Chicken Ricotta Meatballs

A few weeks ago, Slow Food USA put out a “$5 Challenge,” encouraging people to come up with home cooked meals for under $5/person. Joy Manning over at The Oyster Evangelist took up the challenge and shared her results with the Inquirer. When I saw that she had made chicken ricotta meatballs, I knew I had to check them out. We are constantly trying to eat healthier and I was interested in exploring this meatball alternative (not to mention the last chicken meatball I had from Marabella Meatball Co. was the bomb.)

Chicken Ricotta Meatballs (adapted from Joy Manning)

2 lbs. ground chicken (Manning suggests purchasing chicken thighs and running them through your food processor)

2 cups ricotta cheese (get fresh ricotta if you’re able. I got mine from Salumeria in the Reading Terminal)

1/2 cup dried bread crumbs

1/3 cup minced onion (or to taste)

3 garlic cloves, minced

1 egg, beaten

1 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.

-Combine the ground chicken, ricotta cheese, bread crumbs, onion, garlic, egg, salt and pepper in a large bowl. Mix gently until well combined.

-Form into meatballs the size of ping pong balls. They will seem very wet and gooey but have no fear.  Arrange on a silcone mat or parchment-lined baking sheet and bake for 25 minutes, turning after about 15 minutes, until golden brown in spots.

Before baking

After baking

See those crispy black bits on the silpat? Scrape them off and snack before dinner. I promise they’re divine.

-Transfer to a pot of tomato sauce and simmer until serving. I was planning on have a low-carb meal and serving them over zucchini noodles but ALAS, we had no zukes. This carboholic was just fine with spaghetti.

 

I was amazed by how light and fluffy the meatballs were and the ricotta seriously salvaged the dryness that is often prevalent in ground poultry. I made an abundant amount of meatballs but we somehow tore through them in just a few days. They were that good and absolutely packed with flavor. Next time I’m at the Reading Terminal, I’m hitting up Godshall’s to buy some ground chicken in bulk as this would be a great freezer meal.

Advertisements

Garlic Scape Pesto

A few weeks back, I picked up some garlic scapes at the height of their season from Headhouse Square. I’d only worked minimally with garlic scapes, using them in a stir fry and grilled. I had seen a few mentions of garlic scape pesto and decided I’d give it a go. As a searched for a decent recipe online (I mean, how much of a “recipe” do you really need for a pesto?) I stumbled across this one from Dorie Greenspan. Food bloggers and other folks on the internet sang its praises so I figured I should check it out.

Dorie Greenspan’s Garlic Scape Pesto

Makes about 1 cup

10 garlic scapes, finely chopped (I used a bit more.)

1/3 to 1/2 cup finely grated Parmesan (to taste and texture)

1/3 cup slivered almonds (you could toast them lightly, if you’d like)

About 1/2 cup olive oil

Sea salt

Put the scapes, 1/3 cup of the cheese, almonds and half the olive oil in the bowl of a food processor (or use a blender or a mortar and pestle).  Whir to chop and blend all the ingredients and then add the remainder of the oil and, if you want, more cheese.  If you like the texture, stop; if you’d like it a little thinner, add some more oil.  Season with salt.

I ended up adding a little more cheese, olive oil and almonds because the mixture is REALLY garlicky and I wanted to tone it down a bit (not too much though!) The final product was a creamy green and tasted great mixed with pasta or smeared on sandwiches.

 

 

 

 

It’s Pesach Time: Flourless Chocolate Cake

Flourless Chocolate Cake (adapted from Epicurious.com)
  • 4 ounces semisweet chocolate (recipe called for bittersweet but I used what I had)
  • 1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder plus additional for sprinkling

Preheat oven to 375°F and butter an 8-inch round baking pan. Line bottom with a round of wax paper and butter paper. If you’re like me and ran out of wax paper, butter the crap out of your cake pan.

Chop chocolate into small pieces. In a double boiler or metal bowl set over a saucepan of barely simmering water melt chocolate with butter, stirring, until smooth. Might I argue that I have the best (invented) double boiler ever!

Remove top of double boiler or bowl from heat and whisk sugar into chocolate mixture.

Add eggs and whisk well. Sift 1/2 cup cocoa powder over chocolate mixture and whisk until just combined. If you happen to realize that you only have 1/4 cup of cocoa powder left, no biggie. Pour batter into pan and bake in middle of oven 25 minutes, or until top has formed a thin crust. Cool cake in pan on a rack 5 minutes and invert onto a serving plate. Dust confectioner’s sugar on the top if you want to be extra fancy.

Unlike me, try to remember that you replaced your missing sifter and use that rather than sprinkling it with your fingers. It will look prettier.

If you want to get extra fancy, pull some frozen raspberries from your freezer and cook them into a compote with a touch of sugar. Serve the cake with a splash of compote and perhaps some ice cream if you so desire.

Mixed Berry Cobbler

Mixed Berry Cobbler (adapted from Betty Crocker’s blackberry cobbler)

2 1/2 cups fresh or frozen (thawed and drained) blackberries (do not use blueberries) (I used mostly frozen berries. No time to thaw!)
1 cup sugar
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup milk
1/2 cup butter, melted

-In medium bowl, stir together blackberries and sugar. Let stand about 20 minutes or until fruit syrup forms. (Whoops, missed that part too) Heat oven to 375°F.

-In large bowl, stir together flour, baking powder, salt and milk. Stir in melted butter until blended.

-Spoon blackberry mixture into 8x8inch square pan. Top with batter (it will be clumpy.) Now, for some reason, the recipe said to put the batter on the bottom and top with the berries. I obviously didn’t do that and mine came out just fine–I prefer it MY way!

-Bake 45 to 55 minutes or until dough rises and is golden. Serve warm with cream or vanilla almond ice cream.  If you’re my dad, you’ll sprinkle some blood orange ‘cello over the whole deal. Why the hell not?

Paella on the Grill!

As I mentioned in my Scannicchio’s post, my father’s dear friend and his daughter came to visit Philadelphia a few weeks back. Last time my parents went to visit Pat in New Hampshire, they came home raving about his paella made entirely on the grill. Sounds interesting, I thought. My mother made her own delicious version this past summer but I knew I had to try the original. On a cold weekday evening, my husband, dog and I made our way to my parents’ house to finally see what this paella was all about.

Pat had spent the day touring colleges but made sure to hit up the Reading Terminal (my family’s go-t0 spot) for lunch and a little grocery shopping. By the time my husband and I got my my parents’ place, Pat had already prepared his mise en place of chicken, onion, chorizo and shrimp.

The clams were outside soaking in salt water. Pat’s theory is that the clams would feel more comfortable in a “natural habitat” and would thus be more likely to loosen up and release any sand and grit. Who knows.

Meanwhile, my dad’s homemade chicken stock (go Dad!) was bubbling away on the stove. Check out the rich, caramel color!

Finally it was time to bring the ingredients out back to the grill. Pat began by sautéing the onions, chicken and chorizo in the pan in a small amount of olive oil. The point is to infuse the olive oil so that when the roast is toasting, it takes in all of the delicious flavors of the onions and proteins.

While Pat was busy working out back, we were busy inside.

Just another Wednesday night, y’all.

Next, Pat toasted the rice in the flavored oil with added saffron. He used arborio (risotto rice) because it is the closest to the specific Spanish rice that he could find.

Remember, all of the cooking is happening on the grill, my friends. Once the rice was sufficiently toasted and aromatic, he began adding the stock ladle by ladle-full, similar to a risotto preparation. Once the rice was mostly cooked through, he added the chicken, chorizo, peas, clams and shrimp along with a healthy dash of saffron (well, this was “saffron” my mother purchased quite inexpensively in Israel so we had some conversation regarding the authenticity of the herb.)

The shrimp and clams went in raw due to their short cooking time. My mother and Pat had a brief “conversation regarding whether the clams should face up or down (Pat wanted down so the juices would release into the dish. Mom wanted up so it would look pretty. Pat won.)

We closed the grill and finished off the last of our champagne.  After a brief but impatient wait, the finished product was brought to the table straight from the grill.

Beautiful! My favorite parts were the crispy rice and chorizo.

Because Pat and Emily were visiting Philadelphia, we had to have cannoli for dessert (well, I went in for cannoli and came out with a few extras including my favorite pignolis and my mom’s favorite Irish potatoes. Something for everyone!)

‘Cello Time!

I’ve always wanted to make limoncello. My husband and I enjoy after dinner drinks like port, sherry and limoncello and thought it would be nice to have a homemade selection of the latter in the freezer for guests or just an icy cold nip. I finally found my chance when I found key limes at Iovine’s. I picked up a bag (not inexpensive at $4.99,) tossing it into my basket with thoughts of key lime cheesecake. A few feet down the aisle, I happened upon blood oranges on sale–3 for a dollar. That’s my kind of citrus sale! I grabbed about 10 of them and the wheels started spinning. We’ve had excess vodka in our house for ages–the only alcohol left over from our wedding that we didn’t drink ourselves. After the homemade vanilla and those Sex and the City drinks (what are they called? Cosmos?) I made for my best friend’s bachelorette party we still had vodka to burn.

I perused the internet and found a variety of recipes. All of them started with peeling the citrus and soaking it in 750ml of vodka for four days to one month. I thought I would get more flavor by zesting the fruit. I will not do that in the future. Have you ever tried to zest key limes? Do it. Then you will know why I will never do it again. Beautiful color and scent though.

A month later I opened up the containers to a beautiful, rich orange and green.

I made a quick simple syrup of 2 1/2 cups of sugar and 3 1/2 cups of water (per 750ml vodka) Check it out simmering away.

 

Once the simple syrup cooled, I combined it with the vodka/citrus mixture and let it sit overnight. Then the fun began. Because I decided to finely zest the peel, it was impossible to strain the mixture–I had to do it about three different times. At some point during that process I remembered that my mesh sieve had mysteriously gone missing and had to fun out to Fante’s (poor me) to pick up a new one. I also grabbed a funnel because that walked too. Oh, and some pretty bottles because limoncello (well, key lime and blood orange ‘cello) can only be served in pretty bottles.

The straining process took a long, long time.

Did I mention it took a long time? Eventually I finished and poured it into my pretty bottles.

Each 750ml bottle of vodka gave me enough for one of those big bottles, two smaller bottles and a taste for my husband and myself.  The color has subsided in the fridge a bit and the ‘cello is awfully sweet–I prefer the tang of the key lime–but it’s been fun to break out the bottle for recent special occasions like my mother’s birthday or my brother-in-law and sister-in-law’s visit.

Chicken Pot Pie

I’ve been wanting to make chicken pot pie for a while now. Nothing says winter like a steaming hot slice of creamy chicken & veg mix beneath a buttery crust. A while back I picked up a bag of frozen mixed veggies in hopes that my pot pie dream would become a reality. I started searching for recipes until I found this one from the Pillsbury website. I figured you couldn’t really go wrong with Pillsbury.
The problem began when I realized at 7pm that the pie crust and veggies needed to be thawed. I removed them both from the freezer and sat down to watch Jeopardy. About 30 minutes later I started dinner once again.
Chicken Pot Pie (recipe adapted from Pillsbury)
1/3 cup butter (this is a lot of  butter. I used a bit less)
1/3 cup chopped onion
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 3/4 cups chicken broth
1/2 cup milk (I used skim)
2 1/2 cups shredded cooked chicken
2 cups frozen mixed vegetables, thawed
  • Heat oven to 425°F. Make pie crusts as directed on box for Two-Crust Pie using 9-inch glass pie pan. (I used my pretty red dish that I got for a steal at Ross because I thought it would be better to have something a little deeper.)
  • In 2-quart saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Add onion; cook 2 minutes, stirring frequently, until tender. Stir in flour, salt and pepper until well blended. Gradually stir in broth and milk, cooking and stirring until bubbly and thickened.

 

  • Stir in chicken and mixed vegetables. Remove from heat. Doesn’t that look yum!?

  • Spoon chicken mixture into crust-lined pan. Top with second crust; seal edge and flute. Cut slits in several places in top crust.  My nice, deep pie dish was a touch too big for the crust but you get the idea.

  • Bake 30 to 40 minutes or until crust is golden brown. During last 15 to 20 minutes of baking, cover crust edge with strips of foil to prevent excessive browning. (A tip on that–I usually place the dish on top of two pieces of foil that I can simply fold up over the crust when necessary.) Let stand 5 minutes before serving.

 

I served it with a nice green salad. A perfect dinner for a cold and dreary day. The leftovers kept great for lunches as well.

Shepherd’s Pie (Turkey Style)

When I was a vegetarian, I made a lot of dishes with “fake meat,” as I liked to call it. Boca or Morning Star crumbles were a great substitute for ground beef or turkey as long as you appreciated it for its own flavor and texture rather than looking for a real meaty flavor. My very loving then-boyfriend (and current husband) patiently and hungrily ate all of my creations from stuffed shells to shephard’s pie–all incorporating some form of “fake meat.” I think he even liked most of them.

Since renewing my meat-eating lifestyle, we’ve made over some of our vegetarian classics, carnivore-style. Zach’s famous stuffed peppers and my shepherd’s pie were two meatless mainstays that would transition nicely to our meatier meals.

Turkey Shepherd’s Pie (adapted by me for me)

-1 tbsp. olive oil

-l.25 lbs ground turkey (or 1 lb. ground beef. Turkey cooks down a bit more)

-1/2 onion, diced

-1 carrot, peeled and diced

-3 cups of broccoli (give or take, I’m totally guessing here.)

-2.5 cups mashed potatoes (guessing here too)

-1/2 cup parmesan cheese

-1/2 cup bread crumbs

-seasoning of your choice

1. Preheat oven to 400′ and put a pot of water on to boil (for the broccoli)

2. Saute the carrots, onions and garlic in the olive oil until soft. Add the turkey and saute until brown.

3. Meanwhile, prepare mashed potatoes. I was short on potatoes and usually have a little more. The potatoes are my favorite part.

4. Steam the broccoli in the water until crisp tender. Be careful not to overcook as they will continue to cook in the cassserole.

5. Start your layering! Coat a dish (I like to use a round pyrex, but a smaller, rectangular shaped dish will do as well) with cooking spray and layer the meat into the bottom. Follow with the broccoli and top it off with the mashed potatoes.

Check out these pretty layers.

Top with parmesan and bread crumbs, if you like a little crunch. Bake in the top third of the oven for 15 minutes or until the cheese gets brown and delicious. Then, if you’re like me, forget to take a picture of the finished product. Enjoy!

An Attempt at Chocolate

Almost a year ago,  I was preparing to attend my sister-in-law’s ocean-themed bridal shower and thought I’d make seashell shaped chocolate treats from a mold I found at AC Moore. The motivation and/or time never materialized and I found myself with a ton of 1lb. bags of melting chocolate. Much to my husband’s frustration, I tossed them in the freezer and forgot about them.

Fast forward to this month. I ran over to Target to pick up a can of black beans or some tostito chips or maybe a pair of shoes (no, I was a good girl. No new shoes for me) and happened to pass the dollar bin. Target, genius marketers that they are, has the dollar bin right at the front of the store. You can’t miss it when you wander in! I found these adorable little ice cube trays and figured I could do something with them. Hey, they were only a dollar anyway. So I bought two. Of course.

At some point along the way, I had the bright idea to make Valentine’s Day chocolate treats for the students in my advisory at school. I figured my husband would be happy that I was cleaning out the freezer and the kids would stop complaining that we never have any parties. When I got home, I took a couple bags out of the freezer and tossed them in my makeshift double boiler. I’m into gadgets but I hate to have something taking up a bunch of space unnecessarily and a double boiler is just that. Besides, my contraption works just fine.

It took a while for them to melt, them being frozen and all. I probably could have microwaved them, but there’s something cathartic about melting chocolate over the stove. No? Maybe it’s just me. Check this out though!

Yum. When it finally melted, I realized that I didn’t have a plan on how to get the chocolate into the little molds. I ended up spooning some chocolate into one of these Le Creuset silicone “pinch” bowls that is just adorable (I love little things) and then pouring it into the mold. It worked quite well.

Oh right. Please excuse my ungodly purple nails. I filled the two silicone molds, tapped them to get rid of the bubbles and then tossed them in the fridge, somewhere between the key limes and individual cottage cheeses, to chill for 15 minutes according to the directions.

At this point, I had at least half a bowl of melted chocolate sitting in front of me. As I pondered what to do with them, I considered my options. Chocolate covered fruit? Nah, don’t have the right fruit. Oooh, chocolate dipped pretzels? Nope, don’t have them either. As I scanned my cabinets, I zeroed in on the walnut halves and thought I’d make chocolate walnut clusters. How exciting!

I mixed in the walnuts and realized that this had to be much nuttier than it was. I pulled the bag of almonds from the top shelf and tossed a few handful into the chocolate. Slowly, things started to come together. I took a spoon and dished out plops of the mixture onto my silpat.

I somehow managed to find a relatively flat space to prop the baking sheet inside my fridge and pulled out the molds. As I popped each chocolate out of its individual heart, I got progressively more disappointed. These looked like crap!

If anyone can shed some light as to why they have all that weird-looking discoloration, I’d love to hear. I’m sure I can google it but it’s not really that important to me. I gazed at the chocolates, wondering how to fix them and then I remembered–I had white chocolate too! I melted some white chocolate down into the decorating tube and went to town!

Now doesn’t that look better?

I fancied up the nut clusters too–why the hell not?

The clusters came out really tasty, if I can say so myself. It was fun having two different types of nuts in there, each of which has its unique flavor and consistency. The candies, well, I didn’t taste them but my advisory sure tore them up the next day. I guess they were good!

Now that I’m a budding chocolatier now and all, I recognize two things. 1. Chocolate making isn’t as intimidating as it seems. 2. Fancy chocolate making is probably pretty hard. I’ll never know though, and that’s just fine with me.

 

Buffalo Wings

Last weekend, my husband was removing a takeout menu from our front stoop when he mused “why don’t we have wings for the game on Sunday.” When I asked him if he wanted to buy or make them, he initially said buy, but then we both decided that this is something we could easily make-with the right recipe, of course. I did a little searching on the internet and came across an Alton Brown recipe that looked pretty straightforward and had great reviews. I’m a little weird about using online recipes. I have my “go to” sites that I trust, which include Epicurious and The Food Network. On the other hand, I’m totally weirded out by things like Allrecipes and Cooks.com. Don’t ask because I wouldn’t be able to give you a reasonable informed rationale behind my thoughts. Back to the wings. Even though I think Alton Brown is a total weirdo, I’ve made a few of his recipes before and they seem to be on point–something about the science behind his recipes seems to work. So I figured I’d check out his wing recipe and see what it was all about.

Alton Brown’s Buffalo Chicken Wings

  • 12 whole chicken wings
  • 3 ounces unsalted butter
  • 1 small clove garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup hot sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • I added about 1/4 cup honey to balance out the spiciness

**I had slightly more than 12 chicken wings so I upped the amounts a bit. Didn’t use any specific ratios, just eyeballed it. And, as I stated in the ingredients, I added some honey so the wings would be a bit sweeter and to cut the spiciness

Place a 6-quart saucepan with a steamer basket and 1-inch of water in the bottom, over high heat, cover and bring to a boil. The funny thing about using the steamer basket is the fact that we were cleaning out the basement the previous day and my husband picked up the steamer basket and asked what the heck it was. I don’t think I’ve used it in the four years we’ve lived in our current house and I used it the day after he noticed it.

Remove the tips of the wings and discard or save for making stock (i.e. put in your freezer with the best intentions, forget about it and then throw it away during a freezer-cleaning frenzy.) Using kitchen shears, or a knife, separate the wings at the joint. This takes a little practice to get just right. When you cut it in the right place, it will cut through very easily. If it’s not cutting easily, you probably need to adjust your cut. Place the wings into the steamer basket, cover, reduce the heat to medium and steam for 10 minutes. Remove the wings from the basket and carefully pat dry. Lay the wings out on a cooling rack set in a half sheet pan lined with paper towels and place in the refrigerator for 1 hour. This step is incredibly important because it fully dries out the chicken. Dryness is important because it helps the skin get nice and crispy in the oven.

 

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.

Replace the paper towels with parchment paper or a silpat if you realized that you ran out of parchment paper earlier.  Parchment is best though, because cleaning a silpat after cooking these wings on it is a real pain.  Roast on the middle rack of the oven for 20 minutes. Turn the wings over and cook another 20 minutes or until meat is cooked through and the skin is golden brown.

While the chicken is roasting, melt the butter in a small bowl along with the garlic. Pour this along with hot sauce, honey and salt into a bowl large enough to hold all of the chicken and stir to combine.

Remove the wings from the oven and transfer to the bowl and toss with the sauce. Serve warm with celery and house made blue cheese dressing from Linvilla Orchards. But only if you’re fancy like us! Oh, and enjoy while watching the Eagles win, of course.

These wings were excellent! The roasting provided a perfect crispness without the added fat of your traditional deep-fried wings. It also allowed for us to enjoy the juicy meat with just a perfect amount of crunch. Although there were a few steps, the overall dish was super easy and the basic preparation could be used with a variety of different sauces.