Monday, September 14, 2015

A One Hour Recipe: Zuppa Toscana! or Kale and Sausage and White Beans Oh My!

This is a really great soup. That being said many people have encountered it if they have ever eaten at an Olive Garden restaurant.

But this soup is really an Italian Peasant soup born of simple ingredients and yet culminating in a delicious end product that defines the term "greater than the sum of it's parts".

Now I have another dish which is actually where I first encountered this combination of flavors and that was a pasta dish made by my friend George. We would often go up to my friend Tony's house in the Pocono Mountains to have a little weekend get away. It was a treat as Tony was often off working somewhere and e would let me go up to use his house as a little get away.

George had been making this pasta dish for his partner Tom for years. It was one of Tom's favorite dishes. Sweet Italian sausage, kale, garlic, onions, red pepper flakes, a touch of cream plus a good dose of cheese all tossed with Orecchiette pasta, or "little ears".

Well this soup is virtually the same thing except it's a soup and not a sauce. Beans stand in for potatoes in my version and I use both chicken broth and chicken bullion to kick up the stock flavor. I also only use half and half to lighten up the soup a touch. Well just a touch.

This really is so easy and so good. And it's a perfect meal for the upcoming fall season with it's cooler days and even cooler nights. This Soup, a hunk of good Italian bread and a green salad and you have a meal on the table in one hour. So fix this for your family, your friends, or yourself but fix this you'll be so glad you did.

Zuppa Toscana


1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon bacon fat
1 Medium onion finely diced
2 carrots finely diced
3 celery stalks diced
2 cloves finely minced garlic
1 pound sweet Italian Sausage
10 oz bag of fresh chopped kale ( including stems)
2 8 oz cans of white beans drained and rinsed
4 cups chicken stock
2 cups water
3 chicken base envelopes ( trader joe's)
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
Salt and pepper to taste
2 cups half and half
1 cup grated parmesan


Heat oil and bacon grease in a heavy stock pot
Cook the onions, carrots and celery in the pot and add salt and pepper
When almost soft then add the garlic and allow to bloom about 2 minutes
Cook till soft then add the sausage taken out of the casings
Cook till browned then add the Kale in two batches allowing it to cook down fully till softened
Add the beans
Add the chicken stock, water and chicken base and red pepper flakes
Bring to boil and reduce to simmer, cook covered for 30 minutes
When ready to serve add the cheese and stir to melt
Then add the half and half and stir in
Let cook for about 5 minutes and serve
Place in a bowl and sprinkle with a little more grated parmesan cheese

Enjoy Ya'll!!


Friday, August 7, 2015

Pork Chops Scallopini with Mushrooms and Thyme

Pork Chops are a hard thing to cook well. Especially the run of the mill grocery store variety. Yet for so many homemakers it's a very economical option for putting meat on the table. So I have decided over the course of the rest of this year to take on the challenge of making amazing pork chop recipes and sharing them with you all. Hopefully they will inspire you to find your inner pork lover and give them a try.

This recipe started with boneless center cut pork chops in a family pack of 6 chops. I thought that two chops would be a portion but when paired with a simple arugula salad and a pan of my cornbread one chop became a meal.

I started with a regular recipe for pork scallopini with capers and a wine butter sauce. And then decided to bump up the bulk of the dish by adding mushrooms and onions. It came out really really well. In fact when we ate this we both looked at each other and said, oh yes, that's good.

So try this out this Summer and I'm sure that this recipe will be one you are making well into the fall. Enjoy Y'all!

Pork Chops Scallopini with Mushrooms and Thyme ( serves 4-6)

6 good sized center cut boneless pork chops about an inch or more thick
flour for dusting plus 1 heaping tablespoon to add to the sauce
6 tablespoons of butter
2 tablespoon olive oil
1 1/4 cup white wine
2 teaspoons of lemon juice
1 medium spanish or white onion thinly sliced into rings
1 pound white mushrooms ( 1/4 sliced and the rest quartered)
2 teaspoons dried thyme
1 1/2 tablespoon capers
4 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
Salt and pepper to taste


Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil and 1 tablespoons butter in the pan to medium high
Sprinkle the chops with salt and pepper
Dredge the chops in flour and quickly cook over medium high heat till just seared brown on both sides
Hold to the side on a plate
Add the rest of the olive oil and one tablespoon of butter to the pan
Add onions with a good pinch of salt and pepper and cook over medium heat till softened and slightly browned just till they have some color
Add the mushrooms  and thyme and cook till just slightly softened then add 1/4 cup of wine and deglazed the pan
Sprinkle the flour over the pan and stir to combine
Add the wine stir into the sauce

Add the capers
Taste sauce and season if needed
Nestle the chops into the mushrooms and onions and capers sauce spooning some of the mixture over the chops to cover the chops
Cover and turn heat to low and simmer for about 20 mins
When ready to serve add the remaining butter lemon juice the parsley stir in slowly till mixed and melted
Serve with a good portion of an arugula salad dressed tossed with lemon juice, olive oil and salt and pepper. Also serve cornbread on the side.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Black Forbidden Rice with Ginger and Toasted Sesame

In ancient China this rice was reserved for the imperial court and the Emperor. It was thought to have special properties and as such was thought to be only for him. I don't think it has any special properties other than being delicious. Trader Joe's now carries this rice and you should make it. just be aware while it is cooking it has very dark blue black color that leaches out from the rice and will stain wooden cooking spoons and such. But that aside the texture and flavor are tremendous.

Nutty and chewy with a slight crunch. Flavored with ginger and sesame oil and other flavors this rice delivers and it's visually stunning. Make this with Pepper Steak or Soy Glazed Red Short Ribs or serve with a Orange Chicken and Shrimp with cashews. It's also great at room temperature so make this this summer and serve it on the patio with your BBQ or on the buffet for your Summer party.

Black Forbidden Rice with Ginger and Toasted Sesame
( this recipe can easily be doubled or tripled)


1 cup black rice
2 cups water
1 Tablespoon Ground Ginger
1 Tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
1 Tablespoon soy sauce
1 1/2 Tablespoons rice wine vinegar
2 teaspoons garlic powder
1 1/2 cups chopped scallions on the bias
2 tablespoons sesame seeds


Bring water to a boil and then add the rice.
Cook for 30 minutes or more until the water is gone
Remove from heat
Right after removing from heat stir in all ingredients except the sesame oil, scallions and sesame seeds.
Taste for seasoning and add salt if needed.
When cool add the sesame oil, scallions and sesame seeds reserving a few scallions and seeds for garnish.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Sticky Asian Glazed Pork Belly Kale and Peanut Salad

I love bacon so it's no surprise that I might be interested in Pork Belly. It's basically bacon in it's pure form.

Now pork belly is a fatty meat but if cooked down to it's pure form it's really just delicious and not that bad. I love the juicy meaty goodness that is a joy to eat. And this recipe draws out the purest form of the  meat from the pork belly. It's got far east flavors and some delicious greens which makes it easy to enjoy as a meal in itself.

I love the salad as a meal concept. I grew up with this from childhood. My parents had encountered this idea when they were stationed in California in the 1960's. It was a new thing back then. At that time it was mostly in the west that were people eating that way. But as this concept continued to expand it became very popular. Wolfgang Puck started a national craze in the 1970's when he created what would be commonly known everywhere as the "Chinese Chicken Salad". It was a green salad with chopped veggies, chicken, almonds, crispy noodles, mandarine orange slices and a delicious dressing with asian flavors. It became the basis for all the main course salads we enjoy today at every restaurant you go to these days.

My salad is a riff on this concept. But to update it I used kale and cabbage and changed up the meat to a stir fried asian pork belly that uses Korean chili paste gochujang to provide a little bit of heat and flavor. I love peanuts and roasted peanut oil and use them as crunch, texture and to flavor the dressing. But I kept the mandarine orange slices for the fun and color and added radishes for color and crunch.

Now pork belly is a labor of love if you make it at home. Basically you roast it in the oven low and slow braising it till you have a delicious piece of meat. Then you cool it down and slice it up and stir fry it in a wok or pan on high heat caramelizing the chili paste and other ingredients into slices of deliciousness.  And nowadays you don't have to roast it if you don't want to because you can find it cooked at many grocery stores. Which makes making this recipe pretty easy.

Give this salad a try and become a summer salad superstar! Enjoy

Sticky Asian Glazed Pork Belly Kale and Peanut Salad

Pork Belly ingredients:

1 pound of pork belly
3 heaping tablespoons of Korean Chili paste
1/4 cup soy sauce
3 tablespoons prepared BBQ sauce or catsup
2 teaspoons of sesame oil


Take the pork belly and slice it about 1/4 inch thin
Heat a small amount of vegetable oil in a wok or skillet
Add the chili paste, soy sauce, and catsup or BBQ sauce
Stir to combine then add the pork belly slices
Stir fry till the pork is coated in the sauce and continue to cook till the pork becomes crispy and dark in spots. Glazed with the sauce and cooked red and colorful. At the very end add the sesame oil and sesame seeds. Turn heat off and hold till salad is tossed.

For the salad

3 cups curly kale chopped into fine shreds.
3 cups Green cabbage also chopped into fine shreds.
1 carrot shredded
5 radishes finely sliced some reserved for garnish
1 cup of crushed peanuts, 3 tablespoons reserved for garnish
4 or 5 scallions cut on the bias 2 tablespoons reserved for garnish
1 6oz can of mandarin orange segments drained ( handful reserved for garnishing top)

For the dressing

3/4 cup Roasted Peanut oil
1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 Tablespoon honey
1/2 teaspoons black pepper
1 teaspoon salt
1 heaping tablespoons dijon mustard
1 teaspoon worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 teaspoon water
1 teaspoon garlic powder
3 anchovies filets (optional)

Place in a food processor and mix well till combined.

To prepare the salad place all ingredients in a bowl and toss with the dressing
Place in a serving bowl and top with the pork
Garnish with the remaining scallions, peanuts, oranges segments and radishes. 

Monday, July 13, 2015

Jimmy Crack Corn....Mexican Street Corn

Now I have been making this for the past several years with various results but after several different versions I have settled on this one. This corn is good. So good people call it crack corn. I made this for On the Plate when we were doing summer BBQ dinners and people just loved it. Back then in NYC not very many people were familiar with this. However, in California where my business partner was from they had known about this for years. This is not really traditional street corn because I use parmesan cheese and not Cojita cheese which is the real deal. You can use whatever you like this is just easy for me cause I always have a big chunk of parmesan in my fridge. So give this a try for your Summer corn fest. Cheers.

Mexican Street Corn


6 to 8 ears of corn
3/4 cup mayonaise
1/2 to 3/4 cup grated parmesan cheese ( Grand Padano)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1 1/2 tablespoons chili power plus more for garnish
Several shakes of hot sauce
juice of one lime
lime zest and chopped chives or cilantro for garnishing


Peel back the corn husks and reveal the ears
Make sure the hair is gone and thin the leaves out a little
Place a large piece of foil on a baking sheet
Oil the corn and place on the foil with the husks hanging off the sheet
Heat oven to 375
Cover Corn with another foil sheet and seal edges leaving the husks outside the foil
Bake corn for 45 mins to one hour

Mix the mayo with half the cheese, garlic powder, the salt, chili powder, hot sauce and lime juice

When corn is done remove from oven
Slather the corn with the mayo mixture
Then sprinkle with the parmesan cheese
Garnish with more chili powder and lime zest and the cilantro or chives

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Fried Chicken Thighs and Chive Cheddar Parmesan Waffles with Franks Red Hot Cream Gravy

Sometimes you just go with an idea and it turns out amazingly well. So it is with this recipe. I was in the mood for Fried Chicken and decided to try to make a recipe for chicken and waffles I would like. Generally I don't like chicken and waffles but I decided to see if I could prove myself wrong and find a version I like.

This one hit it straight on the head. It's so good I actually thought I had found a new favorite. Give these a try if you want to do some down home old school fried chicken goodness.

Chive Cheddar Parmesan Belgian Waffles ( makes 4-5 waffles)


2 Cups Flour
2 Tablespoons Baking Powder
2 large eggs well beaten
2 cups whole Milk
1 cup grated Extra Sharp White Cheddar
1 cup grated Parmesan Cheese
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
4 tablespoons chopped chives ( two reserved for garnish)
Maple Syrup

Mix dry and wet ( including cheese and chives ) ingredients separately
Slowly combine till well mixed
Heat Belgian waffle iron and pour a ladle of mix in and cook till brown and toasty
Hold Warm until ready to use or freeze till another use

Crispy Fried Chicken Thighs  Makes 4 servings

1 chicken thigh per guest
1 cup flour
1 egg
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon sweet paprika
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup buttermilk
2 to 4 cups peanut oil or other fryer oil
1 small brown paper bags
salt and pepper for seasoning

On a plate season the chicken and place in the fridge for 15 mins
In a bowl mix the egg and the milk
Add the flour and spices to the bag
Take each piece of chicken one at a time and place in the buttermilk mix till coated then place in bag
Shake the four pieces really well till coated
Place on a rack and let sit for 20 mins
Heat oil in a cast iron skillet or pan heat till really really hot
When ready carefully place the chicken into the pan
Turn heat to med low, cover the pan and cook for 30 mins
Then remove lid
Turn heat to high and cook till chicken is crisp
Hold in oven with Waffles till ready to serve

Creamed Hot Sauce Gravy

3 tablespoons chicken fry oil
6 tablespoons flour
3 tablespoons butter cut up
1 teaspoons garlic powder
3 cups  of warmed whole Milk
salt and coarse ground black pepper
3 tablespoons Sherry Vinegar
4 tablespoons Franks Hot Sauce ( or to taste )
Water to thin

Heat butter and oil
Add the flour cook about 3 mins
Slowly add the milk whisking constantly
add the spices and cook till thickened
Add the vinegar and hot sauce stir in well 

To serve place the waffle in a bowl and drizzle with syrup
Place chicken on Waffle
Ladle gravy over and sprinkle chives

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Summer Tomato and Ricotta and Basil Focaccia Bruschetta

Summer is the best time to eat tomatoes. I love them. I think that during the warm Summer months when things are a little freer and time slides by a little slower it's only fair to say the the produce makes the season. And I think that tomatoes in particular are an amazingly special gift with their sun kissed skins nearly bursting with juicy deliciousness.

So these little beauties are the star of my summer evening table. I love making bruschetta in general. But when faced with the choice of ingredients I go for the gold with these.

The other obvious part of bruschetta is of course the bread. So the choice for a base is important. I am choosing focaccia because I love it's flaky soft juicy texture and when crisped it is tremendously delicious.

So here's a quick recipe for your backyard this summer. Enjoy!


Fresh Grape or Cherry Tomatoes halved
Ricatta Cheese full fat about 8 oz
between 1 and 2 tablespoons of basil pesto ( you can make or buy this at your grocer)
How much you put in depends on how strong you want the basil flavor
Fresh basil about a bunch
Good quality olive oil ( a great olive oil really makes the difference, spend the money)
1 small loaf of focaccia bread


Cut bread into rectangular segments about 4 inches by 12 inches then slice bread into square slices about 1/2 in thick.
Heat oven to 375
Place bread on a baking sheet and then drizzle a little olive oil and sprinkle with some sea salt flakes
Bake until the bread is a little brown and toasty
Remove from the oven and let cool
Mix the ricotta cheese and pesto together till smooth and creamy
Cut the basil leaves into chiffonade
Mix the tomatoes and basil with just enough olive oil to coat nicely
Top the bread with a good smear of the riccotta
Top the bread slices with the tomatoes and basil mixture
Sprinkle with a little sea salt and serve