Tag Archives: Black pepper

Christmas 2013: Calamari Salad

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No real story here. This is a standby side for our holidays and a rather typical salad for an Italian Christmas or New Years Eve. It made its return as the seafood accompaniment to the meat-wrapped meat entree I prepared.

My father’s version is good, but it’s not quite as balanced as the version served at Asti Caffe and Trattoria in Syracuse, which this salad is patterned after. Continue reading Christmas 2013: Calamari Salad

Christmas 2013: Shallot and Red Wine Sauce

So, here’s the thing with my Christmas roast: it didn’t produce enough drippings to construct a gravy. All it really did was make a bunch of grease to burn on to the pan.

I was confident that roast would be moist, rendering a gravy or sauce unnecessary. But, people like something that they can ladle over roast beef. It’s habit and who am I to interrupt such a practice? Not wanting a traditional thick beef gravy and with a bunch of shallots in the house, I thought I would look for something else. Enter Gordon Ramsay’s shallot and red wine sauce.

Shallot and Red Wine Sauce
By Gordon Ramsay via BBC GoodFood (adapted and measures converted from metric)

  • 8 oz. shallots, sliced
  • 4 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 garlic clove, lightly crushed
  • sprig rosemary
  • 5 tbsp. balsamic vinegar
  • 13 oz. red wine
  • 13 oz. beef stock or brown chicken stock, preferably homemade
  • 1 tbsp. butter

Heat oil in a medium saucepan until it shimmers. Add the shallots and cook until lightly browned and soft, 3 minutes. Season with ground black pepper and add the garlic and rosemary. Cook 3 more minutes, stirring to prevent the shallots from burning.

Add the vinegar and cook until it has a syrup consistency. Add the wine and reduce by two-thirds.

Add the stock and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until reduced by two-thirds. Remove the garlic and rosemary, add a pinch of salt to taste and whisk in the butter.

Meatless Tuesday: Tomato Frittata

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What came first? The chicken or the egg?

If I eat eggs mixed with vegetables, is the meal really meatless? The experts seem to think so. Here’s what the Meatless Monday FAQ says about low-carb meatless recipes:

Most beans and legumes are relatively high in complex carbohydrates (meat contains no carbohydrates). If you’re restricting carbohydrates, you may want to choose nuts and seeds, eggs and low-fat dairy products as your primary protein foods.

And, if it’s on the Internet, it must be true. So there: two consecutive meatless days. I think that may be some sort of record here at Al Dente HQ.

Continue reading Meatless Tuesday: Tomato Frittata

Pickling Without Canning: Garlic Dill Pickles

IMG_4663Dill pickles have been standard summertime venture ever since I picked up my first copy of Dinosaur Bar-B-Que: An American Roadhouse. I made my first batch while still living with my father, who hated the dill-vinegar smell that would hang in the house for the day or two following.

IMG_4653The project moved to my own dwelling(s), where it is something I put together once or so each year. Frankly, I can’t stand the steamed vinegar that hangs in the air either. However, the payoff is worth it.

I use a modified version of Dinosaur pickle recipe. I don’t know how to do it better than them, but I know that my primary audience (The Wife) does not like jalepeños with her pickles. Sooooooooooo, I try to balance it off with the requisite amount of garlic.

My past container of choice has been a 2-quart Rubbermaid container wrapped twice in plastic. This time around, I’m using a 2.5L sealed lockjar.

Continue reading Pickling Without Canning: Garlic Dill Pickles

Pickling Without Canning: Garlic cilantro dill pickles

2012-09-03 at 17-06-12This post was originally published on September 4, 2012 and is in the spirit of Pickling Without Canning.

We ate a lot of pickles in my house growing up.

A lot of them.

We were a Claussen household. For some reason, my mother refused to buy pickles that weren’t refrigerated. Vlassic was never seen. I’d like to think that it was because my mother was nuts (true) and thought the non-refrigerated variety would spoil quicker, but it was probably because the Claussens are better. My sister and I would eat them by the jarful as kids (I think we’ve covered the excessive eating my household on this blog.).

Continue reading Pickling Without Canning: Garlic cilantro dill pickles

Last Week Dinner: Turkey-Spinach Sliders

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As is the case with weekends that fall apart, I didn’t write at all. The whirlwind of a three-year-old who has made 2 a.m. her middle-of-the-night rally point for waking up combined with the news that someone I had worked closely with for a long time had died left me physically and emotionally exhausted. And when that happens, my memory for details like when we had burgers for dinner becomes nonexistent.

I have never made my own sliders before, instead taking the easy way out and buying the preformed version at Wegmans. The big challenge for me, as it has been for 30-odd years now, is portion size. A slider, it seems, should not just be a little smaller than a standard burger. It should be a lot smaller.

Continue reading Last Week Dinner: Turkey-Spinach Sliders

Killing Them Softly: Crab Ring

cookbooks

EDITOR’S NOTE: My recent discovery of our families’ collection of 1970s era church cookbooks has been nothing short of a conversation piece around Al Dente HQ. The kind-hearted and well-intentioned women behind these recipes set cooking back years, all the while trying to kill their families with butter, shortening and lard. Not wanting to hog the glory and splendor for myself, it is my pleasure to share these classic culinary gems with you. These are the original recipes with very little editing. If you have one of these around your house or find one at your parent’s home, please contact me. I would love to get my hands on it.

RECIPE: Crab Ring
AUTHOR: Linda Viggiano
COOKBOOK: Our Lady of Pompeii’s Society of St. Therese Cookbook
APPROXIMATE YEAR: 1973

WHY DID I CHOOSE THIS? My wife’s cousin’s husband calls it “Jello with stuff.” It’s a fixture at every holiday and no one under the age of 60 (except for my brother-in-law) will touch the stuff. There, on the buffet line with all of the other acceptable food, is this bowl of red Jello. Loaded with berries, pineapple or some other fruit, it sits there trying to pass itself off as real food. Like a Kia on a lot full of Cadillacs. It’s the last kid picked for kickball. The guy who sits all of the way at the end of the bench by the trainer and managers.

Classic French cuisine uses aspic, a gelatin made with consomme. In the 1970s America, it was not unheard of to find seafood or meat locked in a gelatin mold. Like suspended animation or a cryogenically frozen body, there would be imitation crabmeat or cocktail shrimp or, worse, canned tuna.

I offer this recipe as a reminder of how far we’ve come…from the crab ring to crab dip.

Crab Ring

  • 1 tbsp. unflavored gelatin
  • 1/4 cup cold water
  • 16 oz. cream cheese, softened
  • 2 tbsp. cooking sherry
  • 3/4 tsp. seasoning salt
  • 1 6 oz. package crabmeat
  • 1/8 tsp. ground pepper (black)
  • 1/4 cup fresh parsley
  • 2 oz. jar pimentos, chopped and drained

Dissolve gelatin in water and add sherry. Let set. Take cream cheese and blend in remaining ingredients one at a time (blend by hand). Pour in gelatin and sherry, and blend. Pour into 3-quart mold and chill 4 hours. Unmold and serve with chips and crackers. 

Killing Them Softly: Meat Cabbage Casserole

cookbooks

EDITOR’S NOTE: My recent discovery of our families’ collection of 1970s era church cookbooks has been nothing short of a conversation piece around Al Dente HQ. The kind-hearted and well-intentioned women behind these recipes set cooking back years, all the while trying to kill their families with butter, shortening and lard. Not wanting to hog the glory and splendor for myself, it is my pleasure to share these classic culinary gems with you. These are the original recipes with very little editing. If you have one of these around your house or find one at your parent’s home, please contact me. I would love to get my hands on it.

RECIPE: Meat Cabbage Casserole
AUTHOR: Phyllis Orsino
COOKBOOK: Our Lady of Pompeii’s Society of St. Therese Cookbook
APPROXIMATE YEAR: 1973

WHY DID I CHOOSE THIS? This embodies everything I could hope for from a church cookbook. I think about my the men of my own family. These were men that often did not care what dinner tasted like. They worked 8, 10, 12 hours each day, came home and expected dinner on the table at 5, 5:30 or 6 p.m.

The only thing they loved to do more than come home from dinner and tell everyone about their hard day of work was to sit in their chair after dinner and expel every cubic inch of gas in their bodies while reading the evening paper. They would burp so much, the paper would sway in the breeze. The farting would drown out Brokaw or Rather in the background.

They were men. They were also miserable. Their wives were slowly poisoning them with sticks of butter, gallons of oil, and cups of shortening. What wasn’t killing him was mangling their tastebuds. Of course, telling his wife that they wanted something else for dinner would require him to actually speak to her. So, better to look miserable and choke down meat and cabbage casserole.

Meat Cabbage Casserole

  • 1 large solid head of cabbage (about 2 lbs.)
  • 3 tbsp. margarine
  • 2 tbsp. soy sauce
  • 1/2 tsp. sugar
  • 1 tsp. salt (half goes in cabbage)
  • 1 lb. each beef, pork and veal, ground
  • 1 tbsp. flour
  • 1 egg
  • dash of black pepper
  • 1 tsp. instant onion soup mix
  • 1 cup milk

Shred cabbage (there will be about 3 quarts). Melt margarine in large skillet or Dutch oven, and add cabbage, cook, stirring until wilted. Add soy sauce, sugar and 1/2 tsp. salt. In a bowl, mix remaining salt and meat, and next 4 ingredients. Gradually stir in milk, and alternate layers of cabbage and meat mixture in shallow 2 quart baking dish, beginning and ending with cabbage. Dot with margarine and bake uncovered, in a 350-degree oven, about one hour. Makes six servings.