top with more nutmeg.

Sugar and whipped cream are optional.

Is a very good drink to accompany with Almond Cantuccini.

Spinach & Mozzarella Bites

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Are you feeling like to throw a party?

Not really. I LOVE this ones for Sundays. Breakfast. Dinner…

The truth is, they are good at anytime.

Quite easy to make and your family is going to love it!

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I got my whole wheat pastry dough from an amazing greek store. But if you feel adventurous try and make you own.

::Spinach & Mozzarella Bites::

1 pound filo dough *

500 gr. spinach (previously cooked and cooled)

250 gr. mozzarella cheese, in cubes

1 stick butter, unsalted and melted

1 large egg, beaten

It’s really important to use all-butter puff pastry for this recipe.

Place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat oven to 400 degrees F.  Line a baking sheet, set aside.

Unfold or unroll three sheet of puff pastry on a lightly floured surface. Divide in three columns and brush with butter.

Any filo pastry that doesn’t boast about its all-butterness is made of weirdo fats that just aren’t cool.

Place spinach and cheese in the center of each column and gently fold about 1/2-inch of the edges over, creating a perfect triangle. As you fold in, make sure all side are close so the filling doesn’t come out.

Repeat this process until you use all the dough and brush with egg wash from edge to edge.

Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until puffed and golden brown.  Allow to cool for 10 minutes before serving.  Serve warm.

* Make sure to take out of freezer at least 5 hours before use. Cover with a damp towel, that way you prevent it to brake.

Whole Wheat American Bread

“The smell of good bread baking, is indescribable in its evocation of innocence and delight… It leaves you filled with one of the world’s sweetest smells…”

 M.F.K. Fisher, The Art of Eating: 50th Anniversary Edition

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In how many ways can you possibly describe your love for bread? 10? 20? 50?

But even if I try to add 100% of intensity to each of the sentences, I might, maybe, come close to understand your love for bread.

Today I dedicate this post to those who consider themselves bread lovers, as my husband. It is dedicated to those who can not conceive breakfast without toast and butter.

Mahatma Gandhi used to say that there are people in the world so hungry, that God cannot appear to them except in the form of bread. Very true if you ask me…

Am not a bread person, but nothing is more delicious than a piece of warm homemade bread after running errands the whole morning, right?

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::Whole Wheat American Bread::

2 packages active dry yeast, previously hydrated in warm water

1/2 cup beet sugar

3 large eggs

4 1/2 cups whole wheat flour

2 teaspoon salt

57 gr. unsalted butter

1 teaspoon cinnamon

In a large bowl, mix together all the ingredients but 2 and a half cups of flour. Mix well and stir the remaining flour, 1/2 cup at a time until the dough has pulled together. Transfer it onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth for 7-10 minutes.

Lightly oil a large bowl and place the dough. Cover with plastic wrap or with a damp cloth, and let it rise in a warm place until it doubled in volume, about 1 1/2 hours.

Deflate the dough and transfer into a lightly floured surface and divide into 2 equal pieces and place into 9×5 loaves pans. Cover with a damp cloth and let rise, about 40 minutes.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F (220 degrees C)

Bake at 375 degrees F (190 degrees C) for 45 minutes.

Carimañolas, Buñuelos de Arroz & Pícaros (Cassava Patties, Rice Fritters & Pícaros)

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Another thing to die for!

Don’t know how easy it is for many of you to get yuca (cassava). It is sometimes a little difficult in NYC, but not impossible. I always try to buy fresh, unwaxed, because it takes a lot of flavor.

If you don’t want them fried, no problem. Carimañolas and buñuelos de arroz can be fried oven. Picaros on the other hand, well, would not be picaros if they are not fried.

Carimañolas

You need about 2 pounds of yucca. Peel and put in a pressure cooker for about 10 – 12 mins. If you don’t have pressure cooker is kind of the same, boil some water in a deep pan and cook for about the same time.

One is done, let it cool and grind until you can form a compact mass. Add water gradually if necessary. Form a small circle in your hands, put the filling that you like, and close it.

You can cook immediately or freeze until ready to eat.

Buñuelos de Arroz

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Picaros

You need about 2 pounds of yucca. Peel and put in a pressure cooker for about 10 – 12 mins. If you don’t have pressure cooker is kind of the same, boil some water in a deep pan and cook for about the same time.

One is done, let it cool and grind until you can form a compact dough. Add water gradually if necessary. For this dough, you will need to add sugar, anise and cheese (do not recommend mozzarella, double cream or similar). Mix all together, form a roll and close to form a thread. You can cook immediately or freeze until ready to eat.

Enjoy!

Patacon Pisao!

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Typical breakfast, typical accompaniment and typical out of trouble at a crucial moment …

This dish is simple and delicious. It may be accompanied by cheese, sour cream, eggs, meat, basically, anything you want, nothing can go wrong!

Now, preparing the plantains for the first time, seem rather long and complicated. But once you do, I hope you enjoy it.

You will need to get green plantains. Remember, they are different from bananas, you cannot eat them without cook them before. Sometimes in Mexican stores sell them.

Here is step by step:

platanos

Grab a couple of your green plantains, peel them and cut into small pieces.

patacones

Now, in a deep pan, put a little canola or sunflower oil over medium high heat.  The oil should not cover the plantain pieces once put into it. Cook for about 8 minutes and remove from fire. Keep the pan over high heat while you do the next step.

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Now, in a deep bowl, add salted water and mash garlic. Take one by one the plantain pieces and put them in a cutting board. Cover with a clean, transparent bag open in half and crush them with the back of a large flat plate. Pass them through the water with salt and garlic and immediately into the pan with the oil. Be careful, since the oil can release hot sparks when entering contact with water. Do not throw the pieces, if you like, help yourself with tweezers to put them in the pan. Cook each side for a couple minutes, until you see is crispy and golden on both sides.

patac

Place the plantains on a plate with absorbent paper for a few minutes and serve while hot.

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Arepita de Dulce

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I know, I know…. We are all better off baking, roasting, grilling or steaming our food instead of frying it. Frying food increases our fat and calorie intake, especially if some of you bread foods before you fry them, fry at too low of a temperature or put too much food in the pan at once.

However, there are some typical meals from the Caribbean Coast that cannot be changed or do different, without ruining the result. I am the first one to say (and is true) that I do not enjoy fried food.

But when I got home, my Mom reminded me all those things I loved so much when I lived here with her.

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Want to hear something funny? When my sisters and I were growing up, my mother refused to give us any kind of fried food. Now, she says is OK to have just a little. This is ironic, contradictory, she confuses me ….

But I’m on vacation, and I want to show you our gastronomy, I will sacrifice myself a little this time (LOL!), just this once. I will make an exception.

::Arepita de Dulce::

1 cup corn meal

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 1/2 tablespoons beet sugar

1 teaspoon anise

4 tablespoons sour cream

Water

In a big bowl, mix all the dry ingredients. Place the sugar and anise in the palm of your hands and crush it, that way you bring up all the flavor of the anise. Mix in the sour cream and add enough water, until the paste is soft to touch.

Form a ball and flatten between your hands until it has the shape of a small disk. make a small hole in the center. In a deep pan over high heat,  fry the arepitas until golden.

Serve with cheese and latte!

 

Pumpkin Rice and Meat with Plantains

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Coconuts are one of the most nutritious of all fruits, but unfortunately, they are also one of the most overlooked. Coconuts can add flavor, variety and–best of all–healthy nutrients to your diet. Coconuts are rich in lauric acid, which is known for being antiviral, antibacterial and anti fungal, and boosts the immune system.

I consider myself nuts about coconuts. Just love it!

And the reason why I mentioned it before, is because Coconuts are an important ingredient in the Caribbean coast. We can find it in both sweet and savory recipes. The base from this dish is coconut rice. If  it doesn´t include coconut, would alter both taste and texture.

The meat is not as easy as it seems. But neither difficult. And if you are lucky enough to get yellow plantains, well, your meal is done!

Now, as promised, this is another recipe of a typical dish from Cartagena.

::Pumpkin Rice::

2 cups (500 ml) organic coconut milk

1 cup white rice (preferably long grain)

1 cup pumpkin, previously cooked al dente and diced

1 1/2 teaspoon salt

1 1/2 teaspoon panela or beet sugar

In a big pot, bring to boil the coconut milk with the salt and sugar, over medium-high heat. Once is boiling, add the rice. Before the liquid is completely evaporated,  add the diced pumpkin and mix well. Cover and reduce heat to low. Cook for 20 minutes. 

::Meat::

250 gr. (1/2 pound)  inside skirt steak

4 or 5 cloves of garlic

1 medium onion, diced

2 medium tomatoes, diced

1 green pepper, diced

2 eggs, beaten

Salt and pepper

Cook the meat until tender with half the garlic and salt. Slice thinly across the grain of the meat. In a medium pan, fry the onion, garlic, tomato and peppers. Mix, in the meat and eggs. Add salt and pepper.

Serve together with the rice, yellow plantains and any greens you like. 

Arroz Guisado (Rice Stew)

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Arroz Guisado or Rice Stew, is one of my favorite foods, but only if my Mom cooks it for me.

I know, I know… I’m a bit difficult and demanding.  Maybe because I know most people use too much salt, too much food coloring, “salsita” for taste, etc..

I wanted to share this recipe with you because I think it will make you feel like you’re here, near the beach, enjoying a warm day, feeling the sea breeze …

I hope you take risks and dare to experiment!

::Arroz Guisado::

Number of servings: 4 to 6

1 organic chicken breast, diced

500 gr. (2 cups) rice

2 medium organic carrots, grated

1 medium organic onion, sliced

1 big or 2 medium eggplants, diced

Organic Celery, sliced

Organic red peppers, sliced

Organic fresh string beans, sliced

Olives

Capers

Turmeric

Smoked paprika, 1 teaspoon

Salt

Garlic, 4 or 5 big cloves

Sunflower oil, 6 tablespoons

Soy sauce, 3 tablespoons

Pour 2 tablespoons of sunflower oil in a big pot and stir fry the rice with 1 teaspoon of garlic and turmeric, for 3 minutes over high heat. Place in a bowl and reserve.

Add the remaining oil and garlic in the same pot you used before with the rice. Stir fry the chicken breast and add salt. Fold in the vegetables, soy sauce, capers, olives and rice. Make sure all ingredients are well mix.

Add enough water until you almost cover the rice mixture. When almost all liquid has evaporated, cover and cook over low heat for 25 min.

This dish goes well with cheese and sweet plantains tortilla (as shown in the picture) or avocado.

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Tips:

  • Remember to cook over high heat all the time, until rice is covered.
  • Resist the temptation to open the pot constantly while the rice is cooking. This delays the firing.
  • Similarly, do not stir the rice too often. This causes the rice from sticking to each other and form balls. Just stir once, from bottom to top when ready. This will be enough.

Italian Chicken Sausage and Thyme Pie

“There is no spectacle on earth more appealing than that of a beautiful woman in the act of cooking dinner for someone she loves.”
― Thomas Wolfe

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Happy Week my Friends!

Hope you all had a marvelous weekend and I also hope that you’re having a great beginning of year. So far, mine it’s been so sweet, literally.

This Chicken Sausage and Thyme Pie recipe comes from a very special person: My Mom! Everything she cooks and touch, has magic. She can make something complicated seem simple; ingredients impossible to get, suddenly are at your fingertips.

pie crust

This pie bakes up like a regular pie.  That means we start with melted butter, flour, ice cold water, grated parmesan cheese, garlic, salt and pepper.

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Now, I have to say, there’s nothing complicated in making this full-of-flavor pie. And I’m going to share my secret with all of you: The way I read recipes, is the same way Rita Rudner would read science fiction: I get to the end and say to myself “well, that’s not going to happen”.

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Hope you really enjoy preparing this Pie and don’t worry about following to a “T” the recipe or anything else for that matter. Grab the ingredients you like the most, listen some of your favorite music in your IPod, dance while you’re cooking and remember to put tons of LOVE on this. The result is AMAZING! A meal to die for!

::Italian Chicken Sausage and Thyme Pie::

For the crust:

125 gr. unsalted butter, room temperature

200 gr. whole wheat flour

3 tablespoons ice cold water

1 tablespoon grated parmesan cheese

1 clove garlic

Salt & pepper

Knead the butter with the flour. Add cold water, salt, pepper and grated cheese. Crush the garlic in the dough and let rest for 1 hour in a cool dry place.

To roll out the pie crust, on a well floured surface, roll the crust 1/8 inch thick and about 12 inches in diameter. Transfer it to a pie pan. Trim the edge almost even with the edge of the pan  Fold the edges under and crimp with your fingers or a fork. Cover it with plastic wrap and refrigerate it for a minimum of 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.  Place a rack in the center of the oven.

For the Filling:

200 ml heavy cream

6 large eggs

4 mild italian chicken sausages, diced

200 gr. mozzarella cheese, grated

Thyme

Oregano

In a bowl, beat the eggs and heavy cream. When mixed, incorporate the rest of the ingredients, except the herbs. Pour the filling into the prepared crust and the herbs on top.

Bake pie for 40 to 50 minutes until pie is golden brown and puffed around the edges. Remove from the oven and allow to rest for at least 30 minutes before serving.  Serve warm or at room temperature.