Orzo Pasta Salad


1 lb Orzo Pasta
a little pasta water
1/4 lb pitted Kalamata olives
1 hot pepper finely diced
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup chopped Parsley
salt & Pepper

There is a little bit of timing required to make this.  You need to add a little pasta water to the frying pan.  So, the trick is to have the pasta boiled before the olives are done frying.  Don’t worry.  Just adjust the frying pan heat to get the timing right.

Boil the pasta for about ten minutes.

Get the frying pan hot and fry up the olives and diced pepper with a sprinkle of salt and pepper.

If the pasta isn’t ready by the time the olives and pepper are done, turn off the fire and wait for it to finish boiling.

When the pasta is ready save a 1/4 cup of pasta water.  Drain the rest.

Put the pasta into the frying pan and start cooking it on medium-high.  Sprinkle in the pasta water as you stir the pasta in the pan to prevent it from sticking to the bottom.

When the water is all absorbed and the pasta has picked up all the flavors from the pan it’s done.

Put eveything from the frying pan into a big bowl and stir in the fresh parsley.

 

Fried Eggplant

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Fried Eggplant

Pan frying is an art form.  

To achieve masterful frying finesse, resulting in perfectly brown crispy edges and creamy soft centers, takes practice.

First, you need someone to show you the basics.

One large eggplant

2 cups of flour

2 cups of seasoned breadcrumbs

5 eggs – scrambled

1 to 2 quarts of corn oil (enough for 2″ – 3″ deep in the pan)

Prep the work station

Line up three bowls: 1st flour, 2nd eggs, 3rd Breadcrumbs.

Cut the tips off the eggplant and slice the rest into 3/4” slices.

Flour & Breading

  1. Put all the eggplant slices into the flour bowl.  Turn them around until all the surfaces are coated with flour.
  2. One at a time dip a piece into the eggs.  Then put the slice into the breadcrumbs.   Pat breadcrumbs firmly all over the piece.
  3. Repeat until they’re all breaded.

Fry

Take your time.  The important thing here is not to rush.

You will be adjusting the fire, and therefore oil temperature a few times while these cook.

** The cook times are estimates you need to see the color change yourself.

Taste one to check if you have to.  **

  1. Get the oil hot.
  2. Add as many pieces to the pan as you can without any overlapping.
  3. Turn the fire down half way.
  4. Let the eggplant cook for  about 4 or 5 minutes.  Until the bottoms start to turn brown.
  5. Turn the fire back up and flip the eggplant slices.
  6. After a minute turn the fire back down and cook the eggplant for around another 5 minutes.

Drain

When they’re done stack them on a wire rack so the extra oil can drain off.

 

rice balls – arancini

Rice Balls (Arancini)

This recipe makes 36 rice balls.

Originally, when I planned to write down this recipe, I was concerned that it was for too many, or too large a batch of rice balls.  No one makes just one rice ball, but I thought that the recipe we use in the store was too large.

After I started going through the recipe I realized two things:

  1. All the ingredients are scalable.  Everything from the rice to sauce.  If you want half as much, just use half the ingredients.

  2. If you’re making rice balls for Christmas, or some other party, you still need a few dozen of them at a time.  For example, my mother said she’s only ever made a full, 36 piece, batch of arancini.

So, make as much as you like.  The technique is going to be the same.

Part One: Sauce (filling)

The sauce we make is a mix of ground beef and peas.   There are thousands of different recipes for rice ball filling.   There are no rules here just guidelines.  I bet every town in Sicily has their own style of arancini sauce.

The options for rice ball sauce are limitless, but here’s the way we do it.

This is the easiest sauce in the world to make.  Every step is easy.  And remember, it’s supposed to be a thick sauce, so it cooks fast.  There’s not a lot of extra liquid that will take time to cook down.  When the sauce is done you will be able to scoop it like ice cream onto a big spoon.

Filling / Sauce

3 lbs ground beef

28 oz tomato puree

6 oz tomato paste

1½ tbsp salt

½ tbsp pepper

1 pound frozen peas

½  pint Chopped onions

Put the beef into a pot and turn the fire up high.  Use a wooden spoon to break up and stir the beef as it cooks.  You have to do this the whole time the beef is browning.  When it’s done (not pink anymore) it should also be broken up into small bits.

Drain the beef with a colander (pasta strainer).

Put the meat back into same the pan.  Along with the onions, the tomato paste,  puree and salt & pepper.   Mix the sauce together really well, and let it cook for about 10 minutes.

Cook the sauce on low heat so it doesn’t burn.

When the sauce is hot all the way through, add the peas and keep on cooking until the peas are warmed through, 5 to 10 minutes more.

Did I say to stir the peas into the sauce?  You knew that part, right?

Pour the sauce into a strainer and let it drain for 30 minutes.  You want it dry because too much oil or liquid in the rice will keep the rice balls from sealing together nicely.


Part Two: Rice

Our recipe uses regular long grain white rice.

Rice to water ratio is 2:1

12 cups rice

24 cups water

3 tbsp salt

Our rice is a two to one ratio.  Therefore, you can realistically make as little or as much as you want.

Cooking Directions

Put the rice into the cold water and add the salt.  Stir the rice and then put a cover on the pot.  Bring the water to a boil.  Stir the rice often, or the edges will cook faster than the middle.

Once the water starts to boil, turn the heat down to medium-low and cook the rice for 15 minutes.  Your rice should be slightly al dente.  You’re going to let it steam for a bit afterwards.

When the 15 minutes is up, take the pot off the burner, cover it with saran wrap and let it set for 20 minutes.

Finish Making the Rice

1 ½ lbs grated pecorino cheese

3 – 4 eggs

1 lb of butter

If you change the amount of rice, just change these ingredients by same amount.

Leave the rice in the pot while you add the butter.  Push the butter sticks right into the rice.

After the butter has started to melt dump all the rice into the biggest bowl you have.  Put the cheese into the bowl and knead it into the rice until it’s fully mixed.

Important!

Don’t let the rice get cold.  You don’t have to burn your fingers, but mix the rice while it’s still hot.  All the ingredients will mix together much nicer.

Knead the rice well.  The rice grains should start to smash and break up while you knead them.  Remember, you’re going to be shaping the rice by hand.  It won’t work with loose fluffy rice grains.  The rice will not stick together very well unless the grains are broken up a little.

After the cheese and butter are mixed in, add the eggs and knead the rice thoroughly again.

When you can form a small ball rice in your hands that stays together nicely you’re done kneading.


Part Three: Form the Rice Balls

To assemble rice balls, you need 4 eggs’ whites, some water to keep your hands clean, and a bowl with 2 quarts of unseasoned breadcrumbs.

This part isn’t that hard to do.  It doesn’t even require a lot of finesse, but it’s much easier to learn if you can see someone do it rather than just read the directions.  Therefore, I really recommend watching the video for this part more than just reading the directions.  Check out our Youtube channel to see the video.

4 eggs’ whites

Bowl of clean water

2 quarts of unseasoned breadcrumbs

Assembly

The water is there so you can keep your hands soft and clean.  If they get sticky just rinse your hands.

Grab a handful of rice.  Roll it into a ball.  Then while you hold the ball in one hand make a well in it with your other hand.  Put a big spoonful of sauce into that well.

There’s a little trick to adding the rest of the rice and covering the filling.  You’ve still got the rice ball in your hand right?  With your other hand grab a small handful of rice and smash it flat against the back of your hand with the rice ball in it.  The video will make this clear.

From here it’s pretty simple.  Put the rice you’ve just flattened out over the sauce, and roll the rice ball around in your hands until you smooth out the bumpy spots and make a nice sphere.  If you need more rice to help fill in rough or thin spot go ahead and add it.

I would recommend finishing all the rice balls through this step first before you move on to the breading.

It’s a smart idea to keep the rice balls that you’ve just made covered with saran wrap while you’re finishing the rest.  If you take too long, they can start to dry out.

Breading

For each rice ball pick up a pinch of egg whites and rub the egg around the outside of the rice ball.

From there, put the rice ball into the bowl with the bread crumbs.  Cover the ball thoroughly, and then rub the bread crumbs firmly onto the rice ball.


Part Four: Frying

It’s faster if you do the frying at the same time as you’re doing the breading.  Bread one ball, drop it in the oil.  Bread another, turn the first one in the oil, and add the second.  Repeat until they’re all done.  Cooking them one at a time takes forever.  Don’t torture yourself like that.

The rice balls have to be completely submerged in the oil while they’re frying.

Deep sauce pots work the best at home.  The more rice balls you can cook at once the faster it will go.  If you only have small pots, use more than one at a time.

Fill the pot with enough oil to completely cover the rice balls while they cook.  Keep the fire low, so the oil doesn’t get to hot.

Turn each one periodically (once a minute or so).  When the outside is solid and golden brown they’re done.  It takes about 15 to 20 minutes for one to cook.  To test if a rice ball is done, take one out of the oil and give it a good tap with your fingernail.  If it is solid it’s done.

Fried Zucchini on Sunday Pasta

fried zucchinizucchini on pasta

What it the best thing to put on top of a dish of pasta?

If it’s summer, you can get away with fresh basil.  Just  rip up some fresh basil leaves on to the top of each dish you eat.

What got everybody in the house excited on Sundays was if mom or dad was frying some zucchini for the pasta.

 

This couldn’t be simpler.

Slice zucchini into thick round slices

Fry them in olive oil until they are nice and brown.

While they’re still hot season the zucchini with a sprinkle of salt and a half sprinkle of pepper.

Set each piece gently on a piece of paper towel until the pasta is ready.

Put them on top of your dish of pasta.

Olive Bread

oliv bread

 

Dough

kalamata olives

fresh thyme

olive oil

After the dough has risen lay it flat on the table.  Chop up the olives and spread them and the thyme onto the dough.  Fold the toppings into the dough and let it rise for another hour.  To have it rise the best, put the dough in a bowl and cover it with a saran wrap and leave it in the sun.

 

When you bake the bread drizzle a good amount of olive oil on top, and bake it in a hot oven, 450 degrees for 20 minutes.   Check to see if the bottom is brown.  If it’s not, bake the bread for another 10 minutes.

Sausage & Pepper & Potato Soup

sausage soup

This is soup is a meal.  The thing about this soup is  that you cook all the parts separate and then put them together when you make the soup.

1 1/2 lbs Sausage

1 lb Roasted Red Skin Potatoes

2 Red Bell Peppers – cut into strips

1 Onion – coarse chopped

3 Cloves Garlic – coarse chopped

1/4 cup Olive Oil

2 tsp Thyme

Salt & Pepper

 

  1. Cook the potatoes.
  2. Bake the sausage.  375 degrees for 10 minutes, turn the tray and bake for ten more minutes.
  3. Saute the onion, garlic, oil, thyme and salt & pepper until the onions are soft.
  4. Add the peppers to the pot and saute until they are soft.
  5. Add the potatoes to the pot and let them cook for 5 minutes
  6. Double the volume of stuff in the pot with water and bring it to a boil.
  7. When it Boils add the sausage and let it slow boil for a half hour.

 

Farfalle Pasta in a Caper, Butter and Sage Sauce

farfalle butter

This couldn’t be simpler.  More or less, you’re going to melt the butter down and add the pasta on top.

1 lb farfalle pasta

1/4 lb of butter

1/4 cup of grated Pecorino cheese

big pinch capers

sage –  fresh if you can get it

1 tsp of pine nuts

salt, pepper, olive oil

cup of the boiling pasta water

 

Farfalle pasta takes 12 minutes to boil.  Start the sauce when you put the pasta in the boiling water.

 

In a deep frying pan melt the butter with the sage, pine nuts, salt, pepper, oil, & capers, everything except the cheese and the pasta water.  Let the butter just start to turn brown.  Don’t let it burn, but it needs to be a little caramelized – light brown.  Turn off the fire and wait for the pasta to be done.

When the pasta is done, ladle a cup of the pasta water into the frying pan.  Drain the pasta.  Add the pasta to the frying pan.  Bring the juice in the pan back up to a boil and then stir in the grated cheese, and that’s it.

 

Don’t forget to put salt in the water before you boil the pasta.

Shrimp & Salmon Pasta with White Wine and Lemon Zest

Shrimp lemon pasta

SO MUCH FLAVOR! ! !

No really, you will be licking the dish.

1/2 lb shrimp

1/2 lb salmon – skinned cubed

1 lb fresh or packaged fettucine

1/4 cup White wine

1 tbsp lemon juice

lemon rind

2 tablespoons butter

big pinch fresh chopped parsley

Olive Oil

4 cloves thinly sliced garlic

2 cups of the pasta water.

There is a little bit of timing involved to make this dish.  Boil the water first.   Put a big pinch of salt into 4 quarts of water and bring it to a boil before you start the shrimp & salmon.

 

The pasta water is a key ingredient in cooking the sauce.  If you use fresh pasta it will only take 3 minutes to cook.  Dry packaged pasta will take 12 minutes.  So the important thing to remember is, the pasta needs to be almost  cooked before you can use the water in the pot.

 

Right after the pasta goes into the boiling water start the sauce.

 

In a deep frying pan saute on low heat the butter, oil, wine, garlic, lemon juice, lemon zest and a pinch of salt and pepper.  When the garlic is soft  add the fish.  Cook the fish for a few minutes.

In the meantime, drain the finished pasta, but don’t forget to save the 2 cups of water.

Add the pasta and half of the water to the frying pan.  Saute until the water absorbs into the pasta.  Then add the rest of the water.  Let it cook for another minute.

Top with the fresh parsley and eat.

 

Rapini & Mushroom Pasta

Mushroom rapini

I like to use the elicoidali pasta for this.  Even better I have a fantastic whole grain brand of pasta right now.

1 lb pasta

1 lb mushrooms

1 bunch of rapini

onions, garlic, salt, pepper, olive oil

Boil a pot of water (4 qt) with a tablespoon of salt in it.

Slice the mushrooms and saute them in a deep frying pan with the onions & garlic.  Obviously with salt, pepper & oil.   When the mushrooms are soft, turn off the fire and just leave them in the pan.

When the water comes to a boil cook the rapine for three minutes.

Take the rapine out of the water and put in the frying pan with the mushrooms.  Just leave the rapine and mushroom in the pan for now.  Don’t dump the water in the pot.  Add the pasta to the pot with the rapine water and boil the pasta for 10 minutes.

When the pasta is done ladle a few scoops of the pasta water into the pan with the rapine and mushrooms.  Drain the water out of the pasta and add put it in the pan with the mushrooms.  Cook the everything in the frying pan for five minutes.

That’s it.  Sprinkle some cheese on it and serve.

You need to use the pasta water or this will happen.