bolognese in the summer

Well I hope my happy hater from the other day isn’t too distressed by Bolognese sauce. Hope she doesn’t find a red sauce too angry….but I digress.

A true Bolognese sauce does take time to create. But it is one of the most delicious sauces you can put over pasta… ever. I shared Bolognese sauce before, but I am sharing this again because I change my recipe slightly sometimes.

I started my sauce first thing this morning. And that’s something that creates a memory smell for me for lack of a better description. When my father’s mother (Grandmom) used to babysit us when we were younger, and even when we were in high school she used to make her sauce first thing in the morning. (And no, this sauce is not her recipe it’s my recipe I never recall her making a true Bolognese.)

First you would smell the smell of a fresh pot of coffee (she would make it in one of those stovetop blue cornflower Corningware coffee pots). Then wafting up behind the fresh perked coffee aroma, was the smell of sautéing garlic and onion in her big sauce pot. She gave my mother that saucepot eventually, and I think my mother still uses it. It was hammered aluminum so it wasn’t like Farberware. To me those are the smells of home.

We are trying to empty out a chest freezer in the basement and I came across three 1 pound packages of ground meat. I usually use about three pounds of ground meat when I make a Bolognese.

Here are the ingredients:

THREE 1 pound packages of pork, veal, lamb, or beef. I’ll use whatever I happen to have handy.

TWO Onions. Chopped. 1 big sweet onion, 1 red onion.

SIX cloves garlic, minced. We like to keep the vampires away in my house.

DASH nutmeg or cinnamon- My late father always did it , so I do it.

Kosher salt to taste, ground pepper after you add the tomatoes.

TWO Bay leaves.

Extra Virgin Olive Oil

ONE cup whole milk

ONE cup red wine or 2/3 cup red wine vinegar.

TWO cans crushed tomatoes – 28 ounce.

ONE 6 ounce can tomato paste

BIG bunch fresh basil and oregano from garden.

GOOD pasta and grated cheese.

I will start with I chopped up two onions and threw into my pan (I use one of my larger vintage Dansk touch ovens) with extra-virgin olive oil and some kosher salt.

After the onions started to get that translucent look, I added the three one pound packages of ground meat. Today I am cooking with ground pork and ground lamb which is one of my favorite combinations for a truly flavorful sauce. I added a little more salt and a couple of dashes of nutmeg.

After allowing that to cook for about 20 minutes I added 2/3 of a cup of red wine vinegar. I let that cook off and cook down for another 25 minutes approximately, and then I added one cup of whole milk. I then allowed the milk solids and everything to cook off slightly which was almost half an hour.

As I am doing the meat and the onion I do stir occasionally so nothing has the chance to stick to the bottom.

Next I add my tomato paste and stir it into the meat mixture.

Then I add the cans of crushed tomatoes one at a time. I stir thoroughly after each time. Now I add some fresh ground pepper and a big bunch of just roughly torn up basil and oregano from my garden.

My kitchen smells amazing. I don’t care if it’s July a good Bolognese sauce is perfect all year round. And I like making it in the summer because I can use all my fresh herbs.

Now the pot is on simmer and I will just let it go on simmer for a good couple of hours. Then I will turn it off. It will take a few hours for the sauce to completely cool down. At that point I will skim off any fat that rises to the top from the meat.

Then around dinner time I will slowly bring this sauce up to temperature again and serve with a good pasta, grated cheese, and a big green salad.

Good pasta does make a difference even with dry pasta. Today I am going Delco. Springfield Pasta and Mangia Famiglia grated cheese. (Mangia Famiglia is also one of my favorite sources for Italian sausage.)

A true Bolognese sauce is some thing that is truly amazing. and even in the summer it’s a great family meal option. And don’t be afraid to load up the fresh herbs. I forgot to mention I will finish this with some fresh flat leaf Italian parsley on top.

Buon appetito!

tastes of summer

I had a grandmother who was Pennsylvania German. We called her Mumma. When I think of summer salads I often think of her.

I made homemade coleslaw because my vegetable box this week had a lovely fresh head of cabbage. I minced up the cabbage, grated a couple of carrots, added 1/3 cup minced sweet onion.

Next I made the dressing:

2/3 cup mayonnaise
3 tablespoons sweet relish
2 tablespoons pickle brine
2 tablespoons distilled cider vinegar
1 teaspoon prepared white horseradish
1 tablespoon sugar

3 tablespoons chopped fresh dill
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons maple syrup
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

You whisk the dressing together and add the cabbage, carrots, and onion to it and mix it all together. Chill.

The second summer salad I made was a three bean salad. I use whatever cans of 3 different beans I have at the time. This time it was one can cannellini beans, one can pink beans, one can great northern beans.

To the beans I add a diced red onion (or yellow onion depending on what’s in the fridge) and a simple vinaigrette with extra garlic. Salt and pepper to taste, a few tablespoons of minced up fresh dill. Chill.

And that’s it! Enjoy!

beef mac and cheese…my way

Beef Macaroni and Cheese

1 stick of butter

A few tablespoons of Wondra gravy flour

Dash of nutmeg

A couple of dashes of Tabasco

1/2 cup of grated Parmesan cheese

8 ounce bag of shredded Swiss and Gruyere cheese

8 ounce bag of shredded mixed cheddar cheese

6 ounces chopped Velveeta cheese (the kind that comes in a block)

14 ounce can of fire roasted diced tomatoes

12 ounce can of vitamin D evaporated milk

1 – 1 1/3 cups buttermilk

1 lb ground beef

1 small red onion, chopped small

1 pound bag of Gemelli pasta

Salt and pepper to taste

I have never written this down, so bear with me.

First I sauté the pound of ground beef in a nonstick pan with the red onion. Salt and pepper to taste. Because I am using a nonstick pan I don’t grease it. Remove from heat.

In another pan I make my cheese sauce. It starts with a roux which is butter and flour. I just eyeball the flower and I use Wondra which is a great flower to use for things like this and gravies because it’s very fine. So I say a few tablespoons, it’s either that or a few dashes.

After the flour and butter have kind of cooked together, I had a dash of nutmeg and a few dashes of Tabasco sauce. Then I add the buttermilk.

I incorporate everything together whisking constantly and then I add the can of milk. Next I add the Swiss and Gruyere mix, whisking constantly until it’s incorporated. After that I add the cheddar and then I stir in the Velveeta chunks. As everything comes together you may have to add a little more milk. It just depends.

After it’s creamy and smooth I add the can of tomatoes which I do not drain. I then let the cheese sauce kind of meld together and I keep on stirring it. When I think it’s the proper consistency I turn it off and put a lid on it.

In a big Dutch oven I cook the pasta as per the package instructions and then drain. First I put the pasta back into the Dutch oven. Then I stir in the ground beef mixture. Then I slowly incorporate the cheese sauce until everything‘s together.

I always make a little more sauce than I am expecting but you just let your pasta sit for a few minutes with the lid on in the Dutch oven and the heat off on the stove and a lot of the moisture from the cheese sauce will be absorbed.

Serve with a salad and it’s magically delicious.

Thanks for stopping by.

pizza, pizza

One of the things I think that has suffered in the pandemic is pizza. I just kept finding that the pizza we were ordering no matter where it was from, was uneven in consistency of product delivered to the customers. Sometimes when we would order, the pizza was fabulous. Other times when we would order not so much or rushed or they forgot things on the order (like a couple of times completely forgetting the toppings we ordered for the pizza) and with everyone suffering from pandemic economics, you don’t want to call and say “oh your pizza sucked.” So we stopped ordering pizza. And I started making pizza.

I am capable of making the dough but one of my really good friends told me about Wegmans pizza dough. You can buy regular or organic. I will keep a couple in the freezer now and the dough freezes nicely for the short term.

The day before you are going to make your pizza, put your dough in the refrigerator to thaw overnight. The day you are baking, get your dough out of the refrigerator and put into an oiled mixing bowl, and lightly oil top of dough ball itself, cover bowl with plastic wrap and set aside in your kitchen to rise for a couple of hours. Make sure it is in a warm part of your kitchen, or it won’t rise right.

I am not someone who can throw pizza dough, so next when I am ready to bake I get out my silicone sheet that I roll out pie crusts and cookie dough on, lightly flour and roll the dough out. It does take a few minutes to roll the dough out properly because you need to get it thin enough that it fits a sheet pan. I do not have a pizza stone so I use a half sheet pan, which is a little over 17 inches long and 12 inches wide.

I should mention that before I get my dough rolled out, I preheat the oven to 450°F BUT I bake it at 400°F. I have just learned from baking bread that everything works better when I preheat my oven slightly higher than I’m doing the actual baking. I do not do this with cookies or biscuits, however.

When I put the dough down on the sheet pan I do not use a silicone baking sheet on the pan I use that Reynolds wrap nonstick foil. The first time I made pizza like this, I used one of my silicone baking sheets and when we sliced the pizza we turned the baking sheet to ribbons.

I layer sauce, then toppings and it goes into the oven and baked at 400°F for 20-23 minutes. Everybody’s oven is calibrated slightly differently and I have discovered generally speaking the 23 minutes is my optimum cook time for my pizza. And that’s it. It’s very easy and it’s really good.

Truthfully, I didn’t know what to expect from Wegmans Pizza dough. I had tried the premade dough years ago from Giant Food Markets and they changed how they made it because it went from being really good to being kind of gross. But the pizza dough from Wegmans is completely consistent. I have also been told that the pizza dough from Trader Joe’s is awesome.

And if you have small kids, making pizza is a really fun activity and it gets them familiar with the kitchen other than the microwave.

As for sauce and toppings that’s entirely up to you. You can make a little bit of your own sauce up but I recommend making it thick because it’s going on a pizza and baking in the oven. I have done it all sorts of ways I have made my own sauce with leftover sauce that I had from another meal, I have used Wegmans store brand premade pizza sauce, and Mezetta Spicy Marinara Calabrian Chile. The Wegmans sauce is well-made but for my taste I need to spice it up by adding herbs and garlic.

So yes my homemade pizza can also be considered semi-homade but try it! It’s fun!

Thanks for stopping by and stay warm today it’s cold outside.

snow day sauce day: bolognese

Well I woke up in the middle of the night and it was snowing and when we all got up this morning there was a fresh coat of powdery snow, so pasta it is. Snow day sauce day it is!

Today I am making a Bolognese sauce. I do make a nod to Marcella Hazan’s famous recipe, but my recipe is very much my own. My sauce pretty much cooks all day. That’s why you make it on a snow day because you’re home.

I start with ground meat. My Bolognese has a pound of ground beef, a pound of veal, a pound of pork. If I can’t get ground veal I will use ground lamb.

The first thing I do is sauté two onions in a little extra virgin olive oil with five or six minced cloves of garlic. I use a sweet onion and a red onion. Once the onion is starting to get that slightly translucent look I add in the ground meat and a pinch of nutmeg and salt. I also add a large grated carrot. I do not add celery. A lot of Bolognese recipes call for celery.

As the meat browns, I keep stirring it to make sure it is consistent in size. When I serve this I want every bit of sauce to be married with a bit of ground meat. Then I add a cup of whole milk. Yes milk. You cook it until the milk solids kind of cook off which is about 20 minutes or so.

Next I add a cup of white wine. I will also use red wine. It’s basically whatever is open and I can get my hands on first. Today the wine was a little sweet it was this Moscato, but it cooks fine just the same.

As the wine is cooking down (again you want 20 to 30 minutes), I take one of those six or 8 ounce containers of cremini mushrooms and slice them thin. I add them to the meat onion and garlic mixture. I allow everything to cook together for about five minutes.

Next comes the tomatoes. Two 28 ounce cans of tomatoes. I like one can to be crushed, and the other can the whole Roma tomatoes in a purée. I shred the whole tomatoes by hand one by one into the pot and then I’ll incorporate the can of crushed tomatoes. Finally, I add a 6 ounce can of tomato paste.

The next step are the herbs. Oregano and basil, and to make it a little different I add a couple teaspoons of ground Aleppo pepper.

Now my sauce is cooking down on low and I will leave it to simmer for probably a few hours just stirring occasionally. And when I say summer I mean it is the lowest I can have my burner without turning it off.

I will then turn off the sauce and let it sit for a while. And then I will serve it tonight over pasta I could do linguine, but I might do just regular spaghetti.

All you need is a little grated Italian cheese and a green salad. Enjoy!

snow day = sauce day

Yes I make sauce not gravy. All of the sauce I make is based off of the way I learned to make it from my father and my Great Aunt Millie.

Millie lived at 11th and Ritner with my Great Aunt Josie and Great Uncle Pat (who we called PJ). In the early 2000s I won this awesome basket of Italian things courtesy of bon appétit and Epicurious. I came in second in this Italian cooking recipe contest. I did reload that recipe to the Epicurious website again in 2015.

But you don’t always have all the ingredients for any particular recipe and with all the snow outside, it was a snow day = sauce day but it was with what I had to cook with.

I started with sautéing two chopped red onions with six chopped cloves of garlic in a little olive oil. To that I added a tomato that came in a vegetable box that was getting a little disreputable looking and three bay leaves and some red wine vinegar (just a couple of good dashes.) Salt and pepper to taste. And 1 grated carrot. My father always did this.

Once the onion was starting to get translucent I added 10 oz of sliced up baby Bella mushrooms. I slice the mushrooms, I don’t buy sliced mushrooms.

Next comes 2 pounds of Italian sausage. 1 pound of hot and 1 pound of sweet. The sausage I had in I had gotten from the Artisan’s Exchange in West Chester. I had tried it on a whim and I have ordered it again. It’s really nice sausage. Yes it’s a little pricey but once in a while it’s OK to treat yourself and your family. The sausage is made by Mangia Famiglia. Usually my sausage comes from Cappuccio’s or the Shop Rite in West Chester. Shop Rites have great butcher sections and a wide selection of ethnic foods.

Next I added about 2/3 of a cup of milk. Today it was actually buttermilk because I had it left over. I don’t do as well with acid he foods as I used to so you do this with a Bolognese sauce and it also cuts the acid a little.

After the milk mostly cooked off I added 2 28 ounce cans of tomatoes. One can was crushed with purée, and one can or whole plum tomatoes that I then squished up by hand into the sauce. Then I added a 6 ounce can of tomato paste.

Next I added some shredded fresh basil and dried oregano. And that’s pretty much it. I don’t have any fresh flat leaf parsley so I didn’t add any parsley. I simmer it on the stove and let everything come together and cook through. I am going to serve it with spaghetti and a nice salad on the side.

Snow day dinners. It’s homemade. Thanks for stopping by!

bread quest 2021

White bread recipe from the Amish Baking Cookbook

So in 2020 I learned how to make sourdough bread thanks to my friend Tracey Deschaine at Dixie Picnic in Malvern. But I don’t want to be a one trick pony and by year end I had made German Christmas Stollen and no knead bread as well.

I heard this Amish Baking cookbook was a good one, so I decided to order myself a copy. Why? Because some of the best bread I’ve ever tasted has been Amish baked. And I had a Pennsylvania German grandmother who was an amazing baker, so I was curious.

As much as I like to cook, baking bread from scratch was very intimidating to me. So I just keep trying new recipes, and today it is the “white bread” recipe from this cookbook.

I was going to mess with it and split it in half but I just decided to make the recipe as written the first time to see how I did.

Here is the recipe:

1 package yeast (2 1/4 tsp.)

1 tsp. sugar

2 1/2 cups of lukewarm water, divided

1 1/4 tsp. salt (I would increase this a smidge next time.)

1/3 cup sugar (white or organic white)

1 3/4 Tbsp. shortening (I used butter)

7-8 cups flour (I used a scant 8)

1. Dissolve the yeast and teaspoon of sugar in half cup lukewarm water. Do this in a little bowl and put to the side.

2. In a large bowl mix 2 cups of water, salt, sugar, and shortening. Then add the yeast mixture and, gradually, the flour.

3. Knead the bread until smooth and elastic. Place in a greased bowl, cover and sit in a warm place to rise until double. For me, this took about 45 or 50 minutes and I greased the bowl with canola oil.

4. When the bread has done its first rise, punch it down again. Let rise until double again.

5. Split into two loaf pans lined with parchment and let rise until double again.

6. Bake at 350°F for 1/2 hour

Super puffy and fun bread to make. Two nice loaves. I will add more salt next time, however.

Try the recipe and buy the cookbook! I bought my copy used off of eBay.

white chocolate chestnut bread pudding

Other snow food I am making includes a delicious bread pudding. Bread pudding is a great way to use up leftover things and isn’t that labor-intensive. With my résumé I give you options on the milk because not everybody has big containers of half-and-half or heavy or whipping cream in the refrigerator.

One loaf of stale challah or white bread cubed and 1 inch cubes.

5 whole eggs
5 egg yolks
1 cup whole milk
4 cups whipping cream, 1/2 and 1/2 or evaporated vitamin D milk (Carmation)

1 1/2 cups of white sugar
Cinnamon and nutmeg to taste
1 teaspoon Vanilla

1/4 c brewed coffee (no sugar or milk) at room temperature

1 small bag (the ones that keep in the freezer or 5.2 ounces each) of roasted and peeled chestnuts, chopped and toasted quickly in a small pan with teaspoon or so of butter.

12 ounces of white chocolate chips.

I warm up the milk in the microwave. I add that to the eggs, egg yolks, cinnamon, nutmeg, sugar, vanilla after I have whipped all of that together and the sugar is dissolved. I use a whisk.

Incorporate the milk slowly into the egg mixture with the sugar because you do not want to scramble the eggs .

Butter generously a 9“ x 13“ baking dish. Place bread cubes in neatly. Scatter white chocolate chips over bread cubes evenly. Next pour half of the milk and egg and sugar mixture onto the bread cubes. Allow bread to soak it up it only takes a few minutes. Press gently on the bread cubes in the pan, and then slowly pour the rest of the egg milk and sugar mixture over the top.

Cover the pan with aluminum foil and let mixture rest for a good couple of hours prior to baking – you want it to soak everything up and it pretty much will.

When you are ready to bake preheat your oven to 350°.

On a lower rack in the oven put a pan of water similar sized to the pan you are making the bread pudding in. You are making a Ban Marie of sorts and the bread pudding will cook more evenly and retain moisture – you will cook the pudding on the rack above this pan with water.

Bake covered with foil for 45 minutes, then remove the foil covering and bake for another 15 minutes until the pudding is golden brown and set. Cool slightly.

A lot of people like to serve it with a caramel sauce or another kind of sauce. I’d prefer my bread pudding slightly warm to just room temperature and either plain or with a little bit of whipped cream.

Enjoy!

vintage cookbooks

I love vintage cookbooks. Some of my favorites are these local or regional ones that are put out by nonprofits, schools, churches. They are usually for fundraising.

I scored three the other day, all local to Chester County. This one from Grove Methodist is the best of the three. It could also be because that is one of my favorite little churches in Chester County.

My cookbook is from 1991. I can’t wait to try some of the recipes. This is one of those cookbooks that doesn’t have any Michelin stars attached, it’s just good home cooking.

You can find these little gems in many places – I found this one on eBay. I had seen it in somebody’s house years ago and I don’t know what made me think of it but I went looking for it.

I figure since we are still home so much because of COVID-19 some new recipes are in order! Thanks for stopping by happy Thursday!

just a good dinner.

I love Mexican food and the flavors of the American Southwest. And sometimes I just crave this one particular no name meal I make.

My cousin asked me what I called what I made for dinner, and I couldn’t exactly tell her because I don’t know anybody else that makes it. It’s kind of pork carne asada inspired burritos meets enchiladas. Those are the things that inspire this yummy winter dinner.

So this is my attempt to write it down. I always remember how to make it but so many people keep asking me I figured I would try to get it written down.

I sautéed pork (six small boneless pork chops sliced as if I was making fajitas) with 1 sweet onion, cilantro, 1 red onion, a couple jalapeños (not seeded), bell peppers, Mexican spices (Tajin seasoning and Hatch chili powder, garlic powder, Goya Adobo, oregano, basil) , 2 limes grated for zest, juice of two limes and 1/4 cup water.

Then I make a little Mexican inspired tomato sauce with chili powder, red onion, jalapeños, cilantro, grated lime zest, juice of one lime, small can diced tomatoes, 1 6 oz can tomato paste.

Next I lined a 9” x 12” pan with non stick foil and rolled up in large tortillas one at a time the pork mixture, shredded Mexican cheese and fat free refried beans. Line up side by side – you can fit six. Layer on tomato sauce, top with shredded Mexican cheese blend, a little more sauce. Cover pan with foil and bake in a preheated 350° oven for 30 minutes.

Serve with Mexican inspired rice, sour cream, pickled jalapeños if you choose, more cilantro, etc.