Chicken Pizzaiola

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I never realized Lidia Bastianich had a website, until I randomly came across her recipe online for Chicken Pizzaiola. The name certainly caught my attention! I mean, who doesn’t love pizza ingredients!

The website is Lidia’s Italy, which highlights her restaurants, her books, her cooking shows (she even has a YouTube channel), plus recipes, and much much more. Her latest cookbook is Felidia, which came out in October of 2021.

Of this recipe, she says, “This dish has quickly become one of our most popular at lunch. The chicken is so tender that you don’t need a knife to cut it. And the pizzaiola preparation is a favorite traditional of Italian American cuisine.”

The lunch she’s referring to is at Felidia, her flagship restaurant she opened in 1981 on Manhattan’s east side, although it now closed permanently.

Chicken  Pizzaiola

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, about 2 pounds
Kosher salt
1 cup buttermilk
1 1/2 cups panko breadcrumbs
3/4 cup freshly grated grana padano
1 teaspoon dried oregano, preferably Sicilian, on the branch
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil plus 1/4 cup leaves, and whole sprigs for garnish
5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 cups prepared fresh tomato sauce
4 slices low-moisture mozzarella

Season the chicken breasts with salt, and place them in a resealable plastic bag. Pour in the buttermilk, and marinate in the refrigerator for 2 hours. Drain the chicken, and preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. In a medium bowl, toss together the panko, grated Grana Padano, dried oregano, chopped parsley, chopped basil, 3 tablespoons of the olive oil, and ½ teaspoon salt. Stir to incorporate everything fully into the crumbs.

Put the drained chicken breasts in the bowl with the seasoned breadcrumbs one at a time, and pat well on both sides so the crumbs cover the chicken on all sides. Set the breaded chicken breasts on the parchment paper, arranged so they don’t touch each other.

Bake the chicken until the coating is crisp and browned and the chicken is just cooked through, about 15 minutes.

While the chicken bakes, combine the tomato sauce, the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil, and ¼ cup basil leaves in a blender, and purée until smooth. Season with salt.

Pour the purée into a small saucepan, and warm it over low heat.

When the chicken is just cooked through, top with the sliced mozzarella and bake until the cheese is just melted, about 2 minutes.

Spread the tomato emulsion on plates, top with the chicken, and serve.

I served this chicken with simply sautéed spinach.

Maybe it’s not like eating pizza, but wow this chicken dish really is fabulous. I would use grated mozzarella instead of a slice. I don’t like the look of that.

The crust is wonderful, and the cheeses make it so tasty, along with the herbs, and of course with the sauce…. divine.

Creamy Beet Potato Gratin

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The combination of beets and potatoes have been a favorite ever since I had a creamy potato salad with beets in the Cayman Islands. I recreated this salad in a post last year.

This gratin shows off beets and potatoes both, baked in cream with cheese and a little rosemary. I think this would be a great side dish any time of year! And look how pink it turned out!

From the look of the print on this copied, cut and pasted recipe, I most likely got it from a library cookbook. When I couldn’t afford cookbooks I would check them out from the library and copy recipes I liked. I never thought to record the sources, sadly.

I’m so glad I finally made this gratin. It’s fabulous, and pretty!

Creamy Beet and Potato Gratin

3 pounds beets, unpeeled (I used 6)
1 1/2 pounds boiling potatoes, unpeeled (I used 3)
4 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan
1/2 cup grated Gruyère
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon minced fresh rosemary
1 cup heavy cream
3/4 cup milk
1/3 cup fine dried bread crumbs, preferably homemade

Preheat an oven to 350 degrees F.

Place the beets on a steamer rack over boiling water, cover, and steam until tender when pierced with a knife, 30-40 minutes. Remove from the rack and set aside. Steam the potatoes separately in the same way; they should also be tender in 20-30 minutes.

When the beets and potatoes are cool enough to handle, peel them and cut them into 1/4” thick slices, still keeping them separated. A friend taught me how to remove beet peels using a paper towel years ago, and it works so well.

Select a gratin dish just large enough to hold three layers of the sliced vegetables. Grease it with 1 tablespoon of the butter. Arrange half of the beets on the bottom of the dish. Sprinkle with 1/3 each of the Parmesan and Gruyere, salt, pepper, and rosemary. Dot with 1 tablespoon of the butter.

Arrange all of the potatoes in a layer atop the beets. Sprinkle with half to the remaining cheeses, salt, pepper, and rosemary. Dot with 1 tablespoon of the butter.

Layer the remaining beet slices on top and sprinkle with the remaining cheese, salt, pepper, and rosemary.

In a vessel with a spout, combine the cream and milk and pour the mixture evenly over the top. Strew the bread crumbs over the surface and dot with the remaining 1 tablespoon butter.

Place in the oven and bake until the sauce is bubbling and the topping is golden brown, 30-40 minutes.

Remove from the oven and serve hot or warm, scooping out portions with a spoon.

Pair this fabulous gratin with a roasted chicken, or shrimp skewers. Obviously, I roasted chicken.

What a fabulous combination. I think any grilled meat would be good, as well as white fish and shrimp.

Bobotie

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2020, the year that will always be remembered for the world-wide pandemic, was also the year my husband and I would finally visit South Africa, and some neighboring countries. This was a highly anticipated trip of ours, not only for wildlife, wine, and culture, but for me, it was so much about the food of South Africa.

Being a geeky kid, I remember reading my mother’s Time-Life series of the Foods of the World. There were 27 in total, representing various cuisines – a larger book, and a smaller, spiral-bound recipe booklet.

I loved the larger books with the photos, and in African Cooking, I oohed and aahed over crayfish curry, a “popular dish at the Cape of Good Hope.”

African Cooking encompasses the continent of countries and their varied regional cuisines. A ridiculous task, really. The book is divided into five regions, and Southern Africa is one of them.

From the book, “Fertile soil and agreeable climate give South Africa much of the best grazing and crop land south of the Sahara. The Dutch first settled the region, and its culture and cuisine still bear their imprint, but a wide variety of other ethnic strains – Europeans, Asian, and African – exist in the south side by side.”

In anticipation of our 2020 South African trip, our daughter gave me this cookbook, by Melinda Roodt, published in 2016.

It is from this cookbook that I’m making the recipe for Bobotie. Another wonderful recipe is from one of my favorite professional food bloggers, stylists, and photographers, Sam from Drizzle and Dip, who lives in Cape Town, South Africa. This is one of her Bobotie photos.

From her blog post: “The Indonesian influence on South African cookery entered the country with the Dutch colonists, some of whom came from Indonesia at the time. The Indonesian word “bobotok” from which bobotie is derived, appeared in a Dutch cookery book in the year 1609. Malayans brought their culinary traditions to the country and these formed the cornerstone of many dishes, which were perfected and adapted by each succeeding generation and can be regarded as indigenous. One of the most typical traditional dishes “Bobotie” still features prominently and preparing and serving it will allow you to taste and delight in the spice of South African life.”

This has to be the yellowest meal I’ve ever made!

Bobotie

1 thick slice white bread
8 ounces milk
1 ounce olive oil
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon Robertsons Rajah Mild & Spicy Curry Powder
1 tablespoon turmeric
2 – 2 1/2 pounds beef mince
1 apple, peeled, cored, diced
2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon white vinegar
2 tablespoons apricot jam
3 ounces Mrs. Balls chutney
3 extra-large eggs
3 – 4 bay leaves
2 tablespoons cake flour
2 teaspoons beef stock powder
16 ounces water
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Put the bread in a bowl with the milk to soak.

Heat half the olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat and sauté the onion and garlic. Add the remaining olive oil, the curry powder, and 2 1/2 teaspoons of the turmeric to the onion and sauté for another 30 seconds.

Add the mince and fry over high heat for 5-10 minutes, stirring continuously, until cooked and loose in texture.

Turn down the heat and stir in the diced apple, salt, pepper, lemon juice, vinegar, jam, and chutney.

Drain the bread (keep the milk) and tear it into the mince. Mix well.

Beat 1 egg, quickly stir this into the mince mixture and remove the pan from the heat.Spoon the mince into a 8 x 12” ovenproof dish, reserving 2 tablespoons in the pan, and even out the top.

Beat the remaining eggs with the reserved milk and the remaining turmeric in a small bowl and pour over the mince in the dish.

Press the bay leaves halfway into the top and bake for 30 minutes until set.

While the bobotie is cooking, add the flour and stock powder to the reserved mince mixture in the pan. Bring to a high heat while adding the water and stir until thickened. Add the Worcestershire sauce and season to taste.

Serve the bobotie with this reduction and turmeric rice.

And then start planning when you’ll make it next, cause you will want to!

Torta di Pomodoro

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During the summer, I was showing a friend the four tomato pies I have on my blog, after discussing tomatoes growing profusely in her garden. Lucky her! I shared my recipe for Mimi’s Tomato Pie, and my Rustic Tomato Galette, and Chef JP’s Tomato Pie. I guess I love tomato pies!

But the fourth blog post, for torta di pomodoro, was missing. I’ve deleted many posts from the “early years” because of bad photography, but typically I’ll save the text. Interestingly enough, I found the photos only. So here I am again making this fabulous pie. It’s a great problem to have!

I discovered this recipe in a wonderful cookbook called The Best of Bugialli, by Giuliano Bugialli, published in 1994.

The tomato pie, shown on the cover, quickly became a family favorite. And instead of using garden-ripe tomatoes, it’s made with a rich sauce from canned tomatoes, so it can be made year round.

Chef Bugialli has been a favorite Italian cookbook author of mine for a long time. He’s quite passionate about regional Italian cooking, and will scold Americans for indiscriminately putting cheese on pasta! (Guilty.)

Torta di Pomodoro

For the crust:
8 ounces unbleached all-purpose flour
8 tablespoons (4 ounces) cold sweet butter
5 tablespoons cold water
Pinch of salt
Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg

For the filling:
1 medium-sized celery stalk
1 carrot, scraped
1 medium-sized red onion, cleaned
1 small clove garlic, peeled
10 sprigs Italian parsley, leaves only
5 large fresh basil leaves
1 1/2 pounds drained canned tomatoes, preferably imported Italian (of course!)
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons (1 ounce) sweet butter
3 extra large eggs
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-reggiano
Fresh basil leaves to serve

Sift the flour onto a board and arrange it in a mount. Cut the butter into pieces and place over the mound. Use a metal dough scraper to incorporate the butter into the flour, adding the water 1 tablespoon at a time and seasoning with the salt and nutmeg. When all the water is used up, a ball of dough should be formed. Place the ball in a dampened cotton dish towel and refrigerate for at least 2 hours before using.

(I followed the crust recipe, but used a food processor. I remember watching a Julia Child show when Martha Stewart made a pie crust in a food processor for her, and Julia was hooked! So I feel justified in doing this.)

To make the filling, coarsely chop the celery, carrot, onion, garlic, parsley and basil all together on a board. Place the canned tomatoes in a non-reactive casserole, then arrange all the prepared vegetables over the tomatoes.

Pour the olive oil on top. Cover the casserole, set it over medium heat and cook for about 1 hour, without stirring, shaking the casserole often to be sure the tomatoes do not stick to the bottom.

Pass the contents of the casserole through a food mill, using the disc with the smallest holes, into a second casserole. Add the butter and season with salt and pepper.

Place the casserole over medium heat and let the mixture reduce for 15 minutes more, or until a rather thick sauce forms. (Seriously, it can’t be watery.)

Transfer the sauce to a crockery or glass bowl and let cool completely.

Butter a 9 1/2” tart pan with a removable bottom.

Flour a pastry board. Unwrap the pastry and knead it for about 30 seconds on the board, then use a rolling pin to flatten the dough to a 14” disc. Roll up the disc on the rolling pin and unroll it over the buttered pan. Gently press the dough into the bottom and up the sides of the pan. Cut off the dough around the rim of the pan by moving the rolling pin over it.

Using a fork, make several punctures in the pastry to keep it from puffing up. Fit a piece of aluminum foil loosely over the pastry, then put pie weights in the pan. Refrigerate the pastry for 1/2 hour. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Place the tart pan in the oven and bake for 35 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven and lift out the foil and weights. Return the pan to the oven and bake until the crust is golden, about 10 minutes.

Add the eggs and Parmigiano-reggiano to the cooled tomato sauce. Taste for salt and pepper and mix very well with a wooden spoon.

Remove the tart pan from the oven after the last 10 minutes, leaving the oven on. Let the crust cool for 15 minutes, then pour in the prepared filling.

Bake the tart 20 minutes. Reduce the heat to 350 degrees and bake 15 minutes. Then reduce the heat to 325 and bake for 15 minutes. In the past I’ve also let the pie sit in the turned-off oven for 10-15 minutes. The filling should not be jiggly.

Remove the pan from the oven and let the tart cool for 30 minutes before serving.

Slice the tart like a pie and serve it with the fresh basil leaves.

If I was serving this for company, it would be accompanied by a green salad.

But it was just for us!

by the way, this pie dough recipe is fantastic, and made a seriously flaky crust, although it shrunk, and I’d let it rest.

Chile Colorado

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I got this recipe from Wesley Avila’s cookbook called Guerilla Tacos, published in 2017. It’s probably one of the most conservative recipes in the book, but I just had to taste the sauce.

The chef certainly proves that tacos can pretty much be made with anything, highlighting in his recipes some with uni, foie gras, mussels, sun chokes, and more. As Mr. Avila states in the introduction, “A taco is a blank canvas.” Indeed, Chef Avila. But please keep uni out of mine.

Over the years I’ve made lots of Mexican and Southwestern “stews,” but I’ve never made chile Colorado, so it was a perfect recipe, and one that wouldn’t revolt my husband. (I have to admit I didn’t enjoy uni when I first had it.)

The book is fabulous, but to me, it’s mostly because of the story Chef Avila tells, from his childhood with Mexican-born parents, his mother dying, to his time as a teamster, then attending culinary school, working at a fine dining restaurant, then finally with a food truck, called, not surprisingly, Guerilla Tacos.

Although of Mexican heritage, Mr. Avila makes sure the reader understands that the recipes in the cookbooks are “not “authentic” Mexican food. “The truth is there is no such thing as an authentic taco. “Taco makers have always known this.”

Chile Colorado

3 pounds beef, in one piece, like a hanger steak
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 yellow onion, thinly sliced
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
8 Roma tomatoes, chopped, seeded
1 cup husked, rinsed, and halved tomatillos
6 garlic cloves, minced
1 dried pasilla pepper, stemmed and seeded
2 dried guajillo chiles, stemmed and seeded
1 dried chile morita, stemmed and seeded
2 bay leaves
1 cup water
16-18 corn tortillas, warmed
2 red onions, very thinly sliced

Trim the meat, and cut into 1/2-by-2-inch pieces, like you’re making fajitas. Season with salt and pepper.

In a 10” cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat, warm the vegetable oil. Working in four batches, sear the beef until it is browned, about 2 minutes per batch. You don’t want it cooked too much, just coated with oil and browned. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the beef to another container.

In the same pan, over medium heat, sauté the yellow onion and cumin seeds until the onion is translucent, about 3 minutes. (I added another tablespoon of oil first.) Add the tomatoes, tomatillos, garlic, all 3 dried chiles, and bay leaves and cook for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the tomatillos are cooked and the chiles are soft.

Turn the heat to a medium-low and add the water to keep it saucy. (My sauce didn’t require any water, perhaps because I used a lid to cook the tomatoes and tomatillo mixture.) Transfer to a blender and process to make the sauce as smooth as possible. I added about 1 tablespoon of concentrated tomato paste because my Roma tomatoes were not super ripe.

Return the meat to the pan and cover with the sauce.

Serve family style, with the tortillas and red onions, and let everybody make their own tacos.

I noticed a couple of mistakes… nothing huge. But for one thing, why worry about it the beef is from an intact piece, rather than, say, 2 flank steaks? Since you’re going to be cutting it up anyway?

And, Mr. Avila writes to add the pasilla, and dried chiles to the pan, when all three chile peppers used in this recipe are dried.

I also would have preferred a weight of tomatillos, but I know the outcome plus or minus an ounce of tomatillo isn’t crucial. Just some editing issues.

This chile Colorado sauce was a hit. Not much heat, which can always be added, but a lot of depth of flavors.

And, a big thank you to Greg, from Sippitysup.com, for telling us all about Guerilla Tacos.

How to Cook a Filet Mignon

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Many people like to throw t-bones or ribeyes on the barbecue grill outside, and are happy with the results.

My husband used to be one of those, but in recent years he’s become more “picky” about beef, and so these days, if he eats steak, it must be grass-fed filets. As a result, I had to learn to cook filet mignons inside; it’s not always barbecue weather.

A filet is a cross-wise slice from a beef tenderloin. If you’re trimming one yourself, you can get about 6-7 intact filets from the main tenderloin, depending on the thickness of course.


For quite a few years I’ve ordered grass-fed beef tenderloins from various sources. It’s less expensive to buy them whole as opposed to two filets at a time. Plus, after trimming the tenderloin and cutting filets, you’re left with about 2 pounds of beef tenderloin that I usually turn into a stir fry.

I prefer my filets a good inch in thickness, but however the thickness, it’s important to cook them properly. My point with this post is to show how straight forward it is to pan-cook a filet to perfection.

Have your filets close to room temperature. Salt generously; you can season after cooking.

Have a large cast-iron skillet on hand with some grapeseed oil, long-handled tongs, and a plate topped with a rack. You’re going to be resting the cooked filets and you want them to “breathe” on all sides.

The skillet should hold the steaks without crowding. The maximum number I cook in my 10” cast-iron skillet is four, shown browning in bacon grease.

When you’re ready to start, place the skillet over high heat. Turn on the fan.

Pour in some grape seed oil – about 1 tablespoon per steak. When the oil is hot, place a filet in the skillet. Repeat with remaining steaks if cooking more than one.

Brown on that side for at least one minute, then turn them over and brown the other side.

Now here’s the deal. Many people at this point would place the skillet of browned filets in a hot oven to finish. If your steaks happen to be 3” thick you might have to do that. But I do something different. I take advantage of my stove.

Turn the filets back over and turn down the heat! Give them a couple of minutes, turn them over, and let the insides cook for maybe a couple more minutes, and they’ll be perfect.

I used to use a meat thermometer to make sure the temperature didn’t go above 125 degrees. That is a very good technique, but it’s easy to learn when the steaks are ready by squeezing them with your tongs. If the steaks are mushy, then they’re still undercooked. Alternatively, if they’re getting firm, get them the hell out of the skillet.


Cover them loosely with foil. After at least 10 minutes of resting, generously season the filets with coarsely ground pepper or garlic pepper.

Today I served the filets with green beans cooked with shallots and tomatoes, and topped with pine nuts.

Also, there’s truffle butter…

Here is a garlic pepper I highly recommend.

Mustardy Cauliflower Cheese

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Will Ottolenghi ever stop writing cookbooks?!! That’s rhetorical, of course. I certainly hope he continues, because I am enamored with the four I already own, before I just had to buy Simple, his most recent, published in 2018. And I’m so happy I did.

I’ve already made many recipes from Simple. It’s that good. And, it doesn’t seem like a repeat of Jerusalem, Plenty and so forth. In fact, I’m not sure I spotted pomegranate seeds in Simple’s food photos!

One extremely intriguing recipe is called mustardy cauliflower cheese. I’ve seen cauliflower cheese recipes before, meh, but when Ottolenghi has one, I pay attention!

From Ottolenghi: This is the ultimate comfort dish, looking for a roast chicken, some sausages, or a pan-fried steak.

Mustardy Cauliflower Cheese
Serves 4
Printable recipe below

1 large cauliflower, broken into florets
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 small onion, finely diced
1 1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 teaspoon curry powder
1 teaspoon mustard powder
2 green chilies, seeded, finely diced
3/4 teaspoons black mustard seeds
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons heavy cream
4 1/4 ounces aged cheddar, coarsely grated
Salt
1/3 cup fresh white breadcrumbs
1/4 cup parsley, finely chopped

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Steam the cauliflower over boiling water for 5 minutes, until just softening. Remove and set aside to cool slightly.

Put the butter into a 9” round casserole pan or oven-proof dish and place over medium heat. Add the onion and sauté for 8 minutes, until soft and golden.

Add the cumin, curry powder, mustard powder and chiles and cook for 4 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Add the mustard seeds, cook for 1 minute, then pour in the cream.

Add 1 1/4 cups of cheddar and 1/2 teaspoon of salt and simmer for 2-3 minutes, until the sauce slightly thickens.

Add the cauliflower, stir gently, and simmer for 1 minute before removing from the heat.

Place the remaining 1/4 cup of cheddar in a bowl and add the breadcrumbs and parsley. Mix, then sprinkle over the cauliflower.

Bake for 8 minutes, until the sauce is bubbling and the cauliflower is hot. Turn the broiler to high and keep the pan underneath for 4 minutes, or until the top is golden and crisp.

Keep an eye on it so that it does not burn.

Remove from the oven and allow to cool a little – just for 5 minutes or so – before serving.

You can imagine what this cauliflower smells like, with the cumin, mustard, and curry spices!

Roast chicken would certainly be the perfect accompaniment. Or sausages.

David Chang’s Short Ribs

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Soon after starting my blog, I discovered sous vide, and knew I had to own a machine. Because it was a big purchase, I asked for one as a Christmas present. I won’t complain about how many years it took for me to get one, because I now have one and use it constantly. Even more than I thought I would. Thank you Santa.

I especially love it for “inferior” cuts of beef like brisket, hanger and flank steaks. Often I sous vide pork loin and chicken breasts. I can cook all of these meats “properly,” but their sous vide counterparts can’t be beat with traditional methods in my opinion.

Which brings me to short ribs. For some reason, I’ve never thought to sous vide them. I think because I always enjoy the process of making short ribs, sometimes in a traditional way with red wine and herbs, other times with Southwestern adobo flavors. I’ve also used short ribs in a sauce for giant pasta, and in cheesy sandwiches with pickled onions. The rib meat has many uses.

Then I read Momofuku, by David Chang. Published in 2009, it tells the delightful story of David Chang, who at 27, opened his first restaurant, Momofuku.

As I read through the book, which covered recipes from each of his four restaurants, the three others being Ko, Momofuku Milk Bar, and Ssäm Bar, I realized these were recipes that I would not be making. However, the stories are hysterical, scary, on-the-edge-of-your seat crazy about life as a restaurant owner.

Then I came across his recipe for sous vide short ribs that really intrigued me.

From the book: “Low-temperature cooking affords cooks an accuracy and a measure of control over the oneness of meat that we have only dreamed about since humans first witnessed the marriage of meat and fire.”

When he first was exposed to sous vide cooking at a restaurant, David Chang originally thought that it was a “cop out,” a way to not really have to know how to cook a steak.

“Then, I grew up a little bit and came to realize that sous vide cooking is amazing magic. (Or at least it can be; all good techniques can be poorly used.)”

But I don’t think he realizes the sous vide options for the home cook.

In Momofuku he writes: “This recipe is not a reasonable proposition for the home cook unless you are willing to buy a vacuum-sealing machine and fabricate a water circulator situation. And even then, 48 hours is a world of time to cook something.”

This is a photo of my sous vide, which has gone up only a little in price over the years. I like it because it’s a smaller size; perfect for a small family.

Now, Mr. Chang is right in his opinion that you can’t just set your sous vide and leave town. I sometimes worry that my electricity will go out during sous vide’ing. I’m lucky it hasn’t. But maybe it’s the 9 years since his book was published, that sous vide has made it into home kitchens, thankfully.

So the only thing that I hesitated about following David Chang’s short rib recipe was his suggested accompaniments to the short ribs: dashi-braised daikon, pickled carrots, and pickled mustard seeds. Not the prospect of cooking meat for 48 hours.

David Chang’s Short Ribs

2 2/3 cups water
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons usukuchi (light soy sauce)
3 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon pear juice
3 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon apple juice
2 1/2 tablespoons mirin
1 tablespoon Asian sesame oil
1 1/4 cups sugar
10 grinds black pepper
1/2 small onion, 1/2 small carrot
3 scallions, whites only
2 garlic cloves
8 pieces bone-in short ribs, trimmed

Combine the water, soy, pear and apple juices, mirin, sesame oil, sugar, pepper, onion, carrot, scallions, and garlic in a large pot and bring to a boil over high heat.

Reduce the heat so the liquid simmers gently and cook for 10 minutes.

Strain the solids out of the marinade and cool it in the refrigerator.

Combine each short rib with 1/2 cup marinade in a vacuum-sealable bag and seal it. Then seal the bagged rib in a second bag.

Set your sous vide to 140.2 degrees F. Add the bags of ribs and cook for 48 hours.

When the ribs are done, remove them from the water and plunge the bags into a large bowl of ice water. Refrigerate the bags.

Cut the ribs out of their bags over a mixing bowl to catch the braising liquid; set the ribs aside.

Strain the braising liquid through a fine-mesh strainer into a small saucepan. Bring it to a boil over hi heat and reduce it until you have about 2 cups, no more than 10 minutes. Reserve.

Slide the bones out of the short ribs. Trim off any large, obvious pieces of fat, and trim the ribs into neat cubes or rectangles.

Prepare a skillet over high heat with a little grape seed oil. Sear the ribs on all sides, repeat batches.

When ready to serve, put a couple of tablespoons of the reduction in the center of the plate and top with the ribs.

Sprinkle with salt and serve immediately.

Oh these ribs!

I knew the rib meat would be tender, but the flavors!!! You can taste every ingredient in the marinade.

And the liquid is fabulous. I actually strained it twice. I’ll be making these ribs again. Thanks David.

Cacio e Pepe

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Cacio e Pepe is an Italian pasta dish that translates to cheese and pepper. It’s a long-time standard of Roman cuisine, and one I think everybody should have in their pasta repertoire.

Recently my daughter asked if I’d ever made it, and I never have. As much as I love and respect the simplicity of authentic Italian dishes, this one probably never intrigued me enough because of the lack of “goodies” in it, like a little Prosciutto, or smoked salmon.

But I decided it was about time to make Cacio e Pepe and embrace the perfection that is a traditional pasta dish.

When I started researching the recipe online, it was like opening up an Italian Pandora’s box. There were so many criticisms of recipes, techniques, and so forth. I’ve always found that the Italians are the most passionate about their traditional recipes remaining traditional.

I personally don’t mind variations on the original, but nonetheless I closed the box and decided on the recipe I would use. The important goal of making Cacio e Pepe is a creaminess that is created without using butter or cream.

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Here’s what I did.

First I grated 8 ounces of Pecorino Romano cheese and set aside.

Then I place a large pot full of salted water on the stove over high heat. I chose basic spaghetti, 16 ounces, for my pasta.

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When the water boiled, I added the pasta and timed 9-10 minutes.

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After the pasta was cooked, I poured some of the pasta water in a bowl, drained the pasta, and returned the pasta to the pot. I had a stirring spoon on hand, and immediate added some of the pasta water to the pot, stirring gently.

I then added about 2 teaspoons of coarsely ground pepper and the grated cheese, along with more pasta water as needed. Vigorous stirring was necessary to create a creaminess and incorporate the cheese.

Serve immediately, preferably in warmed pasta bowls.

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I added more coarsely-ground pepper.

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This dish is so much about the pepper!

I can now understand why this simple pasta dish has endured for centuries. I’ve always loved and respected the simplicity of many Italian dishes, but I think this one takes the cake.

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However, as wonderfu as Cacio e Pepe is, tomorrow I’m adding some Prosciutto or smoked salmon.

My Marinara

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I have to apologize. Seriously. To all of the people who followed me at the beginning when I was first writing this blog. I mean, I thought I was a good photographer. I really did. I had spent years taking pictures of my kids and my dogs. And I took lots of pictures on vacations. So that made me experienced, right?

Then came food photography, which comes along with having a cooking blog. I thought it would be fairly straight forward. Mostly because I was one of those who’d always taken photos of my food at restaurants, and photos at farmers’ markets. I certainly didn’t think I was a pro. But I didn’t realize how bad I was.

Maybe it’s for the best, because otherwise I maybe wouldn’t have pursued this blog. Because unfortunately, to have a cooking blog means you have to know how to cook, you need to be able to write, you must be a food stylist, and you have to take really good photographs. I had 2 out of 4 going for me. But like I said, ignorance is bliss.

I didn’t realize any of this until recently when I decided to look at some old posts of mine. And I nearly fell off my chair. I’m not kidding. I deleted at least 10 immediately, and then thought about perhaps saving some as future, upgraded posts. It wasn’t the subject matter, or the writing. It was those awful photos.

But my marinara really is so good, and so easy to make, that I decided to offer up a new post on my marinara, but with better photos. So here it is. Hopefully you never saw the old one.

Marinara sauce is a red sauce that can contain quite a few ingredients, although never meat. Of course tomatoes are the base for the sauce, but other ingredients can include onions, garlic, celery, carrots, wine, and so forth.

My marinara contains three ingredients. There might be some dead Italians rolling in their graves when I make my marinara sauce, but that’s ok. No two living Italians can agree on what a marinara is comprised of, so I’m off the hook. And I can talk about Italians, dead or alive, because I’m half Italian. Sicilian, actually, but I’m throwing them in the same proverbial Italian pot.

Here’s my recipe:

My Marinara

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil*
5-6 garlic cloves, minced
8 ounces high quality tomato sauce
Pinch of salt

First, heat up the oil over medium heat in a medium-sized saucepan. Add the garlic.

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Stir gently and wait just until the oil warms the garlic and you can smell it, then immediately pour in the tomato sauce. This should only take about 30 seconds. This is my technique for sautéing garlic because I do not like the taste of burnt garlic, and garlic can burn quickly.

Stirring gently, heat the sauce and let it cook for about 10 minutes. It will thicken a little. (An inferior, more watery tomato sauce will take longer to thicken. If it’s too watery, try adding a little tomato paste.) Add the salt and stir.

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And so, that’s it ! This sauce is fabulous for a chicken or veal Parmesan, simply with pasta, as a dip, or even as a pizza sauce.

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But it’s my favorite with any kind of pasta.

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And with chianti, because the San Genovese grape is perfectly with red sauce. Especially with this garlic-spicy one.

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If you don’t want to call it marinara, don’t. Just call it the best red sauce you’ve ever tasted. You’ll thank me!

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* Don’t be scared about the amount of olive oil in this sauce. It’s good for you and it adds a lot of good flavor, because you’re using good olive oil, right?