Polpette al sugo (Italian meatballs)

Adapted from Lidia and Recipe Tin Eats Yield: 6 servings, plus about 3 quarts extra (total of about 4 dozen meatballs and 3 quarts sauce)

Ingredients:

  • 1 medium carrot, coarsely chopped
  • 2 stalks celery, coarsely chopped
  • 1 large red onion, coarsely chopped
  • 1 lb ground beef
  • 1 lb ground pork
  • 2 large eggs, beaten
  • 2 teaspoon dried oregano (omitted)
  • 1/2 cup fresh parsley, chopped (basil sub!)
  • 2 cups bread crumbs
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano (or parmesan), freshly grated

Sauce ingredients:

  • 2.5 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 medium onion, chopped (about 1 cup)
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 teaspoons kosher salt, plus more as needed
  • black pepper
  • 1 fresh bay leaves, or 2 small dried bay leaves
  • 3 tsp dried Italian herb mix (parsley, basil, thyme, oregano)
  • 1/2 teaspoon peperoncino flakes
  • 24 oz / 700 g tomato passata, preferably San Marzano
  • 1 cup grated Grana Padano or Parmigiano-Reggiano, optional to serve

Directions:

  1. Grate the onion using a standard box grater in a large bowl until you have about 1/2 cup of grated onion and juices. 
  2. Add bread, mix to combine so the onion juice soaks the bread and disintegrates. Set aside while you prep the other ingredients (5 min or so).
  3. Add all the remaining Meatball ingredients. Use hands to mix well.
  4. Measure out a heaped tablespoon and roll lightly to form a ball. Repeat with remaining mixture. (Note 5)
  5. Heat 1 1/2 tbsp olive oil in a large non stick fry pan over medium high heat. Add the meatballs and brown all over – about 3 – 4 minutes. 
  6. When they are browned but NOT cooked through, carefully transfer them onto a plate.

Sauce Directions:

  1. Heat 1 tbsp of olive oil into the fry pan. 
  2. Add the onion and garlic and sauté for 2 to 3 minutes until translucent. Add the remaining Sauce ingredients. Bring to a simmer, then turn down to medium low so it bubbles gently rather than splattering everywhere. Let simmer for 2 hours.
  3. Carefully transfer the meatballs and any juices that have pooled on the plate into the Sauce.
  4. Cook the meatballs for 8 – 10 minutes, turning and stirring occasionally. Adjust Sauce salt and pepper to taste.
  5. While the meatballs are cooking, cook your pasta of choice.
  6. Serve the meatballs on pasta, garnished with extra parmesan and parsley if using.

I wanted to cook Lidia’s recipe authentically, but it was so much quantity! And I’m not a fan of beef, much less veal, so… I incorporated another website (she has delicious chicken stew!) that fried the meatballs instead of baking them. These were wildly delicious and approved by all. We didn’t incorporate the carrot and celery (considering the 2 lbs. or meat vs. 3 lbs from Lidia), but we did use the red onion, eggs, and basil instead of parsley (Jesse’s family doesn’t like oregano for some reason). I would throw in a bay leaf into the sauce next time (we forgot). We used gluten-free bread crumbs, and crumbled Grana Padano into the meatball and on top to serve. Grana Padano was not incorporated into the sauce. Ground meat came from the Ossining Farmer’s Market, Sunset View Farm. I also made some garlic bread with EVOO and rubbed garlic to clean up the sauce after, demi baguette from Farmer’s Market too.

~Jessica

LotR mushroom soup

Adapted from Middle-Earth Recipes and The Hungry Hobbit

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound of mushrooms, divided in half
  • 4 + 2 + 2 tbsp of butter
  • 1 tbsp of chopped onion
  • 2 cups of finely chopped carrots
  • 2 cups of finely chopped celery (we used leeks)
  • 1 clove of garlic, minced
  • 2 1/2 cups of broth / bouillon
  • 1 small can of tomato paste (~6-7 tbsp; we used 1-2 tbsp)
  • 1/4 tsp of salt
  • pinch of black pepper
  • 1/4 cup of dry sherry (we used a dry red wine)
  • Garnish: sour cream, herbs (optional)

Directions:

  1. Chop 1/2 pound of mushrooms very fine.
  2. In a large saucepan, melt 4 tablespoons of butter.
  3. Add 1 tablespoon of chopped onion, 2 cups of finely chopped carrots, 2 cups of finely chopped celery, and 1 clove of garlic, minced. If you have wine, you can use it now to deglaze the pot. Stir, scraping the bottom bits.
  4. Melt 2 tablespoons of butter in a skillet, add the 1/2 pound of finely chopped mushrooms, and sauté for 5 minutes. Add to the soup.
  5. Stir in 2 1/2 cups of broth, 3 1/2 cups of water, 1 small can of tomato paste, 1/4 teaspoon of salt, and 1/16 teaspoon of pepper.
  6. Bring to a boil. Cover and reduce heat. Simmer 1 hour (30 minutes minimum).
  7. Purée the soup with an immersion blender. Season and taste.
  8. Melt 2 tablespoons of butter in a skillet, add the 1/2 pound of reserved sliced mushrooms, and sauté for 5 minutes. Add to the soup.
  9. Add 1/4 cup of dry sherry. Heat thoroughly and serve.
  10. Garnish with sour cream or herbs.

Titled “Mushroom Soup from the Inn at Bree”, there is only one main inn in Bree, however: the Inn of the Prancing Pony. We didn’t have a bundle of celery, so we subbed with a leek instead. Next time I would use 2 leeks! I would also had herbs like thyme. Instead of beef broth, we used Better Than Bouillon chicken base. Feel free to use more tomato paste if you prefer a more reddish product, but this was grand — I would also like to try a medley of mushrooms in season. Instead of dry sherry, we used a red wine, but I would also try a white wine next time.

~Jessica

Vietnamese summer rolls

Adapted from Rasa Malayasia

Ingredients:

  • 4 oz (115g) rice noodles or rice vermicelli (or Maifun rice noodles)
  • 4 oz (115g) peeled and deveined shrimp
  • 2 leaves fresh lettuce, sliced
  • 6 sheets Vietnamese rice paper
  • 2 oz (56g) carrot, peeled and cut into matchstick strips

Thai peanut sauce:

  • 1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 3/4 cup coconut milk
  • 2 tablespoons Thai red curry paste
  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon sugar or to taste
  • 2 tablespoons ground peanuts
  • salt, to taste

Directions:

  1. Add some water to a pot and bring it to a boil. Add the rice noodles and cook per the package instructions, stirring occasionally (10 minutes approximately). Drain and rise under cold water, set aside.
  2. Combine all the ingredients for the Peanut Sauce together in a small bowl. Whisk it to mix well. Transfer to a dip bowl and garnish with the peanuts.
  3. In another small pot, bring some water to boil. Cook the shrimp for about 1 minute, or until the shrimp are completely cooked. Drain, let cool, and slice in half lengthwise. Set aside.
  4. Divide the vermicelli, shrimp, lettuce and carrot into 6 equal portions.
  5. To assemble the summer rolls, dip one sheet of the rice paper in a big bowl of water. Shake off the excess water and quickly transfer it to a clean, dry and flat working surface, for example, kitchen countertop or a chopping board.
  6. Place the rice noodles on the bottom part of the rice paper.
  7. Add the sliced lettuce and carrots.
  8. Place 3 shrimp halves on top.
  9. Fold the bottom side of rice paper over the filling securely, then fold the left and right sides of the rice paper over the filing. Make sure the filling is secured tightly.
  10. Continue to roll the summer roll over, until fully wrapped. Repeat the same until everything is used up!
  11. Cut the Summer Rolls diagonally in the middle into halves, place them on a platter, and serve immediately with the Peanut Sauce.

We made the hoisin version of the peanut sauce, but I kind of missed a little Thai peanut sauce flavor! I know, fusion. Jesse’s sister made them really well (see photos).

~Jessica

Salsa di pomodoro

Adapted from Lidia’s Italy and her alla marinara

Ingredients:

  • 2 28 oz. cans crushed tomato
  • 1/4 cup EVOO
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 8 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed
  • 1/2 carrot, peeled and chopped fine
  • 1/2 celery stick, chopped fine
  • 2 dry bay leaves
  • salt and red pepper flakes (peperoncino) to taste
  • 10 fresh basil leaves, roughly torn

Directions:

  1. Heat the oil in a medium pot over medium heat. Stir in the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until fragrant (about 3 minutes). Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, 1-2 minutes.
  2. Add the carrot and celery and cook, stirring occasionally, until golden (about 10 minutes).
  3. Add the tomatoes and bay leaves. Rinse the tomato cans with 2 cups of water and add that as well. Bring everything to a boil. Add the basil.
  4. Season lightly with salt and crushed red pepper. Lower the heat so the sauce is at a lively simmer, and cook, stirring occasionally, until thickened, about 45 minutes.
  5. Remove the bay leaves. Taste, and season with more salt and red pepper to taste. Serve!

We were renting an AirBnB and I wanted something delicious but easy peasy and super tasty. For some protein, we picked up the Spicy Jalapeño Chicken Sausage. I recommend coating the pasta in the sauce, rather than just topping with it. Don’t be afraid to garnish with parmesan cheese and more fresh basil as the mood strikes! The photo shows a leftover overloaded potato skin which reheated well in the oven.

~Jessica

Chinese savory pancake

Adapted from The Woks of Life and Roti ‘n Rice

Ingredients:

  • 1 onion, julienned
  • 1 carrot, shredded
  • 1 small green pepper, julienned
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 scallions or Chinese garlic chives, chopped (if you have)
  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  • 1/2 tsp sugar
  • 1/2 to 1 cup flour, depending on egg size
  • a dash of corn starch
  • soy sauce (1 tbsp oyster sauce, if you have)
  • salt and 1/4 tsp white pepper, to your liking
  • 1/2 tsp. five spice powder (if you have)
  • vegetable oil and a little butter

Directions:

  1. Wash the carrot and bell pepper, dry. You can use a grater, if julienning carrots is hard.
  2. In a large bowl, mix the grated vegetables with ¾ teaspoon of salt. Let sit for 15 minutes, and you’ll see visible veg juice at the bottom of the bowl, which we will keep.
  3. Now mix in the eggs, chopped scallions (if you have), ground white pepper, sesame oil, sugar (optional), and about all-purpose flour. (I tried oat flour for gluten free, in the photos).
  4. If you feel like you need more flour (this could depend on the size of the eggs, for example), add it 1 tablespoon at a time. The final batter should look similar to breakfast pancake batter.
  5. Use medium-low heat, add the vegetable oil and a little butter. If you have, sprinkle sesame seeds over the top and cook each side until lightly golden brown, about 3 minutes on each side.
  6. Repeat.
  7. Serve with a simple soy dipping sauce, chili oil, etc.

It smells very good! And it’s all vegetables. Jessica tried it with some sour cream, like a potato latke! Would love to try to zucchini version of this (instead of just carrot and onion).

~Kailing

Chicken stew

Adapted from Recipe Tin Eats

Ingredients:

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1.5 kg / 3 lbs bone in, skin on chicken thighs and drumsticks (6 to 8 pieces)
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 onions, halved and cut into wedges
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 large carrots, cut thick end into 1.5cm / 3/5″ pieces, thin end 2.5cm/1″
  • 4 celery stalks, cut into 2cm / 4/5″ chunks
  • 1/2 cup (125 ml) white wine (or water)
  • 3 tbsp (35g) flour
  • 3 cups (750 ml) chicken broth
  • 2 tbsp tomato paste
  • 2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 3 sprigs thyme, or 1 tsp dried thyme (or other herb)
  • 2 bay leaves (dried or fresh)
  • 600 g / 1.2 lbs baby potatoes, halved (quarter large ones)
  • Warm crusty bread (homemade garlic bread!!)
  • OPTIONAL: Fresh thyme or parsley (chopped)

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 180C/350F.
  2. Heat oil in a large pot over high heat. Brown chicken on both sides until light golden, sprinkling with salt and pepper. Remove from pot. (Do in 2 batches if pot not big enough).
  3. If there’s too much oil in the pot, discard some. Add onion and garlic. Cook for 2 minutes until onion is translucent.
  4. Add carrots and celery, cook for 1 minute.
  5. Add wine. Stir, scraping the bottom of the pan to dissolve the brown bits into the liquid. Cook for 1 minute until liquid is mostly gone.
  6. Sprinkle flour across surface, stir.
  7. Add broth, tomato paste, Worcestershire sauce, thyme and bay leaves. Stir to dissolve tomato paste.
  8. Place chicken on top, keeping the skin above the liquid level as much as you can.
  9. Bring to simmer then cover. Bake for 45 minutes.
  10. Remove from oven, remove lid. Add potatoes, pushing them into the liquid and rearranging chicken so they sit on top (for lovely crispy skin).
  11. Return to oven without the lid for a further 40 minutes until the chicken skin is deep golden and super crispy, the potatoes are soft and the sauce is thickened.
  12. Taste sauce and adjust salt and pepper to taste.
  13. Serve with warm crusty bread on the side to dunk in the sauce – or go all the way with Garlic Bread! Optional: garnish with extra fresh thyme leaves or parsley.

Ingredients for Garlic Bread:

  • 1 French stick / baguette , ~ 60cm / 2ft long (I use half a loaf of Whole Foods peasant bread)
  • 125 g / 1 US stick unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 tsp fresh garlic , minced (~3 – 4 cloves, pack the teaspoon)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp finely chopped parsley (optional)

Directions for Garlic Bread:

  1. Preheat oven. I left it at the same temperature as the chicken stew.
  2. Cut the French stick in half. Then cut the bread almost all the way through into 2cm / 4/5″ thick slices.
  3. Mix together the butter, garlic, salt and parsley. Taste to see if it’s salty / garlicky enough for your taste.
  4. Smear garlic butter over cut side of bread.
  5. Bake for 15 minutes until the crust is crispy (check through foil).

I wanted a Dutch oven for a long time, and my sister Jennifer recommended the affordable Lodge cast iron 6 quart. She also recommended this chef’s blog! This came out super tasty — and every reheated leftover tasted better and better. HIGHLY recommend. Perfect for cold winter’s days to heat up your whole apartment.

~ Jessie

Homemade ramen

Adapted from Damn Delicious

Ingredients:

  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 tablespoon canola oil (peanut oil works too)
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger (missing!)
  • 4 cups chicken broth
  • 4 ounces shiitake mushrooms (also had homegrown oyster mushrooms)
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce, sesame oil, rice wine
  • 3 (5.6-ounce) packages refrigerated Yaki-Soba, seasoning sauce packets discarded*
  • 2 bok choy
  • 8 slices Narutomaki, optional*
  • 1 carrot, grated
  • 2 tablespoons chopped scallions

Directions:

  1. Place eggs in a large saucepan and cover with cold water by 1 inch. Bring to a boil and cook for 1 minute. Cover eggs with a tight-fitting lid and remove from heat; set aside for 8-10 minutes. Drain well and let cool before peeling and halving. (I might revise and post a different soft boiled egg direction because ours came out hard boiled!)
  2. Heat olive oil in a large stockpot or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add garlic and ginger and scallions whites, and cook, stirring frequently, until fragrant, about 1-2 minutes.
  3. Whisk in chicken broth, mushrooms, soy sauce (and seasonings) and 3 cups water.
  4. Bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer until mushrooms have softened, about 10 minutes. Stir in Yaki-Soba until loosened and cooked through, about 2-3 minutes. (I used different noodles, which got sticky! Flavor still amazing though.)
  5. Stir in bok choy, Narutomaki (wish I had, got Vietnamese hot pot pork balls instead), carrot and scallions until the greens begins to wilt, about 2 minutes.
  6. Serve immediately, garnished with eggs.

This was perfect for a cold winter’s meal. I wanted to use these fresh Chinese noodles I had, but they might have been not the most suitable. I will use real yakisoba noodles next time — Sun Noodles’ Shoyu and Miso flavors are good! Other classic ramen toppings I really love: Chāshū (sliced barbecued or braised pork), Seasoned Soy soft-boiled egg (“Ajitsuke Tamago“), Bean sprouts, Menma (lactate-fermented bamboo shoots), Kakuni (braised pork cubes or squares), Kikurage (wood ear mushroom), Nori (dried seaweed), Kamaboko (formed fish paste, only the pink and white spiral is called narutomaki), Corn, Butter, and Wakame (a different type of seaweed). Wiki I also grew my own oyster mushrooms — a gift from a friend for my classroom (pre-pandemic).

Next time for the eggs, I will 1) leave the eggs in the fridge until the water is boiling and 2) Prepare an ice water bath and 3) marinate them in soy sauce-sugar-mirin-sake for 2 days.

~Jessie

Pan roasted chicken and vegetables

Adapted from Natasha’s Kitchen and Taste of Home

Ingredients:

  • 2-3 medium yellow potatoes, unpeeled and sliced into 3/4″ to 1″ thick pieces
  • 1 large onion, coarsely chopped
  • 2 carrots, sliced into 1/2″ thick rounds
  • 4 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 large zucchini, sliced into 3/4″ thick rounds
  • 2 red, yellow or orange bell peppers, cut into 1″ pieces
  • 1.5 Tbsp garlic salt, or to taste
  • Freshly grated black pepper, to taste
  • 1 teaspoon dried rosemary, crushed, divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • 2 tbsp. Canola or olive oil
  • 4 skin-on chicken thighs

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 425° F. In a large bowl, combine potatoes, carrots, onion, oil, garlic, 3/4 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon rosemary and 1/2 teaspoon pepper; toss to coat.
  2. In a small bowl, mix paprika and the remaining salt, rosemary and pepper. Sprinkle chicken with paprika mixture; arrange over potatoes and carrots. Transfer to a Dutch oven or baking pan coated with olive oil, roast uncovered at 450˚F for 10 minutes. The chicken will roast until a thermometer inserted in chicken reads 170°-175° and vegetables are just tender (about 35-40 minutes total).
  3. Combine the zucchini, bell peppers, and 1/2 the garlic. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Remove roasting pans from the oven and quickly place the rest of the vegetables evenly over the top. Return to the oven and roast an additional 20-25 minutes or until potatoes and carrots are tender and easily pierced with a fork.
  4. Remove chicken to a serving platter; keep warm. Roast until vegetables are tender, 8-10 minutes longer. Stir vegetables to combine; serve with chicken.

I had the vegetables I wanted for my classic vegetable soup dish, but no pot or Dutch oven big enough to hand blend it. So I thought to try out the glass Pyrex baking pan I just acquired and bake some this cold weekend for dinner. The vegetables (especially the potatoes) took a decent extra time to cook through, but the Staub Enameled Cast Iron Fry Pan cooked considerably more than the Pyrex Glass Baking Dish. THIS TASTES SO GOOD.. I never got tired of reheating leftovers. In fact, it tasted better each time.

~Jessica

Sopa de fideo

Recipe courtesy of my co-worker, Ms. Carchichabla and the blog Isabel Eats

Ingredients:

  • 2 plum tomatoes, diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • small onion, chopped
  • 1 packet Goya Sazón Seasoning with Azafrán
  • 1/2 tsp. cumin
  • 6 cups chicken/vegetable broth
  • rosemary, thyme
  • vegetables (e.g. celery, carrots, cauliflower, potato, bell pepper)
  • 8 oz. fideo pasta
  • olive oil
  • black beans, cooked (we used canned)
  • garnish: lime and cilantro, Mexican Queso Fresco and diced avocado. (optional)

Directions:

  1. Cut up two plum tomatoes, 2 garlic cloves, little bit of onion and sautée until soup-like. We also added diced jalapeño pepper (I recommend removing the seeds as much as possible), but you can also add red pepper flakes.
  2. Add a packet of Goya Sazón con Azafrán.
  3. Add 3 – 4 cups of water (or broth) to boil.
  4. Then, put in the veggies — we used celery, carrots, potato, and turnip.
  5. To make the fideo, which is the (bow tie) pasta, you’re going to toast it in a pan in olive oil. Don’t toast it too much or it will burn, just toast it till gets to a tannish-yellow color.
  6. After putting the fideo in the soup along with the veggies, add the beans. (The beans should already have been cooked before!) Add some salt, rosemary, a pinch of thyme.
  7. Let it cook for 15-20 minutes or whenever you feel it’s ready. Taste. Add some salt if necessary. Garnish with cilantro, etc.

It’s a perfect meal for the fall/winter weather. Additional soup ingredients can include vegetables such as bell pepper, onion and garlic, tomatoes, tomato sauce, chicken, chili peppers, vegetable oil, salt and pepper. I quite liked my second attempt too, with canned tomatoes!

~Jessica

Purée of spring vegetable soup

Adapted from Lisa KleypasDevil’s Daughter

Ingredients:

  • 2 small zucchinis
  • 2 small summer squash
  • 2 carrots (I had not)
  • 1 red / yellow bell pepper (green was cheaper)
  • 2 tbsp. butter
  • 1 tsp. garlic, minced
  • 1 yellow onion, chopped
  • 4 cups (chicken) broth
  • 4 tbsp tomato paste
  • 14 oz. can of white beans, rinsed and drained
  • pinch (tsp.) of salt
  • pinch of ground black pepper
  • pinch of thyme
  • pinch of oregano
  • ½ cup of heavy cream (or half and half)

Directions:

  1. Chop vegetables into ½ inch pieces, to cook evenly.
  2. Melt the butter in large pot, on medium-high. Add the garlic, onions, then vegetables. Sauté 10-15 minutes.
  3. Add broth, tomato paste, beans, seasonings, and herbs. Bring to a boil, then simmer for 30 minutes until tender.
  4. Blend with a hand immersion blender (I have not, so I did it in batches).
  5. Add the cream. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  6. Serve with buttered croutons, or a grilled cheese.

I had not carrots, but not a big enough pot anyhow. I had 3 on-the-vine tomatoes, so I used that instead of the tomato paste. I ran out of thyme! One of my favorite herbs! I think this is my favorite in the Ravenels series, but this recipe was extra sumptuous, and I had just collected the ingredients for ratatouille, thinking to make a pan satué version (baking is so hot in my apartment, and I haven’t a real baking dish in fact). I loved the description in the book where this dish was served. Can you imagine a 12 course meal? Now if I only had the makings for a grilled cheese…

~Jessie