Stracciatella

stracciatella-6While homemade broth was simmering yesterday, I suddenly remembered a favorite quick lunch my Nonna made when I visited. Her homemade chicken broth, tiny noodles (pastina, flakes, or tiny circles) with an egg-grated cheese mixture drizzled in as it boiled. Quick, easy, nutritious, and easy to digest.

Some recent and persistent stomach issues are making me dig deep for comfort foods! By the way, it was delicious!

Stracchiatella

  • About 2 cups chicken broth (of course homemade is best) per person
  • small pasta shapes cooked right in the broth
  • Beat 1 egg per person with about 1/4 cup grated parmesan or romano (I use a combo)
  • When pasta is al dente, pour the egg mixture slowly into the simmering soup, stirring quickly with a fork.
  • Some variations: add fresh chopped parsley, grated carrots, or chopped spinach.

Voilà!

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Three AM Al Fredo

Some friends suggested I write up this story and recipe, so here it is.

3 AM  Al Fredo

vegan-alfredo-sauce-pasta7When I was a teenager I sometimes made myself pasta for a late-night meal. One night I had the pasta nearly ready to drain when my father came home (in those days one of the restaurants he had was an  after-theater bistro in midtown and he often came in close to dawn). He asked if I had a enough to share, and what I was going to put on it.  I said there was plenty and I was just going to put butter and grated cheese. He asked if I was interested in learning a quick sauce and then taught me this:

Drain the pasta, reserving a little of the water. On low heat, melt some butter in the pot along with the reserved water, beat in a bunch of cream, a lightly beaten egg yolk, and stir in grated parmesan or romano cheese. Toss with the pasta and serve.  The egg is optional, he said, but it’s richer with it.

We ate it together and then went our separate ways to bed.  It wasn’t until years later when Alfredo sauce was all the rage that I realized what he’d taught me to make.

Ingredients
1 lb. pasta cooked al dente & drained
½ cup of the cooking water
4 oz butter
1-1 ½ cup cream (any kind – the richer the cream, the richer the sauce)
1 egg yolk, lightly beaten (optional)
¼ cup grated “Italian” cheese
sprinkle of pepper to taste (optional)

Melt butter in a saucepan or skillet, adding in the reserved pasta water. Add cream and egg, stirring constantly. Add the grated cheese. Simmer gently for a minute or so, then toss with pasta, topping with a sprinkle of fresh black pepper. Add more cheese at the table to taste.

Update: Fusco’s Kitchen Re-Opens or Learning to Love Low-sodium

I’m simply adding this preface to an old post to replace the original introduction. This past blogless year I was diagnosed with early heart disease. Things are okay, but I need to take some steps to stay okay. One of these, much dreaded, was reduce the salt in my diet.  I’m slowly learning to adapt favorite recipes, and have been blessed by the recent introduction of get this — LOW-SODIUM OLIVES!!!!!!manzanilla olives

For me this is the equivalent of winning the Publishers’ Clearinghouse contest. Life is sweet again.  So, I’ve been encouraged to work on a few of my favorites. Simple fixes like tons of dill in tuna salad or green beans, lemon on nearly everything, and more cumin in lentil soup have become the norm, but a few items have eluded me. One is the red beans and yellow rice dishes I developed a few years ago. Tonight I’m using a stray can of red beans that’s moderate in sodium (320mg per serving), but I’ll be making a batch salt-free next time. I’m also stretching the premixed rice by adding a cup of uncooked plain rice in with a cup of the rice mix. More garlic and some sodium-free diced tomatoes with the juice should cover the needed changes.

The savory update will have to wait til this weekend, when I’ll shop and get more olives!


 

The Original Recipes

The emphasis this week has been on convenient, healthy, frugal foods. I’ve been eating variations on yellow rice and beans all week.

simple and good

I cooked a pound of red beans in the slow cooker overnight.  Then cooked a family-sized package of yellow rice (makes about 8 cups).  I took about 4 cups of the beans and packaged them in Ziplock baggies in the freezer, and refrigerated the balance in a covered bowl. The rice was also refrigerated.

Meal 1:  heat medium skillet, add splash of olive oil. While oil heats, quickly dice zucchini and mushrooms. Pulverize 1 clove garlic in press or under knife, add to veggies sauteing along with parsley and a little oregano and thyme.  Stir in 1 cup yellow rice and 1/2-2/3 cup beans. Mix until ingredients are hot. If they are too dry, drizzle broth, tomato or V-8 juice in while stirring to proper texture. Season with grated cheese or a splash of lemon juice.

Meal 2:  Microwave lunch:  Put 1 cup rice and 1/2 cup beans in a microwaveable container. Grate directly into container: 1 small zucchini, 1 small carrot (or half each larger ones).  Again, splash generously with V-8 or other tomato based juice  or soup. Refrigerate until lunch. Heat, add grated cheese and enjoy.

tapenade

Meal 3: Savory version.  Dice Zucchini, saute with minced garlic in olive oil.  Saute yellow rice and beans (same 2:1 proportion as other recipes). with the squash. In food processor, roughly chop a large handful of green stuffed olives, a can of drained artichoke hearts, some capers, a few black olives, a clove of garlic and fresh herbs (basil, parsley, thyme, oregano, or rosemary might work well).  Lightly pulse these ingredients along with a handful of red beans. top sautéed beans and rice with a dollop of this tapenade and enjoy.

Whatever combination of savory ingredients (add almonds, diced tomatos, or the classic anchovies, for example) can be handled this same way for a wide array of flavors, all based on simple red beans and yellow rice.

My Favorite Things

I responded to a friend’s internet challenge, to post a list 3 positive things a day. When another friend started as a result of my challenge, I committed to an additional seven.

Here’s the first batch of positive things, and I hope they brighten your day.

josh waiting 1

Day 1:

  1. I’m grateful to my son who mowed the yard even feeling crappy and in intense humidity — it was a pleasure to drive down the street to home.
  2. I’m happy that I knit. I could give all 21 slots with a knitting related post.layout2_r1_c2
  3. I’m with Kim that cats make me smile. The world is better place because of our feline companions.

Day 2: 

  1. My garden has given us fresh tomatoes, potatoes, and zucchini, as well as lots of Tomatoesonvine2basil.
  2. I am lucky enough to have a granddaughter.
  3. Evenings are getting cooler in Asheville–so much less need for AC, and more chance for open windows, bird song, and breeze.

Day 3:

  1. machine-bestI appreciate breathing…all through the night. I got a loaner C-PAP machine and sleeping is true rest again. What a joy!
  2. I woke early this morning, and one of the first thoughts was “what am I grateful for?” — I attribute that lovely waking to this challenge, which has re-focused my mind on the positive in life.
  3. I’m grateful for metaphoric and literal “off buttons.” There’s a time to walk away from drama and ugliness (as well as a time to act) and knowing when that it lifts a weight and frees the mind and heart. That’s a miraculous thing.
  4. –Oh, and a bonus 4) — I’m grateful it’s Friday after a good week at work.

Day 4:

  1. beautiful bird croppedBirds — when I step out my back door each time I leave the house, there are always birds there — in the trees and scrub, on the feeder, winging by. Bird song and that exquisite flash of upward wing never fail to make my own spirit soar. What a gift that is, through good and bad times, just a bird can make me smile.
  2. Jon Stewart is always guaranteed to make me laugh. He reminds me (in a good way) of my late husband, Dennis, who also could always make me laugh.
  3. barilla3Good Gluten-Free Pasta is no longer a contradiction in terms. There are several mainstream brands making gluten-free versions and this puts some old favorite dishes back on the menu.

Day 5:

  1. zen051Celebration (1)Friends! I could leave it at that, but especially the unexpected close friendships of adulthood. Good friends laugh and grieve with you, make meals, trade favors, secret jokes, and masses of understanding and acceptance. God Bless Good Friends.
  2. With said friends, we drank a bottle of cheap (3.99) red wine that was good!
  3. There’s a new produce stand in my neighborhood. An enterprising older man from the Islands, or even perhaps Africa (lovely lilting accent, gracious and warm manners) has taken a vacant building and desolate lot over — he’s put up a large roofed area and has tables and tables of beautiful fresh produce. I stopped for the first time yesterday and bought 4 tomatoes for $2! We talked about things for a bit and then he gifted me with a giant organic tomato and wished be a great evening.

Day 6:

  1. I love the way Facebook helps reveal social connections and make them visible in ways I never paid attention to before social media. The spread of this lovely challenge and the interesting variations it has taken fascinate me. Like an old-fashioned game of telephone, spreading the message changes the message and the messenger.telephone game (237x136)
  2. When I stop and think of it, I realized I have been much loved in my life — many of those have left the planet now, but the love doesn’t go away. It lives in me and my memories and I can continue it on by loving others. What beautiful magic that is!
  3. It’s Monday morning and I feel no dread or sorrow or anger at the prospect of going to work this morning and the rest of the week. That’s a blessing — if you’ve ever experienced those feelings in response to work week, you know. It’s also a privilege to have meaningful work in a pleasant setting with good co-workers. It’s one I pray every worker can have. When I center myself around the thought of how blessed I am to have that, I feel the glow of gratitude and joy seep through me and a smile spread across my face.

Day 7:

  1. Gorgeous George

    Gorgeous George

    Pretty much the whole internet agrees with me that kittens and cats are an endless source of fascination: more personality and energy packed in those springy bodies than can be contained, so it leaks out in extreme cuteness and apparent wisdom. When I need to laugh, a silly kitten attacking something harmless with such zeal can always do the trick. And isn’t it great that there’s no prescription cost, or anything….

  2. It’s the last few days of August and I’m not dreading September. Between world events and personal losses, the 9th month had assumed a pretty bad rep in my mind. This year, it’s pretty much just another month — I’m excited to see fall arriving while I mourn the loss of fresh tomatoes and basil. I see the sky lightening in the morning a few minutes later each day. But I don’t want to take to my bed with the covers over me! There’s a song “Wake Me When September Ends” that used to match my feeling, but now it’s just a song again. Since I loved September and its promise of autumn and new starts, I’m grateful to have it back.
  3. Sisters. I have only one official sister, who I love and adore and hope to continue laughing, playing, cooking, knitting, arguing and hugging for decades yet to come. I also have several sisters of the heart that joined my inner family over the years, and they too are a whole bouquet of graces.


With special thanks to Kim for starting me on this, I say with joy, And So It Is.

Old-Fashioned Beef Vegetable Soup

soup 3My mother used to make this amazing vegetable soup. I learned to like barley from that soup. Oddly enough, the only food I really miss in eating gluten-free (I mean, besides good french bread), is barley.

There’s something about the sweet nuttiness, and slightly chewy texture that makes vegetable soup just perfect. I started adding it to other soups too, especially turkey noodle soup after the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays.

For the past two years I’ve been trying to re-conjure the taste and feel of my mother’s soup, sans barley. I think I’ve finally done it.

The soup was made in the slow cooker, but doesn’t require much adaptation for the soup kettle — it would just take two days, instead of three.

Laurie’s Old-Fashioned Beef Vegetable Soupsoup ingredients raw

Two marrow bones and about a pound of boneless beef stew meat

Or two beef shins with plenty of meat

Enough cold water to fill the cooker or kettle about two-thirds full

A sprinkle of salt

One large onion, peeled

2 cloves garlic, peeled

3-5 large stalks of celery, with leafy tops

2 big carrots,

Whatever other limp but usable vegetables (I had a half of zucchini, but I’ve also added green beans, pea, parsnips, or turnip — nothing too dominating in flavor, though)

Simmer overnight

While the stock is cooking, soak a cup or two of red beans, or a combination other beans of your choice (cannelloni, navy beans, october beans, red kidney beans are others I like to use)

When the stock has deepened in color and the veggies are nearly mush, strain the broth, reserving the “stuff” to pick out the clean bits of meat.  Press the cooked vegetables through a sieve to get all the moisture and flavor out

Add the drained beans, 1 can of diced tomatoes, and the cleaned bits of meat (no gristle allowed) and simmer again overnight

soup 2Add:

4-5 medium-sized carrots, peeled and diced

6-8 small potatoes, peeled and diced (I used Klondike Rose this time)

3 stalks of celery, diced very fine

1 large zucchini, diced

A handful of chopped fresh parsley, or dried if necessary

Other herbs I usually add are powdered onion and garlic, paprika, thyme, sage, rosemary, and oregano.

Simmer until the vegetables are tender.

Add 1 can of corn, another can of diced tomatoes,

Perhaps a couple of cans of cooked beans if you need to stretch the soup for more people. Salt to taste, add more herbs if needed.

That’s it.

taco-soup-in-the-crock-pot (1)I think the corn and several types of beans add the sweetness the barley used to provide, and if you want a little thicker soup, go heavier on the potatoes and don’t drain all the liquid from the canned beans.  Another possible addition is a little chopped cabbage — people don’t think it of it as sweet, but it really is in soups.

I’m ready to go have seconds now.

Dutch Oven Soup

It’s one of the first chilly evenings (at least, the first one I feel chilled), so I made soup.

I was in the midst of nasty financial management homework, so I didn’t have much time, thus a quick made-up soup in my new favorite cookware:

I took a smoked beef sausage, cut in half slices, sauteed in grapeseed oil so I could use a pretty hot burner, added two sliced carrots, a diced up celery stalk, and a pressed clove of garlic. When nicely browned I added a can of pink beans (drained) and a 32-ounce carton of chicken broth. Let it come to a good simmer, then threw in four large-diced klondike-rose potatoes, a pinch of dill, some sage, thyme and rosemary and a chopped up zucchini. Also a dash of my new “secret ingredient” — onion juice in bottle. Simmered till the vegetables were tender.

It was awesome. Just right for a chilly early autumn evening, and, apparently good brain food, since I finished all my homework on time.

Accidental Chicken a la Laurie

So, I made this great chicken dish accidentally.

Accidental Chicken

  • 6 boneless chicken breasts, trimmed
  • 2 cans diced tomatoes, including liquid
  • a tablespoon of basil pesto
  • a cup of dry white wine
  • 1/2 jar of roasted sweet red peppers (fire roasted is best), roughly chopped
  • about a dozen large green stuffed olives, sliced
  • a heaping tablespoon of capers
  • a sprinkle of paprika
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil

Preheat oven to 350. Serves 6.

In a large baking dish (mine is about 10×17 Pyrex) spread the olive oil by dragging the chicken pieces through it. Add all the other ingredients, breaking the pesto up. Put the pan in the oven …. and forget about it for about 2-1/2 hours, until the faint scent of tomatoes and browning penetrates your consciousness.  Pull pan out of oven moments before ingredients begin to burn. Loosen juices from pan with a little more white wine.  Serve with quinoa or rice and fresh steamed broccoli.

Voila, Accidental Chicken a la Laurie

Commitment

What a loaded word!

Do I need to commit? Or be committed? Or is it a singular thing,once accomplished and then done.

I am using this space today to announce my re-commitment to myself: my health, my energy, creativity, ability to move, and change and keep my being whole and happy.

I am recommitting to the image of myself at 19, full of joi de vivre, energetic and at ease.

Let’s see what happens next.

“We Gather Together…”

Happy Thanksgiving to everyone.

I am so grateful for the supportive, funny, insightful, probing, moving, silly, compassionate comments readers have posted over the past year.

I promise to blog more faithfully. I’m also grateful to WordPress for their simple and elegant user interface, to the various blogging sites like ExposeYourBlog, Blogiche, AlphaInventions, and even our imploding friend BlogExplosion, for providing a place to be seen and read, and place to read others’ thought and learn more about this new art of blogging.

So, as you gather for this Thanksgiving Day, wherever you are, alone or companioned, empty or full, “….Sing Praises to His Name, She Forgets Not Her Own” — sing praises, give thanks, raise the roof, commit to change, commit to Love as we turn towards the last month of 2010.

Peace & Blessings,

L

Crafty, Cookin’ Sunday

I’m taking a short catch-my-breath break.

I’ve been busy making space for my beading supplies, which have been stored away for several years. I’ve got everything arranged, but not yet neatened up — maybe I’ll post a photo when it’s all pretty.

I’m also finishing up a short grocery list so I can get cooking, too. A nice meat sauce is on the menu, as well as starting slow-cooker 3-bean chili (recipe to be posted once I create it☺).

Hope everyone is having the Sunday they wanted, too!