Beef Shanks with Creamy Polenta and Gremolata

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Italian Hummus

I have been making this for years. It is always a crowd pleaser. I’ve had many family and friends ask me for this recipe. The recipe is courtesy of Rachel Ray. It calls for serving it with sliced toasted bread. But I serve it with pita bread or pita chips (Stacey”s Pita Chips)

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1 can of 15 to 18 ounce of white beans

3 tablespoons sesame tahini paste

2 cloves of garlic minced

3 sprigs of rosemary, leaves finely chopped

1 lemon

salt

2 tablespoons of olive oil

Place the bean in the  food processor with the tahini, garlic, rosemary, the juice of 1 lemon and some salt. Turn on the processor and stream in olive oil a little of a time. Adjust the salt and serve in a bowl.

Cream of Lentil Soup with Chorizo Croutes

This soup is delicious and so easy to make.  I found this recipe five years ago while watching the Cooking Channel( not to be confused with the Food Network Channel). The recipe is from Laura Calder, a French Canadian chef.  I have one of her cookbooks some where in my collection.

1 cup of Puy lentils (French green lentils)

1 carrot chopped

1 onion sliced

1 bay leaf

1 fresh thyme sprig

4 cups of chicken stock or water

Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

lemon juice for squirting if you like

3 tablespoons of olive oil

1 small chorizo sausage, thinly sliced

Soak the lentils in cold water for 2 hours. Drain the lentils, put them in a pot with the carrot, onion, bay leaf, thyme and stock. Cover the pot and simmer until tender for about 45 minutes.

Discard the bay leaf and thyme sprigs. Let it coll somewhat, then puree in a blender in batches. I used a hand blender.

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You can strain it if you want it smoother but it’s not necessary. Add salt and pepper and slowly reheat. Add a squeeze of lemon juice if you want.

Heat the oil in a frying pan and saute the chorizo until they curl., about 30 seconds. Turn them and fry for another 15 seconds. IMG_0763

Serve the soup with the chorizo slices and the new bright orange cooking oil spooned around.

Italian Wedding Soup

I love making this soup when it’s cold outside. I usually make it the the day after we had a roasted chicken for dinner. I use the left overs for chicken stock and any left over chicken pieces in the soup. I really don’t have a recipe, it’s a creation from one of my best friends and Ina Garten’s  recipe as a baseline. I will try to create it as best I can. You can adjust it any way you want.

For the meatballs: You can add what ever ingredients you usually add to your meatball, since they will be in the soup I didn’t go crazy

3/4 pound of ground beef ( I used 80% lean)

2/3 cup of Italian bread crumbs

1 egg

tablespoon of garlic powder

tablespoon of onion powder

salt and pepper

For the soup:

2 tablespoons of olive oil

1 cup of minced onion

2 cloves of garlic minced (optional)

3 carrots chopped

2 stalks of celery chopped

8 to 10 cups of homemade or store bought chicken stock

1/2 cup of dry white wine

1/2 cup or up to 1 cup of small pasta (I used stars)

1/2 cup of parsley (optional) or you can add 12 oz of baby spinach

Preheat the oven to 350F. For the meatballs place all the ingredients in a large bowl. Using your hands mix all till it forms a dough like form. If I feel it’s too wet I add a little more bread crumbs, if it feels too dry I add another egg.  Form bite sized balls and place on a cookie sheet. IMG_0752

They don’t have to be perfect. Bake for about 25 to 30 minutes or till lightly browned. Set aside.

Meanwhile heat the olive oil over medium heat in a large soup pot. Add the onions, celery and carrots. Saute till softened for a bout 5 minutes or so. Add the garlic if using and saute for another minute. Add the wine and the stock and bring to a boil. IMG_0753

Once it starts boiling add the pasta and cook till pasta is tender for about 8 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Add the spinach if using. Add the meatballs and the chicken. Simmer on low heat till everything is heated through. IMG_0754

Add the parsley before serving. Serve in soup bowls and grate some Parmesan cheese if desired.

Moros (Cuban Black Beans and Rice)

This is a staple dish in a Cuban household. It’s usually served with pork and fried plantains. Recipe courtesy of Cuban Chicks can Cook.

1/2 a pound of dried black beans (rinsed and soaked overnight)

5 cups of water

1 chopped green pepper

2 medium onions chopped

3 cloves of garlic minced

1 bay leaf

1 teaspoon of ground oregano

1/2 teaspoon of ground cumin

salt to taste 3 to 4 teaspoons

1/2 teaspoon of ground white  pepper

1/4 cup Spanish olive oil

1/2 pound of pork chunks, I just used bacon

1 pound of long grain white rice

Bring the beans with bay leaf to a boil using the same water it was soaked. Add more water to make 5 cups.

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Reduce the heat and simmer for about 2 hours or until the beans are tender. In a large pot cook the bacon till crisp. Discard half the fat and add 1/8 cup of olive oil. Add the onions, pepper and garlic, cook till carmelized, set aside.

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Once the beans are ready drain and reserve 3 cups of the liquid. Add the liquid to the onion pepper mix with the rice and bring to a boil.

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Boil for 10 minutes or till most of the liquid is absorbed. Meanwhile add sat and oil to the beans. Pour into the pot with the rice and lower the heat, cover and continue to cook for 15 minutes or till the rice is done.

Croquetas De Jamon (Ham Croquettes)

I hope everyone had a wonderful holiday. It’s so good to get back to a routine after a whirlwind of driving to Florida to spend Christmas with family and friends. It was a great time. But now back to blogging again.

Croquetas was a Cuban dish I often ate growing up. They can be made for appetizers or along side black beans and rice for dinner. You can make them any size you want and I have seen them in different variations such as meat, like my mom used to make. It does require some fridge time so have to allow plenty  of time. This recipe is courtesy of  Ana Quincoces Rodriquez, author of Cuban Chicks can Cook. I made my own notations and adjustments.

3 cups of sweet deli ham ( I used regular packaged ham from the store) Pulsed in  a food processor

2 cups of whole milk

1 stick of butter

3/4 cup of all purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon of nutmeg

1/2 teaspoon of ground white pepper

1/2 teaspoon of salt

2 tablespoon of freshly chopped parsley

2 cups of ground cracker meal or bread crumbs ( I use Italian seasoned breadcrumbs)

3 eggs beaten

Corn oil for frying

Pulse the ham in the food processor and place in a large bowl. The base to this is in the thickness of the bechamel sauce. In a heavy saucepan bring the milk to a boil. In a separate large saucepan, melt the butter.

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Whisk in the flour, salt nutmeg and pepper. I do this gradually. Reduce the heat and continue stirring until the mixture attains a light golden color. While whisking add the milk a little at a time incorporating each time before adding more. Once the milk has been added bring to medium heat to a boil to get ride of all the lumps.

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The recipe calls for to add the ham to the bechamel but don’t do that. It is best to add the mixture to the ham instead. And add slowly mix it with a wooden spoon. It should look like a soft dough.

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Set aside till room temperature then place in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours. Take out and add the parsley and mix well.

In a bowl beat the eggs and in a shallow dish place the breadcrumbs.

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Using your hand or a spoon roll into hand making cylinders dip each into egg and then roll into the breadcrumbs. And repeat the process twice with each cylinder. ( I roll them in the breadcrumbs just before frying) Then place in the fridge for 2 hours.

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Take them out and let them rest for about an hour before frying. Heat about 3 inches of oil in a large frying pan t 375 degrees or medium high heat. Brown on all sides and place on a dish lined with paper towels.