Tag Archives: black pepper

Minestrone Soup | “Moonstruck”

by Blake

New York in the 80’s seems to be like the New York of today, except a little dirtier, more Italians, and fewer minorities. Personally, I feel as though Hollywood just doesn’t make old Italian people like they used to. In fact, this movie is like a celebration of Italian New York, complete with food, from start to finish. The movie even opens with Dean Martin’s That’s Amorewhich you have definitely heard. My actual favorite food seen in the film was the Egg-In-The-Hole being made by the best Greek-playing-Italian Olympia Dukakis, but is really too simple to require a recipe, right?

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Awesome.

Cher is Loretta Castorini, a 37-year-old widow who looks 26 (even with gray hair) because Cher ages backward, very very slowly and who lives with her parents in an area of Brooklyn with no cars and no minorities. Her fiancé, Johnny Cammareri (Danny Aiello) flies to Sicily right after proposing to Loretta in a restaurant.  But he wants his angry, estranged brother Ronny Cammareri (Nic Cage, who appears to work as a coal shoveler at Cammareri Brothers Bakery in Brooklyn) to attend, and asks Loretta to get him there while he’s away.

The scene where Cher goes to the bakery to convince Ronny to come to the wedding contains what might be the first over-the-top Nic Cage speech scene in film history, a harbinger of the Nic Cage to come, the Nic Cage we all know and love. I would have checked, but it’s been a long time since I saw Raising Arizona and we all know what happens when you watch too many Nic Cage films.

So, Spoiler Alert: How awesome would it be for a strange woman to show up at your job, tell you she’s marrying your brother and then cook you a medium rare steak? Beautiful Cher is having dinner with Raising Arizona Nicolas Cage. And it becomes exactly the kind of relationship beginning you’d expect from a Nic Cage baker character with a wooden hand. After not nearly enough scotch to make me believe Ronny could just get a woman like Cher into bed after a steak and conversation, especially when she’s marrying his brother, I had to tweet my assertion to the world:

No way does Cher (seen here):

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Fall for Raising Arizona-level Nic Cage:

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Cher tweeted back at me, which was awesome. Then her fans started to, which was overwhelming. They’re pretty big fans of Nic Cage in this movie. So you decide the feasibility of this romance. In my opinion, it must have been one hell of a moon that night.

And it was. The day after Loretta meets Ronny, she’s doing her rounds as a bookkeeper at her uncle’s deli, where he asks her about the moon. The moon got into everyone the night before, apparently. As she goes, her uncle, walking off, yells to the back: “Hey Frankie! Make me a bowl of Minestrone!” Minestrone is what you eat when you’re in love.

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Or when you’re having dinner with Frasier’s dad.

So let’s start this soup which celebrates love, Minestrone is not going to choke a pig, but its a great way to start a meal that could.
Ingredients

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup carrots, scrubbed, 1/4-inch dice
1 cup onions, 1/4-inch dice
1 tablespoon garlic, minced
1/4 cup celery, minced
chopped fresh rosemary
1 cup white wine
1 bay leaf
1 quart water
1 cup plum tomatoes, diced
8 ounces fresh pasta
1 cup zucchini, diced and blanched
1 cup loosely packed fresh spinach
Fresh cracked pepper

Garnish
Grated cheese (such as Parmesan or Romano)
2 tablespoons fresh basil, torn into little scraps

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I grow my own basil, and so should everyone else.

 

* If you don’t have white wine on hand, chicken or vegetable stock will do in a pinch!

Instructions

• In a large saucepan, heat olive oil for 1 minute on medium-high.

• Add  carrots and sauté for 1 minute.

• Add the onions and sauté for 1 additional minute before adding the garlic, celery, and rosemary.

• Sauté this mixture for 5 minutes, or until the ingredients are caramelized.

• Add the white wine and bay leaf, bring to a boil, and add the water and tomatoes.

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• Bring to a boil, add the pasta, decrease the heat to low, and simmer for 8 to 10 minutes, or until the pasta is cooked.

• Remove the pan from the heat, fish out the bay leaf, and swirl in the zucchini and spinach.

• Season the soup to taste with salt and pepper.

• Call Frasier’s Dad out for being too old to sleep with college girls and/or enjoy the zest love brought to your life.

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FYI – Cammareri Brothers bakery at Henry and Sackett Streets in Brooklyn still open!

 

 

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Sausage and Waffle and Fried Chicken Breakfast Lasagna | “The Boondocks”

by Blake Stilwell

Happy Thanksgiving everyone! I’ve always come short of writing direct Thanksgiving recipes. As Eaten has a recipe for a nice holiday dessert. We have a recipe to tell you what to do with Thanksgiving leftovers. I’m not one to tell you what to do with your Thanksgiving food, no matter how bad it might be. Today we have a Thanksgiving-related post, not in terms of the kind of food or celebration of the holiday, but today we celebrate what comes after. This post is a celebration of The ‘Itis.

Itis: /ī-təs/ n. – The general feeling of lethargy and well-being experienced after eating a large, usually high calorie meal. This phenomena is particularly triggered by foods high in carbohydrates and red meat.

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In season 1, episode 10 of the critically acclaimed and often controversial animated series the Boondocks, Robert “Granddad” Freeman (John Witherspoon) cooks up Huey’s (Regina King) broccoli with pork, to which Huey says “vegetables cooked with pork counts as pork!” The meal he makes for entrepreneur Ed Wuncler (Ed Asner) and a local couple, the Dubois, inspires the creation of The Itis, a restaurant with beds instead of tables and a menu that, according to Huey, “will cause death.”

The signature menu item is the “Luther,” a one-pound burger, soaked in butter and cheese, served with five strips of bacon on a grilled Krispy Kreme doughnut.

So why opt to make the breakfast lasagna, instead of the Luther, featured so heavily in the episode? The Luther is pretty common by now, you can even order one for Sunday brunch at Churchkey in Washington, DC. Also, Krispy Kremes are hard to come by in Upstate Central New York. Also, if you watch the rest of the episode, you know the terrible effects the Luther can have on a community, and I wouldn’t want to inflict something like that on you, dear reader. I also promised to make a real dish this time, instead of another sandwich.

Also, the irony of writing a blog post, creating a recipe from an episode of a show that is not only a scathing indictment of the movie Soul Food, but also of soul food itself, is not lost on me.

Ingredients:

This is a six-part miniseries. You’ll need waffles instead of lasagna noodles, made for multiple layers, as well as layers of eggs, a sausage layer, a fried chicken layer, and enough sausage gravy and cheese for other layers.

Maple Syrup
Pepper Bacon
Shredded Cheddar Cheese
Pepper to Taste

Sausage Layer:
4 fresh sausage links
maple syrup

Fried Chicken Layer:
6-8 boneless fried chicken thighs
large bottle of vegetable, peanut, or canola oil
4 cups flour
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp onion powder
2 tsp cayenne pepper
2 tbsp paprika
2 tbsp salt

Sausage Gravy:
3 tbsp butter
2 fresh sausage links, casings removed
1/4 c flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 1/2 cups milk
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Waffle Layer(s):
You could always buy Eggos, which is waffle blasphemy, or make an instant waffle mix, which is less horrifying.

1 3/4 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 3/4 cups milk
2 eggs
1/2 cup canola oil
1 teaspoon vanilla

Scrambled Egg Layer:
6 Eggs
3/4 c Ricotta Cheese
1/2 lb Shredded Cheddar
Salt/Pepper

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  1. For the scrambled eggs, whisk eggs and salt together in a large bowl. Melt butter in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. When foam subsides, add eggs and stir until eggs are almost cooked but still runny in parts, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in ricotta until incorporated but clumps of cheese are still visible.
  2. To make fried chicken, mix the dry ingredients with the flour, then place seasoned flour in a paper bag. Add 4 to 5 pieces of chicken to the bag and shake, coating thoroughly in seasoned flour. Fill a large skillet 3/4 full with good, clean oil. (I used canola, but granddad probably used peanut or vegetable). Heat the oil to 325° F and put chicken one at a time into the oil. Don’t let the chicken pieces touch. Cook until juices start to flow out of the chicken. Turn with tongs, cook another five minutes. Place chicken onto paper towel-lined plate. When in doubt, use a meat thermometer. Chicken should be cooked to 158°.
  3. To cook the sausage gravy, heat butter in a large frying pan over medium-high heat until foaming. Add sausage and cook, breaking it up into smaller pieces with a wooden spoon, until the meat starts to brown, about 5 minutes. Reduce heat to medium. Add flour, salt, pepper, and cayenne. Cook, stirring frequently, for 1 minute. Gradually stir in milk, scraping up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Bring to a simmer, stirring constantly, until the mixture has thickened slightly, about 1 minute more. Remove from heat.
  4. To cook the sausage, fry the sausages until the fat and juices start to fill the pan. Once there’s a layer of  fat in the pan, add a tablespoon of maple syrup to each link and cook thoroughly. Slice the sausage at an angle.
  5. For the waffles, separate the yolks and the whites. Set the whites aside and mix dry ingredients in a large bowl. Make a crater in the middle and mix the wet ingredients (except the egg whites) there. Then mix the whole batter.Whip the egg whites until stiff, then fold the whites into the batter bowl. Cook in a waffle iron.
  6. Fry bacon until crispy, keep in long strips and dry on a paper towel.
  7. To assemble lasagna, butter a 8×8-inch casserole dish. Place waffles side by side in the bottom of the dish. Spread 1/4 cup of maple syrup evenly over the waffles. Top with half the scrambled eggs. Layer sausage slices on top of the eggs. Sprinkle half the cheddar evenly over the eggs. Top with half the sausage gravy. Repeat these layers once more. Finish by arranging bacon strips in an even layer on top. Add extra pepper, liberally at any level, because black pepper is awesome.

Bake at 400°F for 15 minutes. Lasagna can be assembled the day before, covered, and refrigerated until ready to serve. Remove lasagna from oven and let sit for 30 minutes before slicing and serving.

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You really can’t (shouldn’t) eat too much of this at any one time and the resulting Itis is immediate, especially when eaten in the morning.

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Aubergine Stew | “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine”

Star Trek is a show with which most people have some familiarity, especially now that the JJ Abrams movies are popular (don’t get me started on that). Star Trek is a permanent entry in the US pop culture lexicon. Most people know at least who Captain Kirk is and who Mr. Spock is, but beyond that, it is left to the fans of the shows to know who is who on the Enterprise, who does what on the ship, and so on. It takes an even bigger fan to be familiar with Star Trek in its further incarnations: The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, Voyager, etc.Warning: Huge Star Trek fan is about to write about Star Trek.

Everyone has to eat, even in the 23rd century.  There are a lot of beverages that were favorites of the various crews… Worf’s fondness for prune juice is well-documented.  To this day, I still order tea the iconic way Captain Picard did. And Mr. Scott (Scotty) enjoyed scotch on many occasions.

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Three fingers of scotch make you a miracle worker.

Yet, aside from the occasional view of the bright blue, nearly glowing Romulan Ale, the still-moving tentacles of Klingon Gakh or some such other slight asides,  food wasn’t really a focus for the Original Series or the Next Generation. The feature of food really came into its own in the third incarnation of the series, Deep Space Nine. Set on a space station in a remote area of the galaxy, combined with the setting of a series of shops and restaurants on the station, allowed for the introduction of new customs and culture into the canon. Crew members met for regular lunches, dinners and happy hours. Crewmen had strong Klingon coffee in the morning and ate dinners with their families at night. The commander of the station, Benjamin Sisko, played by Avery Brooks, even had a father who was a famous chef in New Orleans back on Earth. Consequently, much of the food in the Sisko household and on the show is of Cajun-Creole origin.

Right away, in the first episode, Sisko is imagining meeting his wife on a beach, offering to make her his father’s recipe for Aubergine Stew. Later in the same season, Jadzia Dax (Terry Farrell) comes into a room where Sisko is waiting to have dinner with his son, and recognizes the stew right away. Since the two have been friends for years, the implication is that he makes it a lot.

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And it is apparently really enjoyable, best eaten with a giant spoon.

Coming back to Earth for a minute, aubergine is a kind of eggplant. It is very popular in Middle Eastern and Persian cuisine, and is best when paired with lamb. That being said, it is important to keep in mind that the Sisko family is from Louisiana, not Tehran. His father’s recipe would likely be a derivative of khoresht-e bademjan, a kind of Persian Eggplant Tomato Stew, but would have significant differences. Khoresht-e bademjan would have spices from the region: Saffron, Turmeric, Advieh. Sisko’s Aubergine Stew would have spices from Louisiana: thyme, cayenne pepper, cumin, black pepper – and would more than likely be made with chicken instead of lamb. It would also include what is well-known in cooking circles as the “holy trinity” of cajun cuisine: bell peppers (I prefer green), onions and celery.

Ingredients:
3 skinless chicken thighs
2 eggplants (aubergines), peeled, diced into medium pieces, and salted overnight
(rinse an hour before cooking)
2 onions, diced
2 leeks, sliced into rings
1 bell pepper (again, any color, but I prefer green)
2 stalks celery, diced
2 cloves garlic, diced
1 large can crushed tomatoes
oregano, thyme, cayenne pepper, cumin and black pepper, about 1/2 tsp of each
Salt
Olive oil

An hour or so before you cook, rinse the eggplant and dry. Heat oil in a large, deep pan. Sauté eggplant til golden brown, not burnt.

In a large pot or saucepan, heat more olive oil. Cook the onion, garlic and celery until soft, then add the spices and cook for a minute or so until they are fragrant. Add eggplant to the pot then cook for another couple of minutes.

Add the rest of the vegetables and cook until they soften slightly. Then add the crushed tomatoes and mix to distribute tomatoes evenly. Add the chicken to the vegetables, cover the chicken in the vegetable mixture then put the lid on the pot and cook on a low heat for about 45 minutes. When you first add the chicken, it will seem too dry to be left on the burner, but don’t worry… the chicken stock is coming.

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When its all done, he vegetables should be soft and the chicken will be falling off the bone.

Remove the chicken from the stew and shred the meat. Set aside, along with about a quarter of the stew mixture. Using a food processor or blender, blend the rest of the stew smooth. Put everything back into the main pot and mix well. It is now ready to serve. Garnish with some green, such as chopped parsley.

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I apparently really love parsley.

Khoresht-e bademjan would be served over Persian-style rice. Considering the rice tradition in creole cooking in New Orleans, I think the Aubergine Stew would be nice over rice, but not necessary, as Dax clearly demonstrated with her giant spoon.

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