Homemade Tomato Sauce & Meatballs

Homemade Tomato Sauce & Meatballs

Homemade Tomato Sauce & Meatballs

When I first migrated to LA back in the late 70′s, I moved into one of those sprawling apartment complexes in the San Fernando Valley. It housed transplants literally from all over the world. Young people who came seeking fame and fortune and hoping to get their big break, and people like me who were just looking to escape the cold, brutal weather of the east coast. I came with nothing but a suitcase and $400, so moving into a furnished apartment meant I could live with some of the comforts of home. It was a lovely place really, gold shag carpeting, plaid sofas and avocado colored formica counter tops. It had all the warmth and coziness of a Motel 6, but it was home.

I remember those first months living in LA all by myself so well. It was lonely and exciting all at the same time. Everyone at this complex was very friendly. We all seemed to be in the same boat; without family, little money, and crappy jobs, but very intoxicated by the perpetually blue skies, balmy weather and swaying palm trees. (You didn’t see many palm trees in Philadelphia.) My neighbors across the hall were a brother and sister team from North Jersey named Theresa and Anthony. He called her “Tree” and she called him “Ant”.  I guess being east coasters we connected. Every night they saw me come home from work with a McDonald’s bag in hand, so they decided to teach me how to make Tomato Sauce and Meatballs. I’m not sure they were necessarily very good cooks, but I’ve been making their sauce (or gravy as they called it) and meatballs ever since.

Homemade Tomato Sauce & Meatballs

Homemade Tomato Sauce & Meatballs

Homemade Tomato Sauce 

  • 3 cans (28 ounce) crushed tomatoes – I used San Marzano
  • 5 large basil leaves
  • 3 sprigs thyme
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt (or to taste)
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter

Directions

  1. Empty the 3 cans of crushed tomatoes with the juice into a large stock pot. I used a deep pot because tomato sauce splatters like crazy. If you have a splatter shield, now’s the time to bring it out.
  2. Add the basil leaves, thyme sprigs, salt, brown sugar and butter, and heat on medium until the mixture comes to a boil.  Reduce the heat to low, and stir until the butter is melted.  You’re going to cook the sauce low and slow for about 2 hours, stirring every 15 minutes or so. When sauce is ready, pull out the basil leaves and thyme sprigs and discard.
  3. As the sauce cooks it will begin to reduce, so you will have to add some water to it to get your desired consistency. I wanted a smooth and creamy sauce, so at the end of cooking I used my immersion blender for about a minute or two. You could also pour it into a blender for a smoother consistency.

Meatballs

  • 3/4 pound ground beef
  • 3/4 pound ground veal
  • 1/4 cup bread crumbs
  • 3 tablespoons fresh parsley, minced
  • 1/4 cup grated romano cheese
  • 1/2 small onion, pureed in food processor
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
  • 1 egg, plus 1 egg yolk

Directions

  1. Place your onion in a food processor and process until it’s finely minced. (I used my mini food processor). Put the onion and all the other ingredients into a large bowl and mix with your hands. Make sure to incorporate all the ingredients evenly throughout.
  2. Form into balls, a little bit larger than a golf ball. Don’t work the meat too much, because you don’t want the meatballs to be dense (like golf balls).
  3. Put about 2 tablespoons of oil in a skillet on medium heat, and brown the meatballs just til you get a nice crust to form on the outside. You are not cooking them through in the skillet.  When the meatball is a little crusty, then pop it into the pot of sauce, and let all the meatballs cook for about 30 minutes on a very low heat. The meatballs will flavor your sauce as it cooks, and then it will taste awesome!
Homemade Tomato Sauce & Meatballs

Homemade Tomato Sauce & Meatballs

Mama’s Tips:

Cooking the meatballs in the sauce is what gives the sauce it’s amazing flavor.

This recipe makes enough meatballs (about 30 – golf ball sized) and sauce, that you can have some now and freeze the rest for another meal.  Just place in an airtight container.

Meatballs don’t always have to be served with pasta. I make these as an appetizer all the time. Put the meatballs on a dish with a fancy toothpick through them, hit them with a dollop of sauce and sprinkle with fresh grated parmesan cheese.

For Friday night dinners with the kids, I get some good Italian rolls and make some awesome meatball sandwiches.

Fresh Minced Parsley

Fresh Minced Parsley

Recipe: Intermediate


Grilled Shrimp Kebabs

Grilled Shrimp Kabobs

Grilled Shrimp Kabobs

I know I haven’t posted a new recipe in awhile, but Mama took a little vacation. I’m funny when it comes to leaving home, and that’s why I hardly ever leave. I find the whole traveling process very stressful, especially when there’s airline travel involved.  But, little did I know that a lovely little paradise existed 22 miles off the coast of Los Angeles.

A group of my friends (Cindy, Roberta, Wendy and Lauren) go to Catalina for a week every summer.  I’ve been invited to go in the past, but I had envisioned Catalina to be nothing special, so I always declined. But for some reason my husband, and I and son #2 decided to give it a try. Well, Mama was pleasantly surprised. Actually more than just pleasantly.

Catalina is very easy to reach, no muss, no fuss. One hour on the Catalina Express and you arrive in Avalon Harbor. There’s very few cars on the island, and most people get around by golf cart.  The city center is very quaint, and filled with small restaurants, shops, bars and markets. Nothing fancy mind you, but keep in mind this is a very low-key, stress-free vacation. But what wow-ed me the most was the island’s natural beauty.  Sunshine every day, bright blue skies and water clear enough to see fish, dolphins and plenty of seals. And guess what…I can’t wait to go back.

My inspiration for this week’s recipe came from the Pacific Ocean. I find the visual, as well as the sound and smell of the ocean so relaxing. How better to pay homage to the Pacific than with a shrimp recipe of course!

Grilled Shrimp Kabobs

Grilled Shrimp Kabobs

Grilled Shrimp Kabobs

  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1/2 tablespoon freshly grated ginger
  • juice from 1/2 lemon
  • juice from 1/2 lime
  • 2 tablespoons cilantro, finely chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • pinch of red pepper flakes
  • 1 pound large shrimp, peeled and deveined (leave the tail shell on)
  • 1 large green pepper, cut into 1″ pieces
  • 1 large yellow onion cut into 1″ pieces
  • fresh pineapple cut into 1″ chunks, or you can use a 15 ounce can of pineapple, with the juice drained
  • Metal skewers, or wooden skewers soaked in water

Directions

  1. Peel and devein the shrimp, leaving the tail shell on. Rinse the shrimp under cold water then dry with a paper towel and set aside.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together all the ingredients, except the shrimp, vegetables and pineapple. Pour off 1/4 cup of the marinade, and reserve for basting the shrimp on the grill.
  3. Place the shrimp in a resealable plastic bag and pour the marinade in the bag, coating all the shrimp.  Place the bag in the fridge for 30 minutes.
  4. Take your skewers and thread the shrimp on the skewers, piercing the shrimp through the center, with both the front and tail portion going through the skewer. Thread on a piece of pineapple, then another shrimp, then the green pepper and onion. Repeat with the remaining ingredients. Place the completed skewers on a metal baking sheet.
  5. Spray your grill with cooking spray so the shrimp won’t stick, and heat the grill to medium high.
  6. Place your skewers on the grill and baste with the remaining marinade. Turn the skewers so the shrimp cook evenly on each side. All grills are different, so cook the shrimp until they are pink on the outside. Be very careful not to overcook the shrimp as they will become rubbery. As soon as they are no longer opaque, they are done.
  7. Serve immediately from the grill.

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Mama’s Tips

If you’re going to use wooden skewers for these kabobs, soak them in water for an hour or two so that they won’t burn when you put them on the grill.

To devein the shrimp, run a pairing knife down the back of the shrimp. You will see the black vein. Using the tip of your knife, cut out the vein and discard.

Always spray your grill with a little cooking spray, or brush lightly with some olive oil so that the shrimp don’t stick to the grill.

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Recipe: Easy


Gazpacho

Gazpacho

Gazpacho

There’s something to be said for fresh vegetables. Like the one’s that you get at the farmer’s market that look like they’ve just been pulled out of the ground because they still have dirt on them and all that green leafy matter attached. I love all the bright colors of vegetables, their earthiness, the smell and texture. Living in Southern California, and having a weekly farmer’s market five minutes away from my house, I’m never deprived of the best vegetables each season has to offer. On this week’s trip to the market I was presented with a bounty of juicy tomatoes, ripe California avocados and sweet bell peppers in glorious shades of red, yellow and orange.

When I returned home, I knew immediately what I was going to do with my bulging bag of veggies. Make gazpacho of course! For those of you not familiar with gazpacho, it is a cold, tomato-based soup which has it’s origins in Spain and is best served during the summer months (when tomatoes are their freshest) because it’s so darn refreshing. Gazpacho is a bowl of “earthy goodness”. It’s simple, straight forward, with nothing refined or processed…just good stuff from the ground.

Yes, there is something to be said for fresh vegetables. I don’t know what it is but I just feel smarter when I eat veggies. I notice a certain spring in my step upon consuming large quantities of vitamins and minerals. If you give this recipe a try, write back and let me know if you think your IQ just went up a couple of points. I bet it will.

Gazpacho

Gazpacho

Gazpacho

Adapted From Pascal Lorange of Le Pain Quotidien

  • 1 medium red bell pepper (70g)
  • 2 ounces sourdough baguette, cut into small pieces (50g)
  • 1 1/4 cups cold water (300ml)
  • *3 tomatoes, peeled, seeded and diced
  • 1 cup cucumber, peeled and diced (100g)
  • 3 radishes, sliced
  • 1/2 red onion, cut into slices
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1 tablespoon sherry vinegar
  • 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 3/4 teaspoon Tabasco sauce
  • 1 tablespoon of fresh parsley, minced (or whatever fresh herb you have in the fridge)
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon cumin

To Garnish

  • avocado slices
  • radish, thinly sliced into matchsticks
  • cucumber, thinly sliced into matchsticks
  • scallion, thinly sliced
  • extra virgin olive oil to drizzle

Directions

  1. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F. Place your bell pepper in the center of a metal baking sheet and roast for about 30 minutes, turning the pepper every 10 minutes so that all sides will turn black and blistered. Remove from the oven and let cool. When you’re able to handle it, remove the skin from the pepper and take the seeds out. Cut the pepper into strips and set aside 1/3 (3 ounces/70g).
  2. Take the small baguette slices and place them in a large bowl filled with the cold water so that it may soak for an hour..
  3. Take the roasted pepper strips and the remaining ingredients, and add them to the large bowl containing the soaked bread.   I then took the entire mixture and transferred it to my blender and mixed it on the puree setting until I had a smooth consistency. Then place the gazpacho into a covered container to sit in the refrigerator for about 4 hours to chill. As the mixture sits in the fridge, the flavors will develop.
  4. When you’re ready to serve the gazpacho, stir it well and pour into bowls. I like to garnish each bowl with scallion, cucumber, chunks of avocado, radish and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil. Then give a sprinkle of fresh ground pepper.

Serves 4

Gazpacho

Gazpacho

Mama’s Tips

A quick and easy way to peel your tomatoes. Using a sharp knife, slice and “X” on the bottom of your tomato. Submerge the tomato in a pot of boiling water for about 20-30 seconds. Remove and let cool for a few minutes. The skin will gently peel away from the area where you made the “X”.

If you can refrain from eating your gazpacho immediately upon making it, let it sit over-night in the fridge as it will get nicely chilled, and the flavors of all your fresh vegetables will meld together beautifully.

The roasted peppers will end up looking something like these.

The roasted peppers will end up looking something like these.

Gazpacho

Gazpacho

Recipe: Easy


Roasted Broccoli & Cauliflower

Roasted Broccoli & Cauliflower

Roasted Broccoli & Cauliflower

Yes, Mama does like to bake. I know how I tell you all the time how I love to play gleefully in my kitchen with butter, flour and sugar. And how I take such pride in my cookies, cakes and other crumb-like creations that emanate from my oven. But, Mama’s not a one-trick pony you know. I’m well aware of the virtues of fresh fruits and vegetables.

Now that the holiday season is over and all the out-of-town guests have left, Mama’s getting back to the business of eating healthy. During the winter, when it’s even too cold in Los Angeles to use the outdoor grill, I love to roast my vegetables.

Roasted Broccoli and Cauliflower are a big hit at my dinner table. Roasting the vegetables at a high temperature causes the veggies to caramelize; this is when the acid in the vegetables breaks down and the sugar is released, bringing out their natural sweetness. Be careful though not to over bake the vegetables, because limp broccoli is a real dinner downer. When I pull the tray out of the oven, I use a metal spatula to scoop up all those tasty brown bits on the sheet pan because that’s where all the flavor is. It’s fresh, it’s simple and it just tastes darn good.

Roasted Broccoli & Cauliflower

Roasted Broccoli & Cauliflower

Roasted Broccoli & Cauliflower

  • 1 1/2 lb. broccoli, washed and cut in large chunks (leave about 1 1/2″ of stems)
  • 1 1/2 lb. cauliflower, washed and cut into large chunks
  • 4 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced
  • 1 teaspoon Kosher salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon, fresh ground pepper
  • 1/3 cup pine nuts, toasted
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees, and place oven rack in the bottom third of the oven.
  2. Wash the broccoli and cauliflower under cool water and cut them into large chunks. Leave about 1 1/2″ of the stems on the broccoli. Dry with a paper towel.
  3. Thinly slice the 4 cloves of garlic.
  4. Place the broccoli, cauliflower and garlic onto a large baking sheet. Drizzle the vegetables and garlic with olive oil, and sprinkle with the salt and pepper. With your hands, toss to evenly coat all the ingredients.
  5. Bake in the oven for 20-25 minutes until the vegetables are tender when pierced with a knife. Be careful not to over-bake the vegetables, you still want a little crunch in them. Halfway through baking, take the pan out and toss the vegetables so all sides will brown.
  6. While the vegetables are baking, toast your pine nuts in a small frying pan (dry, no oil in the pan) over medium heat. Stir them constantly so they do not burn. This will only take a few minutes. When they start to caramelize, remove them from the heat and transfer to a small bowl.
  7. When the veggies are done, transfer them to a serving bowl. Use a metal spatula to get all those little bits and pieces off the baking sheet because that stuff is full of flavor. Toss in the pine nuts. Sprinkle the parmesan cheese on top of the veggies and serve immediately.

Serves 6

Roasted Broccoli & Cauliflower

Roasted Broccoli & Cauliflower

Mama’s Tips:

To toast the pine nuts; place in a small frying pan (dry, no oil) over medium heat stirring constantly so the nuts do not burn. When they get a little golden brown in color, remove from the heat and transfer to a small bowl.

When roasting the vegetables, spread them out in one layer on the baking sheet. Don’t crowd the vegetables or stack. Use two baking sheets if you need to, but you want all the vegetables exposed to the heat.

Recipe: Easy


Zucchini Fries

Zucchini Fries

So, I’ve told you that son #1 is a professional chef, and the guy works all the time. Being in the restaurant business he never has a weekend off, and I suppose that just goes with the territory. Lucky for him he really loves his job. He did however have off the other day and decided to invite his buddies over to watch some football. They were just going to order some pizzas and drink beer, typical guy stuff. Now me, being the hovering mother that I am, felt it necessary to offer these guys a healthy snack. They’re grown men actually, and I probably should have just minded my own business, but I just couldn’t help myself.

I decided to make these zucchini fries for them. I think they’re the perfect snack for sitting around and watching football, all crispy and crunchy. It was just kind of funny when I walked into the family room holding a tray of these and said”hey guys, how about some zucchini!”, they all just looked up at me with this look on their faces like, yay, zucchini…

However, when I returned about an hour later, the tray was empty. Mom’s always right. I’m just sayin’…

Zucchini Fries

Zucchini Fries

from Oprah.com

  • 1 1/2 pounds zucchini, trimmed
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • Kosher salt
  • ground black pepper
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups panko or plain breadcrumbs
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Arrange the oven racks in the lower third and center of the oven. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Cut the zucchini into french fry size sticks about 3″ long.
  2. Arrange 3 shallow bowls or pie plates in a row. In the first bowl, whisk together the flour, 1 teaspoon of salt, and 1/2 teaspoon of pepper. In the second bowl, whisk together the eggs, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon of pepper. In the third bowl, combine the panko, parmesan and 1/2 teaspoon of salt.
  3. Working in batches, first dip the zucchini in the flour, shaking of the excess. Transfer to the egg mixture and toss until coated. Let the excess egg run off, then coat the zucchini in the panko mixture.
  4. Arrange zucchini, without crowding, in a single layer on the prepared pans. Bake for 15 minutes and then rotate the pans. Continue baking until panko coating is golden and crisp, 7-12 minutes more.
  5. Serve right from the oven.

Zucchini Fries

Zucchini Fries

Recipe: Easy


Roasted Carrots with Honey & Thyme

Roasted Carrots

I guess it’s just human nature, but we humans tend to take everyday things for granted, and you don’t really appreciate something until you don’t have it. We just assume things we need or want will always be there, like they had nothing better to do. That would be the case for me with vegetables. Really, how much time in my life have I devoted to thinking about a vegetable? None! I’ve never cared about their well-being, or thanked them for their years of service. I just always assumed they would always be there, just waiting for ME. Oh, how self-centered.

I broach this topic because I spent the last week visiting a small island in the Caribbean that did not grow its own vegetables. We were told that all the island’s produce had to be flown in from different places. No matter were we went to eat, lettuce was brown, cucumbers were mushy, and tomatoes had no right to call themselves tomatoes. After about day 4, my body was going through a vitamin A withdrawal. Somebody help me, please, I need my soluble fiber!

Well, when I finally returned home I vowed I would never take one of my yellow, orange or green friends for granted anymore. I made myself a batch of these Roasted Carrots with Honey and Thyme, which by the way is a favorite annual side-dish on my Thanksgiving table.

Roasted Carrots

Roasted Carrots with Honey & Thyme

  • 1 1/2 pounds carrots
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon fresh, minced thyme
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 tablespoon chopped, crystallized ginger (optional, but I love the spicy sweetness it adds)
  • sea salt and fresh, ground pepper to taste

Directions

  1. Peel and trim tops off carrots. Rinse under cold water and pat dry.
  2. Lay carrots on a metal rimmed baking sheet and drizzle the olive oil over. Toss to coat carrots completely.
  3. Sprinkle carrots with the thyme, crystallized ginger, salt and pepper. Drizzle honey over top.
  4. Toss carrots to completely incorporate the ingredients.
  5. Roast on the center rack in the oven at 425 degrees F for 20 minutes, or until you can pierce the carrots with a sharp knife.
  6. Serve immediately.

Serves 6

Roasted Carrots

Mama’s Tips

Make sure that all your carrots are of equal thickness to insure that the vegetables roast evenly. If some carrots are thicker, just cut them in half.

To make your dish more visually appealing, see if your local produce market sells the multi-colored or rainbow carrots. They’re just more fun!

Roasted Carrots

Recipe: Easy


Herb Roasted Potatoes

Herb Roasted Potatoes

I guess you could say I’m a real “meat and potatoes” kind of girl.  Actually I can do without the meat, so possibly it’s more accurate just to say I’m a “potatoes” kind of girl. I like to incorporate potatoes into every meal whenever possible.  Scrabbled eggs in the morning must be accompanied by home fries, and if you know me at all, and you do, then you know french fries have to make an appearance at lunch. But what I’m here to share with you today is more of a dinnertime potato. Now mind you, I serve these whenever I have company over, and there’s nary a potato ever left in the dish.

For these Herb Roasted Potatoes, I like to use the Yukon Gold’s because they have a buttery, creamy texture and you don’t have to peel them. You roast the potatoes at a high temperature and they come out crispy and  crunchy, almost like a potato chip, and I know how you all like potato chips. The addition of the fresh herbs just brings out the potato’s earthiness. But don’t take my word for it, make them for the family and see if there’s any left.

Herb Roasted Potatoes

Herb Roasted Potatoes

  • 1 1/2 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes (I used the small ones)
  • 1 tablespoon fresh parsley, minced
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme, minced
  • 1 tablespoon fresh chives, minced
  • Kosher salt or sea salt, to taste
  • Fresh ground black pepper, to taste
  • Paprika

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F, and spray rimmed cookie sheets with cooking spray. Using a mandolin, so that your potato slices will be uniform in size, slice your potatoes to about 1/8” thick. Place them in a large bowl.
  2. Add your fresh herbs to the bowl, and sprinkle with salt, pepper and paprika. Drizzle enough olive oil over the mixture only to lightly coat the potatoes, and with your hands toss the ingredients until each potato slice is coated.
  3. Lay the potatoes out on the cookie sheets in one layer and place in the oven, on the center rack.
  4. About half-way through baking, using a metal spatula, flip the slices over so that the other side of the potato will brown
  5. Roast for about 25 minutes, or until potatoes are nice and golden brown. Remove from oven and sprinkle with additional salt (if desired). Serve immediately.

Serves 4-6

Herb Roasted Potatoes

Recipe: Easy

Fresh Herbs – parsley, thyme & chives


Heirloom Tomato Tart

Heirloom Tomato Tart

I’m in love, and yes, my husband knows all about it. It’s quite scandalous indeed. I did have this long running affair with chocolate, but recently my affections have been directed elsewhere and my husband is to blame.

He just returned from a trip to visit his cousin Gerry in Petaluma, California. While he was there they went to a farm where they could pick their own produce, and he brought me home several bags filled with a variety of fruits and vegetables. In fact, one entire bag was just filled with the most gorgeous selection of heirloom tomatoes. So, needless to say we’ve had a real “tomato fest” at the house this week. Heirloom tomatoes are at their peak of perfection in these summer months and these were sweet and full of flavor.

For dinner my husband made mahi mahi with roasted tomatoes, I made this Heirloom Tomato and Goat Cheese Tart, and my son Erik made a tomato tartare. Erik is a chef at an upscale Los Angeles restaurant and my husband and I were dazzled by what he created with the tomatoes. I’m a proud mama!

The Heirloom TomatoTart is a great combination of flavors and textures. What could be bad about a crumbly pastry crust, creamy goat cheese and sweet heirloom tomatoes. If you don’t have access to heirloom tomatoes, certainly you can use any variety you have. But, if you’re looking for flavor, the heirloom is your best bet.

Heirloom Tomato Tart

Heirloom Tomato Tart

From Williams-Sonoma

Ingredients for the crust

  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 10 tablespoons chilled, unsalted butter cut into 1 inch pieces
  • 2 tablespoons ice water, plus more as needed

Ingredients for the filling

  • 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 4-5 heirloom tomatoes, sliced and seeded (do not slice the tomatoes thin)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 8 ounces goat cheese (chèvre)
  • 1/2 cup slivered fresh basil leaves ( plus more for garnish)

Directions

  1. For the pastry: in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the flat beater, combine the flour and salt and mix on low for 15 seconds.
  2. Add the butter and continue beating until the mixture resembles pea-size crumbs. Add the water 1 tablespoon at a time, adding more water as needed, until the dough comes together.
  3. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and press it together to form a rectangular shape. Wrap with plastic wrap for about an hour.
  4. Place the rack in your oven in the lower third and preheat to 400 degrees F.
  5. On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough to 1/8″ thickness to fit a 13 3/4 by 4 1/4 inch tart pan. ( I also have made mini tarts instead of 1 large tart). Press the dough into the pan and trim the dough leaving a 1/2″ overhang around the rim. Fold in the excess dough and press it into the sides so they are thicker than the bottom. Refrigerate at least 10 minutes.
  6. To make the filling: warm up the 1/3 cup of olive oil in a non-stick saute pan over medium heat. Add the garlic and fry, stirring occasionally, about 1 minute. Do not let it burn. Remove the garlic from the pan with a slotted spoon and set aside. Season the tomatoes with salt and pepper and cook in the pan for about 2 minutes without flipping them over. Remove and transfer them to a platter.
  7. Remove the pan from the heat and empty the olive oil leaving behind about 1 tablespoon. Stir in the goat cheese, garlic basil and salt and pepper to taste until smooth.
  8. Brush the prepared pastry with olive oil and spread the goat cheese mixture evenly over the bottom of the pastry.
  9. Top with the tomatoes and drizzle with some olive oil.
  10. Bake until the crust is golden and crisp, about 50 minutes-1 hour. Transfer to a wire rack and cool for 10 minutes. Garnish with fresh slivered basil.

Heirloom Tomato and Goat Cheese Tart

Heirloom Tomatoes

“Chef Erik”

“Chef Erik’s” tomato tartare

Recipe: Intermediate


Matzo Balls

Matzo Balls

I have read countless cook books where the authors have waxed poetically about a recipe that had been passed down to them from their mother or grandmother, and  how they still have that recipe in their grandmother’s handwriting on a tattered and stained 3 x 5 card.  I would love nothing more than to say this matzo ball recipe was lovingly passed down to me by my old Russian grandmother, but that’s just not the case. No, I got this particular recipe from You Tube. Yes, You Tube, go figure.

For years I’ve been making matzo balls, but I was just not achieving that lightness and fluffiness which is the cornerstone to the ultimate matzo ball. There are hundreds of recipes out there, with each one claiming to be the best matzo ball you’ve ever tasted. So here I was lost and perplexed, so I turned to the one place where I knew I could find some help. You Tube. In the last couple of years I have found that whenever I was not sure of how to do something, or did not know the answer to some of life’s burning questions, the answer could always be found on a You Tube video.

I was not to be disappointed. This particular You Tube video yielded what I consider to be one of the lightest matzo balls I’ve ever had. The darn thing practically floats on air. I know it’s not brain surgery, but I think whipping the egg whites and the addition of the bubbly club soda were those elusive components that were missing from my previous attempts.

Matzo Balls 

From About.com Food

Ingredients

  • 4 eggs
  • 1/2 cup club soda
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • pinch of black pepper
  • 1 cup matzo meal
  • 2 tablespoons minced parsley

Directions

  1. With your 4 eggs, separate the whites from the yolks, putting the yolks in a small bowl and the whites in the bowl of an electric mixer.
  2. Using the whisk attachment, beat the egg whites until they are stiff. Add the yolks to this bowl and stir with a rubber spatula until they are incorporated.  
  3. Add the club soda and the vegetable oil and stir until incorporated. Next, add the salt, pepper, matzo meal and parsley and stir with your spatula to incorporate. 
  4. Your mixture will look loose and soupy, but cover and refrigerate the mixture for an hour, and miraculously the mixture will come together.
  5. Bring a large pot (like a stock pot) of salted water to a boil.
  6. Take your mixture out of the refrigerator, and place a bowl of vegetable oil next to it. Rub your hands in the oil to keep the mixture from sticking to your hands.
  7. Now comes the crucial part! Take about 2 tablespoons of the mixture, and without handling it very much, form it into a ball. Do not compact the mixture, use a very light hand. This will make for a light and fluffy matzo ball. Trust me!
  8. Place all the matzo balls into the boiling water. Cover the pot and keep the water at a low simmer for 30 minutes.

Makes 12-13 matzo balls

Recipe: Easy

Mama’s Tips

If you are not serving the matzo balls right away, place them in a container covered 1/4 of the way with either chicken broth or water.


Spicy Grilled Corn

Spicy Grilled Cor

I’ve got a high school reunion coming up, a big one mind you, and I’d really like to lose 10 pounds, stat! Is that shallow of me. Okay, don’t answer.  At this point in my life, shouldn’t I be comfortable in my own skin?  After all, time and gravity has taken it’s toll on all of us. I’m not the only one who’s enjoyed her chocolate chip cookies and Snicker’s bars for the last 40 years, am I? My passion in life has been food and cooking, so what did I think was going to happen. Oh, and did I mention I’m not a big fan of exercise either. Shame on me!

My girlfriend Carol told me she lost 17 pounds doing Weight Watcher’s online. She calls me everyday and cheers me on, telling me, “you can do it”. So I joined, and each day I log on tracking each minute morsel I eat.  I bought all their frozen, packaged meals that only require me popping them into the microwave. Do you know how horrific this is for a person who lives to bake bread. I thought carbs were my friend, but I was so wrong.

I’ve spent a lot of time at my local farmer’s market buying tons of fruit and vegetables because they’re “zero” points on this diet. Geez, I even dislike the word diet. Anyway, today they had bins filled with the most amazing summer corn. It was screaming out to me, “grill me”! Sure, I know I should have gone for the green vegetables, but I broke down and bought the corn. And it was good.

If you don’t have a high school reunion coming up, then please, indulge yourself in sweet, summer corn on the grill. It’s easy, inexpensive, and oh-so-good.

Spicy Grilled Corn

Spicy Grilled Corn

  • 6 ears fresh corn with husk on
  • 1 stick of salted butter, room temperature
  • zest of  1 lime
  • juice of 1 lime
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/3 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 tablespoon finely minced cilantro
  • 1/4 cup cotija cheese or queso fresco
Directions
  1. Preheat your grill on medium-high.
  2. Take your corn with the husk on and place them in a sink of cold water to soak for about 20 minutes. Place something heavy on top of them to keep them submerged.
  3. While your corn is soaking, place your room temperature butter in a medium bowl. Add all the other ingredients, except the cheese, and combine with a spatula.
  4. After 20 minutes remove your corn from the sink and pull back the husks and remove the silk. Remove  some of the outer layers of the husks, but leave some on because you will be covering the corn back up.
  5. With a brush, brush a layer of the compound butter mixture onto the corn, cover back up with the husk, and wrap it in aluminum foil.
  6. Place the wrapped corn on the grill for about 12-15 minutes, turning every 3 minutes to evenly cook the corn.
  7. When you remove the foil and husk from the corn, brush again with the butter mixture, and sprinkle with cotija cheese.

Fresh Summer Corn

Mama’s Tips:

Plan in advance. You can leave your butter out overnight, and by the next day it will be the perfect consistency.

You can make your butter mixture 2 days in advance. Just cover and refrigerate it. When you are ready to use it, just bring it to room temperature.

For a party appetizer, cut corn into 1 1/2″ pieces and just insert a toothpick.

Spicy Grilled Corn

Recipe: Easy


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