Saturday, June 6, 2009


This salsa was adapted from an recipe.  It is hands down the best salsa recipe I have ever had and is cheaper than getting store bought, which is always a bonus.  I read that it doesn't keep well overnight, although I wouldn't know because it's never made it to the next day.  

This recipe, unlike many of my others, only serves 2-3 people so you might want to double or triple it if it's going to be dip for a party.  

medium tomatoes
1/2 medium onion or 1 small onion
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoon lime juice
12 sprigs of cilantro
1 large garlic clove
3/4 serrano chili seeded and chopped very fine

1.  Take one of the tomatoes and puree it. (If you don't like chunks of tomatoes in your salsa feel free to puree both)
2.  Mix all the ingredients together except for the serrano chilies.
3.  The serrano chilies are spicy so we only used 3/4 of one but feel free to add more.  I would suggest adding 1/2 a chili at a time or less.  Be sure to chop up the chilies as small as possible so you don't have really spicy pockets in your salsa.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

How did I get here?

I don't ever remember learning how to cook specifically.  It was more through diffusion.  I learned by watching my grandma make me my favorite foods every time I went to her house.  Since I grew up around the corner from my grandparents, that was quite a lot.  Everything she made was meaty and cheesy goodness, with a few veggies thrown in for good measure (namely my favorite childhood food, artichokes).  I quickly absorbed everything I could and to this day I am still trying to perfect my dishes so they taste as good as my grandmother's.  I call her to get tips and tricks on how to cook my favorite Italian foods.  To ask her about anything but Italian food would be a mistake.  She would probably look at you like you were crazy.  I remember once when I was younger asking my grandparents to take me to a Mexican restaurant and they didn't know what to do with themselves.  I don't even remember them ordering anything.

I learned her recipes quickly and started making dinner for my family.  My dad and sister liked my cooking better than my mom's and my mom was quick to take advantage of that.  When my mom cooked, she would always label it "Emily's sauce" or "Emily's Meatballs".  I guess she thought they would just eat it anyway once they heated it up and figured out that they'd been duped.  Fortunately, I was never fooled.

My mom's theory when cooking was to multi-task.  She was known to put a whole pound of frozen meat (frozen because she didn't have the time to buy fresh) put it in a frying pan and walk away, coming back periodically to break it apart so it could defrost better.  If you know anything abut meat, you know this could not end well.  When the meat couldn't be browned into crumbles she would defrost it in the microwave and inevitably cook all the edges.  I'm pretty sure she used those edges in the meatballs or whatever she was making along with everything else.

I don't want you to misunderstand my mom's cooking though.  She was a good cook, she just had her specialties.  She is famous in my family for poultry.  She makes the best turkey, always moist and never cold by the time it gets to the table.  The problem with her cooking is she often didn't have the time and or the patience.

My grandma and my mom have both helped to shape the cook I am now.  Whether it was teaching me how to make amazing meatballs or the wrong way to defrost meat,  I wouldn't be the cook I am now without them and I am grateful.   

Saturday, May 23, 2009

What I've been up to...

It has become increasingly obvious that it is going to be harder than I anticipated to pin down a meatball recipe.  For one, the meat version of the dish and the meatless version require different proportions of ingredients.  When I have made it in the past I just eyeball it and roll it to see how it feels.  I have a feeling if I put on the recipe to put bread crumbs  until you think it "looks and feels right" nobody would get very far.  Don't despair though, I will not give up.  

As for the salsa and guacamole recipes, they are coming sooner than the meatballs.  We made guacamole yesterday having every intention to take a picture of it but, we were so hungry by the time we were done with the taco salads we were making that we forgot to take a picture.  I was going to put it up without a picture but I know that I rarely make recipes that don't have pictures of what it is because I want to know what I am getting into.  I think you guys should know too. 

After you try my recipes feel free to let me know what you think.  I love to hear from people especially about food!

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Eggplant Parmesan

This recipe is what comfort food is all about for me. I love it and it's always a big crowd pleaser at Christmas dinner.

My best eggplant making tip is to slice the pieces evenly, otherwise the thicker pieces end up being chewy and not cooked through all the way. I like mine to be no more than 1/2 inch thick.

Eggplant Parmesan

2 small eggplant
1 1/2 cup Italian bread crumbs
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
4 eggs
olive oil
2 jars of sauce (Or some of the yummy homemade stuff you made earlier)
8 oz shredded mozzarella and parmesan mix

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Mix bread crumbs and grated cheese together in a wide bowl. Beat the eggs in a separate bowl.
3. Dip the eggplant rounds first in the bread crumb and cheese mixture, then in the eggs, and finally back into the bread crumb/cheese mixture. The first extra dip allows for better breading coverage. If you need more bread crumb mixture just make sure to use the same ratio of cheese to bread crumbs.
4. Heat 3 tablespoons of olive oil in large frying pan.
5. Add eggplant making sure the rounds are flat against the pan. You'll probably have to cook them in shifts. Add extra oil as necessary, there should always be a thin layer coating the bottom of the pan. The rounds are done when they are golden brown on both sides.
6. When the rounds finish cooking put one layer in the bottom of a corningware. Then ladle sauce over it and sprinkle about 1/3 of the shredded cheese, depending on how much of a cheese lover you are. After that rinse and repeat (minus the rinsing) until all the eggplant is layered with the sauce and cheese.
7. Put the eggplant uncovered in the oven for about an hour. Cooking time will depend on how thick you cut it. I would start checking on it at around 45 minutes. You will know it's done when you can easily slice through the eggplant, skin and all.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Spaghetti Sauce

Of course you can use it for other things than spaghetti, that's just what I like to call it.  My grandmother always called it "Gravy".  I don't know if that is an Italian thing to call spaghetti sauce gravy or not.  I really should ask her one of these days.  This recipe is based on her gravy recipe but has been tweaked slowly over the years to perfection.

I am posting this recipe in preparation for my spaghetti and meatball recipe because spaghetti and meatballs is nothing without a good sauce.  My disclaimer about this recipe is that it takes 5 hours.  That is not to say you have to be there baby-sitting it for 5 hours but I do recommend a stir or two every hour.  This recipe makes a lot so I would be a good idea to have mason jars ready to store it in.  I make so much at a time because it is not often that I think of putting this sauce on the stove 5 hours before I want to go to bed. 

So here it is!

Spaghetti Sauce:

2 tablespoons olive oil
4 cloves of garlic cut into quarters
1 medium onion
5 (28 ounce) cans of pureed tomatoes (any but Hunts!)
1 1/2 cans of water (it will make sense later don't worry about it)
1 tablespoon oregano
1 tablespoon basil
1 tablespoon garlic powder (because you can never have enough garlic in your life)
1 teaspoons rosemary
1 teaspoon thyme
1 1/2 teaspoons sugar

1. Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in large pot (big enough for 6 1/2 cans of liquid) over medium heat.  
2. Saute garlic and onions until they are softened and translucent, garlic should be lightly browned.  
3. Add 5 cans of sauce, take the pot off the heat while adding the sauce or the splatter make your kitchen look like Psycho II.  
4. Take one of the cans you just emptied and add 1 1/2 cans of water to the sauce.  This will make it liquidy but don't worry because you are going to cook it for 5 hours and the water with simmer away, leaving the sauce nice and thick.
5. Add oregano, basil, garlic powder, rosemary, thyme and sugar to the sauce.  Give it a good stir so everything is mixed in really well.
6. Bring the sauce to a boil. 
7. Lower the heat to a slow simmer.  I find every stove simmers at a different temperature so check back often in the beginning to make sure you maintain that simmer over the full 4 - 5 hours.
8. Stir a couple of times an hour.  
9. Cook for 4 - 5 hours.  Taste it to make sure you have the desired thickness.  If it is getting to thick, feel free to add water. If it is still too liquidy after 5 hours feel free to cook it longer, just be careful not to burn it.
Tip: Sometimes the water in the sauce with collect at the top.  If it is still not thick enough when you stir it in wait for the water to settle to the top again and just spoon out the desired amount.  This does not always happen however, it depends on the type of tomatoes you buy.

Friday, May 1, 2009

A Change of Plans

I've been gearing up to do a spaghetti and meatballs post but I've been momentarily distracted by these english muffin pizzas that my significant vegetarian made for me over the weekend. They are a childhood recipe and I think they are genius.  They can serve as a great leftover makeover and a fun activity with kids!

English Muffin Pizzas

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Take a whole wheat english muffin, split it in half and spread some of your favorite jarred spaghetti sauce. Sprinkle some italian seasoning , garlic powder, rosemary and a little salt and pepper to taste. ( You can do this anytime you need to use jarred sauce.  It is a great way to enjoy the convenience of a jar while having it still taste homemade.  I won't tell anyone it's jarred if you don't.)  Then layer mozzarella and cheddar cheese on top of the sauce.  After that, let  your conscience be your guide.  I'm originally from New York and I've seen everything from barbecue chicken to baked ziti on a pizza.  So go crazy with  your favorite pizza toppings or experiment with new ones.   You have nothing to lose, it's just a little english muffin.  If you are having an eaters block look in your fridge to see what you have leftover.  I made a sausage and peppers pizza with the leftovers from the below post and it was very tasty.  Its a great way to give your leftovers a little makeover.
Put the little pizzas in the oven, preferably on a baking stone if you have one, if not just put them directly on the rack to get a nice crispy crust.  It will take approximately 10-15 minutes to cook but check on them every 5 minutes or so, that way the crust is browned exactly to your liking.  With all things that are not an exact science like this I defer to my significant vegetarian's favorite saying, "Take it out when it looks like you want to eat it."

My significant vegetarian and I have also tried shrimp pizza and a veggie lovers pizza with peppers, onions, olives, mushrooms and pineapple. 

To make this with kids I would recommend putting bowls of all sorts of different toppings they can choose from.  It will be a fun craft project that your kids can eat when they are done!

Saturday, April 25, 2009

More about the Carnivore behind the curtain

Now that you've seen a few of my recipes I thought it would be a good time to explain a little bit about the way I cook and why.

My cooking style is mostly influenced by my grandmother.  As I mentioned before I take her recipes and make them more healthy whenever I can.  My style has a heavy italian influence although I am half polish too.  

I have a cooking disorder which doesn't allow me to cook anything less than massive portions. If you are feeding a family of 4 or 5 you will probably be ok.  I cook these recipes for just me and my significant vegetarian, however.  Needless to say we have no need to cook lunches most of the time.  We do like an occasional grilled cheese with a slice of tomato or my personal favorite cream cheese and cucumber sandwich (which is calling my name right now) but I digress. I cook this way because my grandmother cooks this way.  My grandmother cooks this way because it's in the little Italian grandmother handbook.  She is like the grandmother on "Everybody Loves Raymond", from Long Island and everything.  I guess that kind of makes me a little Italian grandmother in training.  If so, that's fine with me because she is the best cook I know.  

In honor of my grandmother I am going to do her famous spaghetti and meatballs for my next recipe.  Trust me, you don't want to miss it.