Posts Tagged "comfort food"

Bison Stuffed Italian Shells

I was craving meat recently (it doesn’t happen often) and so this recipe happened. This is a Kelly Taylor original, so be ready for approximate measurements.

To begin, heat olive oil, over medium-high heat, in a heavy bottomed pan (such as a dutch oven). Add:

1 1/2 pounds of ground bison

Season with salt and pepper. Sauté until it it has absorbed all of the fat and has browned. Then add:

1/2 a small yellow onion, finely chopped
1 large or 2 small cloves of garlic, minced

Allow to cook for a few minutes, then add:

2 large tablespoons of tomato paste
3/4 cup of white wine

Turn the heat down to medium-low and allow the meat to simmer.

In the meantime, either heat up or cook your favorite marinara sauce. Also, bring a large pot of water to boil and cook a package of jumbo shells for 4 minutes. Do not cook the shells all of the way, otherwise they will overcook in the oven.

Add a couple ladles of marinara sauce to the bison meat. This helps to add more flavor and make it extra moist. Also add:

2 large handfuls of chopped parsley

Stir it all together. It should look like this:

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Next pour some marinara sauce onto the bottom of a large 13×9 baking dish (just enough to cover the bottom). Then carefully spoon meat into each shell and line the shells up into the prepared baking dish.

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Once each shell is full, top the shells with marinara sauce and sprinkle with Parmesan or Pecorino Romano cheese.

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Bake in a 375 degree oven for 30 minutes, covered, and an additional 5-10 minutes uncovered.

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When done, sprinkle the top with fresh parsley and enjoy!

My basic marinara sauce: 

1 large yellow onion, finely chopped
red pepper flakes
2-3 cloves of garlic, minced
1 6 oz can of tomato paste
1/2 cup of white wine
2 28 oz cans of whole tomatoes, pureed, or frozen tomatoes, also pureed
salt and pepper

Sauté the red pepper flakes and onions until soft, about 8-10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Add the garlic and let cook for one minute. Add the tomato paste and wine and let cook for a few minutes. Add the tomatoes and season again with salt and pepper. Let simmer for at least an hour. Do ahead and refrigerate or freeze.

During the summer months, I also add fresh herbs, such as basil. Dried herbs are fine, as well.

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Butternut Squash Manicotti- An Experiment

It has been so long since my last post! That’s what happens when you work in the retail industry during the holidays. I feel like I’m just now getting back to my usual routine, which means you can expect to see recipes on a regular basis again!

My first post is not a usual recipe. It’s more of a journal entry of my latest experiment. About a year or so ago, I had the idea to stuff manicotti with butternut squash, yet I never got around to it. This entry below is my first try. I didn’t go by a specific recipe and just sort of made it up as I went, so excuse the lack of proper measurements.

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I began by roasting one medium butternut squash and one rather small one (a large squash would have been ideal, but this is what I had on hand). In order to roast, I cut off the stem and then, using a sharp chef’s knife, I cut the squash in half, lengthwise. Then I placed it on a cookie sheet, seed side up. I spread a touch of olive oil on each half, sprinkled with salt and pepper, and baked at 400 degrees. The time is, of course, based on how big the squash is, but I have found that you need at least an hour for a small squash, and an hour and a half for a large one.

Once done, I let them cool in the refrigerator. (I recommend roasting the squash in the morning or even the day before, if you have the time).

Next I purreed the squash in my food processor and then added it to a small sauce pan. Once it came to a boil, I added:

between a 1/4-1/2 cup of mascarpone cheese
about 2 tablespoons of Pecorino Romano cheese
1 clove of garlic, minced or grated
a handful of fresh parsley
salt and pepper

I stirred it all together until the cheese had melted and then removed it from the heat.

In the meantime, I boiled my manicotti shells for just 4 minutes. You absolutely do not want to cook the shells all the way, otherwise they will be overcooked and mushy when you bake the dish in the oven. You want to take the manicotti shells out when they are still very al dente.

Then it’s simply a matter of filling the shells, which is both fun and messy. I have tried various methods for manicotti over the years. Sometimes I cut off the corner of a plastic storage bag and use it like a pastry bag. Other times I just use a small spoon. Either method is equally successful and messy. The above method was enough to stuff 8, rather sloppy, shells.

Now, for this recipe, I melted a heaping spoonful of mascarpone cheese in a saucepan, added about a 1/4 cup of the pasta water and pepper, and then poured that mixture on top of the filled shells. I think any sauce would work, though.

Then I topped it with some more Pecorino Romano cheese and stuck it in the oven, covered for 20 minutes, and 8 minutes uncovered.

Next time, I may try ricotta cheese instead of mascarpone (the mascarpone was richer than I had in mind), and may add in egg to help bind the mixture more. But for now, here’s how the final product looked.

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Turkey Bolognese

Fall is here and with it comes cooler temperatures and something that may surprise some of you: I start craving meat. Unlike many people who live for grilled meat during the summer, I could easily live, and be very satisfied, feasting on every fruit and vegetable I can possibly afford to buy at the farmers market. That’s not to say that I turn vegan during the summer, but I certainly can go days without meat and be content (with the exception of seafood when I’m at the Cape). When fall comes, however, I start craving those slow cooked and hearty meals and, though I love vegetables more than most people, I’ll be the first to say that many of my favorite traditional meat dishes cannot be replaced with vegetables. With that said, since I don’t eat beef and rarely eat red meat in general, I find some meats to be too rich and fatty for my taste, these days. Therefore you’ll find that I sometimes replace a traditional beef dish with a leaner meat, such as turkey. My bolognese is the perfect example.

I learned how to make bolognese at a cooking class at Sur la Table. There the instructor used a pound of beef and a pound of pork. Though it is traditional, that combination is far too rich for my taste. I, instead, have found that dark meat turkey works very well. But just because I’m using turkey, don’t think that I skimp on the other traditional fatty parts of this dish. To me, when you make something such as bolognese, you have to either go all the way or not make it at all. This is not a dish that, in my opinion, can be made with low fat milk and white meat turkey. It’s just not the same. Therefore, it is important to use ground turkey thigh and whole milk.

And one note about the turkey. I, unfortunately, can’t easily find ground turkey that’s raised locally. I bought mine at Whole Foods, and I must admit that it was the first time I bought meat from a grocery store in at least a year. But I know that if I can’t find the meat I need locally, Whole Foods is the next best choice (at least in this area).

With that said, this recipe is all about a few ingredients cooked slowly. Each step builds the complexity and richness of the dish. Do not rush this dish! 

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You begin by chopping the following:

1 large yellow onion
1 large carrot

1 stalk of celery

You want to chop them as finely as possible. I have found that the best way to do it is to give them a rough chop with my chef’s knife and then dump them in a food processor and let the blade chop them the rest of the way for me. The proccessor can get them much finer than I can. Just don’t let them turn to mush.

In the meantime, heat olive oil over medium heat in a heavy bottomed pan or dutch oven. Saute the above vegetables until soft and lightly browned, about ten minutes. Season with salt. Then turn up the heat and add:

2 pounds of ground turkey thigh

I have considered trying 1 pound of turkey and 1 pound of ground pork, but the turkey is so wonderful on its own that I have yet to do it. And as I stated above, it is very important to use dark meat. The white meat just doesn’t have enough flavor. Also, you may want to add a little more olive oil with the turkey, if the pan looks dry.

Cook the meat on medium-high heat until it is nicely browned and it has absorbed all of the fat. That’s an important step that you don’t want to skip. Once the fat has been absorbed, add:

2 cups of red wine

This is an Italian recipe, after all. Of course there’s red wine. I often use chianti, but I honestly know very little about wine to know if it’s the best choice or not.

Once again, you must let the meat cook until all of the wine has been absorbed. Also be sure to scrap up all of the brown bits from the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon. Once the wine has cooked down and the pan is dry again, turn the heat down to medium low and add:

12 ounces (two small cans) of tomato paste
whole milk

Stir the tomato paste into the meat while you add the milk. Add enough milk to completely cover the meat. And now you wait and let the meat absorb the milk. This step will take around 60-90 minutes. Stir every so often and season with salt and pepper towards the end. Be sure to taste. Actually, in my opinion, it is impossible not to. It smells so amazing that I actually have a hard time stopping myself from tasting too much. I’ve been known to eat quite a bit of it right out of the pan. When it’s almost done, it will look like this:

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As for the pasta, I often serve it with rigatoni. The ridges on the rigatoni hold the bolognese well, plus it’s a sturdy pasta. This time around, however, I served it with my current obsession: bucatoni. I must say that it was a delicious choice. Whichever pasta you choose, make sure it can handle a heavy sauce.

Serve with a touch of parmesan or pecorino cheese on top.

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Chicken Pastina Soup

Pastina soup has a long history with my family. It’s baby food, it’s sick day food, it’s I-need-extra-comfort-today-food. My great-grandmother used it, my mom uses it and now I use it. And the absolute key, must-have ingredient for this soup is homemade chicken broth. It is just not the same with the boxed stuff.

There are an endless number of vegetables you can use for this soup, but I like it simple. The broth is so rich and flavorful that I don’t like to overwhelm it with too many ingredients. So below is the most basic recipe I use for this soup.

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Begin by heating olive oil in a soup pot over medium heat. Add:

1/2 a large yellow onion, sliced
2 large carrots, sliced
a touch of salt

Cook until the carrots and onions are soft and tender (but not brown), at least ten minutes. If your broth is already plenty salty then be very careful how much salt you put on the onion and carrots. Just enough to bring out the flavor. Next add:

6-8 cups of homemade chicken broth

I say 6-8 cups because it really depends how much soup you want to make and how much broth you want. Sometimes when I’m sick, I want more broth than veggies/pasta or sometimes I want a more even broth to pasta/veggie ratio. Also keep in mind that the broth will cook down a little bit while the pastina boils. And speaking of pastina, next add:

1/4-1/2 cup of pastina (aka Acini di Pepe)

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Half a cup doesn’t look like much, but it always cooks up more than I expect it to. Once again, use less pastina if you want mostly broth.

Turn up the heat and bring the pastina to a boil. Once it comes to a boil, turn it down to a simmer and let the pastina cook until tender. Then add:

cooked chicken, pulled off the bone and torn into bite-size pieces
1/4 cup of frozen peas

I use the same chicken that I used to make the broth, so it’s usually dark meat. I vary the amount of chicken I use every time, so add however much you want. (You may have noticed by now that the measurements for this soup really don’t matter. That’s the beauty of this soup. Maybe one day you’re in the mood for more peas than chicken. Or maybe lots of pastina. Switch it up and figure out which proportions are right for your mood.)

Cook for a few more minutes until the chicken and peas are heated through. Taste for seasoning. Serve the soup with crackers, crusty bread, or even a sprinkle of Parmesan or Romano cheese on top. Enjoy!

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Roasted Tomatoes Part Three: Roasted Tomato Sauce with Peppers, Rigatoni and a Simple Basil Pesto

Ok, so these tomatoes are really only semi-roasted. When making sauces/soups/salsas, I like my roasted tomatoes to still be good and juicy. Still, this tomato recipe is everything I love about summer and tomatoes, all in one big dish.

First, before I get to the recipe, a few notes:

  • I often read recipes that first instruct you to remove the seeds and peel the skin off before using in a sauce. You’ll see that I didn’t do that here. If I was going to roast them for hours, I would probably remove the seeds, but for this sauce, I find it isn’t necessary. I don’t like to waste any part of these precious tomatoes. Of course, this is a personal preference, so certainly remove the seeds and skin, if you wish.
  • As for the pasta, I used rigatoni simply because I happened to have it on hand, and I was in the mood for a good, thick, chewy, white pasta. I think you could use just about any pasta shape, white or whole wheat, long or short (just as long as it can hold the sauce).
  • The pesto described below really isn’t a true pesto. Usually I use almonds and lemon juice when I make pesto, but for this dish, I really just wanted to savor the wonderful basil flavor with the tomatoes. The pesto, therefore, is very simple.

And now, the recipe:

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Begin with 6 large beautiful heirloom plum tomatoes. (For those of you in Ohio, I got mine from Northridge Organic Farm.) Cut them in half and sprinkle with salt, freshly ground pepper, and rosemary. Drizzle with olive oil and spread out on a baking sheet. Toss 3 cloves of garlic on there, as well (peels still on).

Bake at 350 degrees for about 20-25 minutes. They will look like this when they’re done:

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In the meantime, heat olive oil in the bottom of a heavy bottomed pot. Add:

1/2 a yellow onion, finely chopped
1 large red or green bell pepper, chopped
red pepper flakes

Sprinkle with salt and let them sauté for at least 10 minutes. Then add:

2 large tablespoons of tomato paste
1/4 cup of water or white wine

Once the tomatoes and garlic are done, puree them in a food processor until smooth (don’t forget to remove the garlic peels!), then add them to the pot. Let everything simmer together for at least 20 minutes.

While the sauce simmers, make the pesto by adding the following ingredients to a food processor:

2-3 cups of fresh basil
1 clove of garlic
1/4 cup of Parmesan or Romano cheese
salt and pepper

Pour in olive oil while pureeing the above ingredients until the basil is finely chopped and the pesto can easily be poured out of the container. Pour the pesto into a small bowl and set aside.

To serve, you can either mix the sauce in with your pasta of choice or spoon the sauce on top of the pasta while serving. Top the pasta with some of the pesto and sprinkle it with Romano or parmesan cheese. Enjoy!

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