Sunday, April 25, 2021

Eggplant Timballo

We have been greatly enjoying Stanley Tucci's Searching for Italy and I'm quite certain that we are not the only ones that have been so inspired to try to recreate some of the fabulous food dishes that make appearances on the show. 

In the Season One finale in Sicily, Stanley visits the house of a Princess in search of the perfect Timballo. The name Timballo, or the French word timbale, means kettledrum. And when you see the final resulting shape of this dish, you can understand why it may have been given the name. Thankfully, the ingredients tend to be flexible, using some kind of pasta, dough, or rice, and adding cheese, meat, and/or vegetables. The ingredients are layered into a beautiful and delicious casserole.

While on the episode they show three different methods of making the dish, and then there's the Stanley Tucci family original as seen in the movie Big Night, we decided to start with just one recipe and see how things went. And shockingly, much to our astonishment and disbelief, it worked!



Ingredients
2 Large Eggplants
1 pound fresh Cavatelli pasta *
1 pound fresh Mozzarella
1 cup Grated Parmesan
1 32-oz can San Marzano tomatoes
1 onion, chopped
2 stalks of celery, chopped
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
5 garlic cloves, minced
3-4 bay leaves
Olive Oil
Salt & Pepper
Deep Soufflé Baking Dish

Directions:
1) Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

2) Wash and cut the Eggplant into thin slices length-wise (similar to what might look like a lasagna noodle). 

3) Line a baking tray with parchment paper. Lightly drizzle each side of the eggplant slice with Olive Oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper, then line the slices on the tray (you may need to do this multiple times or use multiple trays). Bake for about 20 minutes to soften, then remove to cool.

4) In a large saucepan, heat about 1 Tablespoon of Olive oil. Add the onion, celery, and carrot, and cook for about 5-10 minutes, until softened.

5) Add the garlic cloves and cook for about 1 minute. Then add the tomatoes, bay leaves, and salt and pepper to taste. Allow to simmer until the sauce comes together.

6) Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook the pasta as directed (less than five minutes for fresh pasta versus 15-20 minutes for dried pasta). Drain, rinse, and set aside.

7) Oil the bottom and sides of the Soufflé dish. Using the Eggplant slices, line the bottom and sides of the dish allowing half of the eggplant slices to hang over the edge as they will fold over ontop of the stuffing (note: once the dish is cooked, you will flip it over to serve, so the bottom will become the top, in case you want to artistically layer the bottom pieces).

8) Remove the tomato sauce from the heat and discard the bay leaves. Stir in the pasta, Basil, Parmesan, and cut up Mozzarella. 

9) Spoon the mixture into the eggplant lined dish and fold the eggplant slices over the mixture to enclose.


10) Place the Timballo into the oven for about 10 minutes, then remove to rest for 5 minutes.

11) Place the serving platter of your choosing ontop of the Timballo and quickly, but carefully, flip over the Soufflé dish!


* Cavatelli pasta is very fun. It has so many nicknames - hot dog buns, seeds, even belly buttons! It's not always easy to find, but it's simple enough to make. Alternatively, you can use any other small pasta, like shells or elbows.


Monday, March 22, 2021

Homemade Carrot Cake

My dad came to visit, for the first time in 18 months (thank you COVID vaccine!), and I was over the moon. It felt special, and I wanted him to feel special. And my father, the doctor, loves his vegetables. So of course, one of his favorite cakes is Carrot Cake. Luckily, I have a friend who is a marvel in the kitchen and gave me this recipe for a homemade carrot cake. I was skeptical at first when she said it was easy, but all truth be told, the most difficult part was slicing the carrots! So, without further adieu, here is the best recipe for...


Homemade Carrot Cake

Ingredients
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 1/4 cups canola oil
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 large eggs
5-6 medium carrots, peeled and sliced *
1 cup pecans, chopped
1/2 cup raisins

Directions
1) Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Prep two 9-inch round cake pans lightly greased with oil, lined with parchment, and lightly grease the parchment.
2) Whisk together the oil, sugars, and vanilla. Whisk in the eggs, one by one, until all ingredients are combined.
3) Using a spatula, scrape down the sides of the bowl, then add 1 cup flour, 1 teaspoon baking soda, and the salt. Blend together, then add the remaining flour, baking soda, and ground cinnamon. Stir until all is smooth.
4) Add the carrot slices, pecans, and raisins, and mix together.
5) Bake for 35 minutes, then remove from oven, flip over on a rack, and let cool and release from the pan (about 15 minutes).

*To "slice" the carrots for this cake, use a peeler to peel off the skin, then just keep using the peeler all around to get your thin, fine slices. 

Cream Cheese Frosting

Ingredients
16 oz. cream cheese
1/2 cup of butter, softened
4 1/2 cups of powdered sugar
1 1/4 teaspoons vanilla extract

Beat all of the ingredients together until smooth and creamy. Makes a generous amount of frosting.


Now put it all together... Place some frosting in a full circle on the bottom of a plate. Top with the first cake round, layer the top with frosting. Carefully place the second cake round on top of the first, and frost the entire cake around.



Recipe courtesy of Inspired Taste

Monday, February 8, 2021

Valentine's 2021 - Happy at Home

Well, we've all mastered our homemade bread recipes and found a new norm accessory in our friend, the mask. All this time for reflection has helped me to remember just how happy I am at home. 

So, as the Valentine's Day holiday approaches, I look for more love to add to my humble abode, and Nod Hill Soap has it all! I endorse their products, not only because it is local to my town (Wilton, CT) and because we live on a street called Nod Hill, but because the products truly are remarkable. You can order online (thanks COIVD-19), and these are some of my favorites:



Here are some other favorites of mine that would make for a thoughtful gift around the home: Tea for One Set, Molton Brown Products, C.O. Bigelow Products, Kiehl's Haircare, a Water Carafe & Cup for anywhere you want! And of course, there's always Godiva...





Monday, December 7, 2020

Monday, November 23, 2020

Stuffing vs. Dressing

Some say that stuffing is what you stuff inside the bird whereas dressing is what you cook separately on the side. I think Southern Living said it best,

"The difference between stuffing or dressing isn’t as much about technique or ingredients as it is about whether you say y’all, you all, or youse."


I grew up in the north and my husband is from the south. My family made a white bread stuffing. His family made a cornbread dressing. Both families cooked some of the stuffing/dressing inside of the bird and some of the stuffing/dressing outside in a separate pan, purely to appease all that would come to eat at the table.

Personally, I think both are absolutely delicious so there is nothing wrong with welcoming both to the Thanksgiving table. After all, the more, the merrier!


Michigan's White Bread Stuffing

Ingredients
12 cups soft bread cubes
1 cup butter
2 cups celery, chopped
1 cup onion, chopped
1 teaspoon ground sage
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper

Directions
1. Heat butter in a Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the celery and onion and cook until tender.

2. Remove from heat and stir in all of the remaining ingredients. Combine and serve.



Texas's Cornbread Dressing

Ingredients
3 boxes of Jiffy boxed cornbread mix
1 cup of chicken broth
2 medium onions, chopped
5 stalks of celery, chopped
6 Tablespoons of Butter
1 pound mild pork sausage
4 eggs

Directions
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. 

2. In an oven-friendly baking dish soak the cornbread mixture in the chicken broth for 10 minutes. Stir to absorb the liquid.

3. In a saucepan melt the butter over medium heat and saute the onion and celery until tender. Add the sausage and cook over low heat until the sausage is browned.

4. Drain the sausage and vegetables. Then add the sausage mixture to the cornbread mixture.

5. Bake for 45 minutes or until slightly browned.

Friday, November 20, 2020

Bourbon Pecan Pie

This Thanksgiving will be like no other in our lifetime. It's a time of food and gathering. Fortunately we can savor in the former, but sadly we are discouraged to entertain the latter. So food definitely will be had, and we will have to work hard this year at mastering our recipes so that in the years to come, we can go back to sharing them with all of our family, friends, and loved ones.


Bourbon Pecan Pie Recipe

Ingredients
- 2 cups pecan halves
- 1/2 cup of white sugar
- 1/2 cup of brown sugar
- 3 tablespoons of butter, melted
- 3 eggs
- 1/2 cup of light corn syrup
- 2 Tablespoons of Bourbon
- 1 unbaked pie crust *

Directions
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

2. Mix the white sugar, brown sugar, and butter together in a bowl.

3. Beat the eggs. Add the eggs, corn syrup, and bourbon to the bowl with the sugar and butter. Stir to combine.

4. Pour the mixture into the pie crust. Top with the pecans. **

5. Bake in the oven for 30-40 minutes, until set. Let cool on a rake prior to serving.


* Make your own pie crust using this delicious Homemade Apple Pie recipe!

** It's good to dip the pecans a little bit into the pie filling mixture for more flavor. Don't worry, they'll float their way back up to the top.


Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Tortilla Soup Recipe

Baby, it's cold outside! which also means... it's Soup season!


Chili, chowda', and soups galore. Enjoy this recipe!

TORTILLA SOUP

Ingredients
- 1 rotisserie chicken, skinned, de-boned, and cut into pieces
- 4 corn tortillas, cut into strips
- 2 Quarts Chicken Broth *
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 3 cloves of garlic, minced
- 1 Tablespoon of Olive Oil
- 1 Chipotle Pepper in Adobo sauce, chopped
- 2 cans of Rotel tomatoes and peppers
- 1 Lime, juiced
- 1 teaspoons of cumin
- 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
- salt and pepper to taste
- 1 sliced avocado for topping

Directions
1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Bake the tortilla strips for about 5-8 minutes, until crisp but not browned. Remove and let cool.

2. In a large pot or Dutch Oven heat the olive oil. Add the onion and cook until slightly caramelized. 

3. Add the garlic, stir, and cook for about 1 minute. Add the cumin and stir to combine.

4. Add the chicken, chipotle pepper, Rotel, and stir.

5. Add the chicken broth and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes.

6. Finally, add the lime juice, cilantro, and salt and pepper to taste. Stir together.

7. Serve into individual bowls. Top with the tortilla strips and avocado.


 
* You can always make your own broth. Just follow the first few steps in this Matzo Ball Soup recipe! 

** Optional: Give it an extra garnish with some chopped onion and cilantro.
  


Wednesday, November 11, 2020

Stacking Stones, Cairns

Stacking Stones, or Cairns, are no stranger to New England. If you have visited this part of the country, then you have seen the beautiful rock walls that landscape many of the houses. But where did they all come from?

At first ask, many New Englanders will respond that these rock walls were formed with the first settlers, who were farmers, needing a fence to keep the animals in (or out!). Smart thinking, at first. Now, does that really make sense? If you truly think about it, no.

But it's not totally wrong. The first settlers were indeed farmers, and the "new" England was covered in trees and debris. So, upon clearing the forestry land for their crops and livestock, there was plenty of fire wood to be stacked, but also these nuisances called rocks, which were tossed aside into a pile, or a "dump wall" as they called it.

Well, as the years went on, and the settlers started to take more pride in their new American land they called home, they wanted their home to look nice. Thus, these dump walls became beautiful works of masonry art for each farmhouse to display with honor. They truly are beautiful after all.

The stacking of stones is seen by many as an art form, or even a meditation - needing a lot of calmed focus and concentration. It is actually an ancient form of artistry seen back in Neolithic burial grounds in Scotland, nautical travel markers in Scandinavia, and Inca Goddess Pachamama shrines in Peru, according to the New Yorker.

One's reaction to a Cairn is individual, but for me, I enjoy the natural pause to stop and enjoy the beauty of the natural world around me and the thought, care, and effort of the Creator.



Friday, August 14, 2020

Dietro Front in Florence, Italy



I took a picture of this sculpture a long time ago when we were visiting Florence, Italy. Something about it spoke to me, made me feel like it was something quite unique and special.

Here I am, about 10 years later, revisiting old photographs and feeling that this sculpture now speaks to me, once again, but this time in a different way.

Dietro Front in Italian translates to "about turn", "about face", or "to turn around in the opposite direction". The artist once described his work as simply that - this statue is placed in the intersection of Porta Romana, and one womanly figure points in the direction toward Florence while the other figure points away from Florence leading the way to Rome. Simple, right?

But is his work meant to be a beautiful street sign? Or is the meaning more deep? Do we want to venture out from home and explore, while at the same time there is something pulling us, or holding us back, seeking an "about turn"?

The Florentines have given this sculpture other nicknames, including the "headache" or "unbalanced". Easy to understand, don't we all feel a heavy weight on our head or shoulders at some point in time, especially these days? But is that the focus? Should it be the focus?

Whether it is the weight of the world, or a weight of wanting to go back - go back home, or go back to the way things were, the way things used to be - the bottom figure is strong. We are strong, we are resilient, and that is just beautiful.