Monday, June 3, 2013

Bacon and Tomato Penne

My very dear friend Linda recently gifted to me three big bags of bacon. This wasn't just normal sliced bacon, but big, wonderful chunks of bacon in all different shapes and sizes, some of them truly huge. Wanting to do something special with such a wonderful gift, I fried one bag up with some garden-fresh tomatoes that were in my kitchen, just waiting to be put to a noble purpose. When the two combined in this ridiculously simple recipe, the results were remarkable, and are now on the list of family favorites.

4 medium sized, dark red Roma Tomatoes
1 lb thick, smoky Bacon
2 lbs Penne Pasta (or other similar shape)
1 Onion, minced
2 cloves Garlic, minced and mashed
Salt and Pepper

  1. Cut the Tomatoes open and scoop out all of the seeds, then chop them into small pieces, about ¼” wide.
  2. Cut the Bacon into pieces two to three inches in length. Fry them all together at once in a large frying pan.
  3. Just as the bacon turns crispy, remove the pan from the heat and allow it to cool for a few minutes.  Drain all but about ¼ cup of the bacon grease from the pan.
  4. Remove the bacon to a cutting board and chop it up coarsely into smallish pieces.  Don’t chop it too fine.
  5. Meanwhile, boil a pot of salted water.  Cook the Pasta until it is al dente, and then drain.
  6. Put the frying pan back on the heat and add in the Onion and Garlic.  Cook slowly just until the onion is translucent, and then add back in the bacon. Season to taste.
  7. When the bacon is hot, add in the tomatoes and cook just until they are hot and starting to soften.
  8. Pour the bacon mixture over the drained pasta and serve with a little grated pecorino.

Notes: Adding in a tiny amount of cayenne pepper with the tomatoes in step 7 can add a nice little zing to the dish.  Tabasco or Tapatío also work.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

White Sauce

If there is anything that people have bugged me to post more than a red sauce recipe, it's one for a white sauce. White sauce is rich, creamy, and has a wonderful mild flavor that makes you feel like you're eating comfort food, even the first time you eat it.

This is a very basic white sauce, and allows you to make innumerable modifications, resulting in many different kinds of sauces. You can even use this sauce as a base for a wonderful clam chowder. There are two quick and easy ways to modify this sauce for very different results: modify the fat and modify the seasonings. Try using bacon grease instead of butter and adding in some crunchy, crumbled bacon bits. Or put in some steamed vegetables, like cauliflower, broccoli, yellow summer squash, and carrots to make a nice pasta primavera. I like it with a generous helping of white pepper. Try some Marsala wine, instead of white. There are lots of good possibilities. In the end, just experiment and see what you like. Let me know about your favorites. Good luck!

1 yellow Onion, Finely minced
4 tbsp Butter (½ stick)
¼ cup Flour
2 cups Heavy Cream (room temperature or warmer)
1 cup Chicken Broth
½ cup White Wine
1 cup Parmesan Cheese

1. Sauté the Onion in the Butter over medium until translucent but not browned.
2. When butter gets foamy, slowly add in Flour bit by bit, mixing rapidly all the while. The flour should absorb all of the butter and become almost past-like.
3. Cook the flour mixture while stirring for a minute or so. Be careful not to let the flour burn. Make sure to keep mixing.
4. Add in the Heavy Cream a little at a time. As soon as you add in a little liquid, the flour mixture will separate and look like lumps of flour in liquid. Keep stirring, though, until all of the liquid has been absorbed by the flour. Continue adding the cream bit by bit, repeating this procedure.
5. Add in the Chicken Broth, repeating the procedure in 4.
6. Add in the Wine.
7. Once all the liquid is added in, continue to stir constantly. As the sauce heats up, it will slowly thicken. Continue to heat it up and stir, until the sauce begins to boil. Once it begins to boil, it will get no thicker until it cools off.
8. Add in the Parmesan a bit at a time, and stir it in until it is melted and incorporated into the sauce.

Note: As you add in more and more of the liquid in steps 4, 5, and 6, the flour will continue to absorb it as you keep stirring. With each addition, the flour will get more and more loose as you stir in the liquid. At some point the mixture will be all liquid and look like an actual sauce, albeit a thick one. Once it is all liquid, add in the rest of the remaining liquid (Cream, Broth, and Wine) and slowly stir until it is smooth. If you've done it right, the only lumps you'll see in the sauce will be the onions.

Red Sauce

People have been . . . gently suggesting to me in ever-louder voices that I post my recipe for red sauce. Red sauce isn't a hard thing to make, and there are as many variations as there are people that make it. I don't even make it the same way twice, but there are some pretty general guidelines to follow.

The best thing about red sauce is that it is something you can make for a great meal when you have very little time for preparation. Once you learn how to make a great red sauce, you will have a tool that opens many horizons of cooking to you. As a bonus, you’ll stop thinking of it as “spaghetti” sauce, and be able to modify the seasonings in subtle ways that will allow you to use the sauce in dozens of ways and places.

Plus, if you do things right and the Culinary Gods smile on you, you’ll one day run in terror from bottles of Ragu and Prego.

1 medium Onion, finely minced
2 (or more) Cloves Garlic, finely minced
1 T. Basil, dried
1 T. Oregano, dried
1 T. Rosemary, dried
2 T. Olive Oil
1 106-oz. can Crushed Tomatoes
½ cup Red Cooking Wine

1. In a deep, heavy-bottomed stock pot, sauté the Onion, the Garlic, the Basil, the Oregano, and the Rosemary in Olive Oil over medium-high heat.
2. When the onions are translucent, but not yet brown, add in the Crushed Tomatoes, and heat through.
3. When the sauce is hot, add in the Cooking Wine, and simmer for a few more minutes.
4. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for 30 minutes or longer.
5. While the red sauce is simmering, boil a pot of salted water. When it begins to boil, add the pasta and cook until al dente.
6. Drain the pasta and shake out all of the extra water (do NOT rinse it).
7. Serve immediately while the pasta is still hot. Top with a good quality, freshly grated parmesan or asiago cheese.

For variations, if you want a good red sauce done in the Greek style, add in a teaspoon of good quality ground cinnamon. For a spicier experience, add in a ½ teaspoon (or more) of cayenne/peperoncini. This spicy alternative has a wonderful flavor, and is called an arrabbiata sauce.
Also, you can use fresh herbs in place of the dried ones. If you do that, you may want to double the quantity, as fresh herbs tend to be less powerful than dried.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Marshmallow Sauce

So, one of the students from my last class at Macey's asked me about a marshmallow sauce. I just happen to have this one. I suspect that the original inspiration for this recipe, (which was handed down to me from my mother many years ago), came from a sort of agriculture themed theme park in Northern California called Nut Tree. They used to serve a big cup full of fruits with pineapple, strawberries, and bananas all covered in a marshmallow sauce. This sauce is pretty similar to it, as I recall, although it has been about 30 years since I was there last.
In any case, regardless of who thought of the original recipe, you'll have fun making this, and the result is unbeatable. You'll never want to use the stuff from a jar again. The marshmallow has a light, fluid texture to it, and a rich, creamy flavor. I often put in a little bit of extra vanilla, which has a lovely background flavor. Be sure to use real vanilla, not imitation. You can tell the difference by looking at the bottle it's in. If it says 'vanillin' it's imitation, and you can safely pour it down the drain. One day, I'll make a version of the recipe using vanilla beans. That sounds wonderful, if expensive.
Also, check the note at the bottom for a variation of this that I do with honey. It's also very good, and has a very different taste to it. I know a sweet young lady named Kate, the second daughter of my dear friend Doug, who is allergic to corn, and consequently corn syrup. I can't imagine how hard that must make eating for her. This honey version is a great thing for anyone with corn allergies, but still tastes incredible. I'll make the honey version sometimes, just for variety.

1 Cup Sugar
½ Cup Hot Water
⅔ Cup Corn Syrup

Cook without stirring just until firm ball (240̊ F) stage.

In a separate metal or glass bowl (not plastic) beat until stiff:

2 large Egg Whites
Dash of salt

When the egg whites are stiff but not dry, slowly pour in the hot syrup, and continue to beat until fluffy. The mixture will increase in size dramatically at this point.

Beat in:
¼ Cup Mayonnaise (scant)
1 Tbsp. freshly grated Orange (or lemon) Rind
2 tsp. Vanilla

Serve as a dip with fruits. Strawberries, pineapple, and kiwi work especially well.

Note: For the honey version of this recipe replace the first three ingredients (the sugar, water, and syrup) with the following:

1½ Cups Sugar
1¼ Cups Honey

There is no water in this version of the recipe.

Mele Con Salsa Di Lampone (Apples with Raspberry Sauce)

As custom dictates, good meals finish with a fresh fruit rather than being overwhelmed by an overly-sweet dessert. Too often we think of this as just an apple, a pear, or some other plain piece of fresh or canned fruit, but there are broader bounds of imagination in Sicily. This wonderful sweet dish is a perfect example of this. Traditionally, it is made with a raspberry liqueur called aspretto di lampone, which is made from raspberries that have been aged and fermented in fruit wood. In this recipe, though, we use a good-quality raspberry vinegar, which works easily just as well, and has the benefit of being much easier to find.
When I originally was experimenting with this recipe, I was thinking that fresh raspberries would be best. Upon reflection, however, I think that frozen berries are better. Fresh raspberries should just be eaten, not mixed with something. So go for the frozen section, and you'll pick up the benefit of probably saving yourself a buck or two.
I made this recipe for a cooking class that I taught last night, and I have to say, it was a triumph. Unbelievably good. I used Jonagold apples, and Alessi White Balsamic Raspberry Blush Vinegar. That's not the only raspberry vinegar out there, I know that Roland makes one, but it's the one that was available last night.
For the raspberry jam, home-made freezer jam or preserves would be great, but if y ou use store bought, try to get something that's not totally tanked out on sugar. The big corporate conglomorates dump lots of sugar and other stuff in there. A nice local-grown or organic jam would work nicely. Ultimately, the real goal here is to preserve the flavor.


2 cups Raspberries (Fresh is best, but frozen is good too. See note above.)
3 T. Raspberry Jam
2 T. Sugar
1 T. freshly squeezed Lemon Juice
1 or 2 T. Raspberry Vinegar
10 medium, sweet, crispy Apples, (such as Jonagold), peeled, cored, and thinly sliced
1 cup Heavy Whipping Cream, whipped and lightly sweetened to taste

  1. Use a food processor or a blender to puree the Raspberries, the Raspberry Jam, the Sugar, and the Lemon Juice.
  2. Add the vinegar and blend well.
  3. Put the sliced apples into a large bowl, and pour the raspberry mixture over the top. Gently mix so that all of the apples are coated.
  4. Cover and let sit in the refrigerator for about an hour.
  5. When you are ready to serve, put some of the apples in an individual serving dish and spoon a little of the raspberry mixture over the top.
  6. Top with a dollop of Whipped Cream.

Note: Alternately, if you happen to have some real Mascarpone cheese, this is a noble and proper use for that rare cheese. Instead of the whipped cream, put a small dollop of the Mascarpone on top. It is quite delightful. If you have a sweet tooth, you can even lightly sweeten the Mascarpone by mixing it with a little sugar. Use the finest sugar possible, (but not powdered sugar), and let it sit for a few minutes before putting it on the apples.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Sesame-Ginger Carrot and Sweet Pepper Salad with English Cucumbers

So, it's been just shy of forever since I last posted a recipe on here. I had a few free minutes today, it was on my mind, and my good friend Bill had just asked me to write this recipe down for him. I figured as long as I had it on screen, I might as well post it here.

In fact, creating this salad took almost as much effort as it took to remember what I did and write down the recipe. It's a wonderful, tasty salad that is great served chilled, by itself, in a separate bowl. If you have an absolutely pathological aversion to spiciness on even the most minute scale, then you can skip the Thai chili sauce, but I wouldn't recommend it. It adds a great flavor, and the slight spiciness goes particularly well with this crisp, fresh salad. In fact, if you can find a Chinese Szechuan-style pepper blend, a few shakes are great in this.

Let me know what you all think.

2 each Red, Orange, and Yellow Sweet Peppers
1 large English Cucumber
4 Carrots, peeled and julienned
1 T White (or Toasted) Sesame Seeds
1 T Black Sesame Seeds
Salt and Pepper to taste
Garlic Salt
Dash Chinese Five Spice Powder
¼ cup Sesame Salad Dressing
¼ cup Ginger Mandarin Salad Dressing
¼ cup Rice Vinegar
2 T Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 t Thai Chili Sauce

1. Clean the Sweet Peppers and cut into ½ in. squares
Split the English Cucumber down the middle, core it, and then split again lengthwise. Slice into ½ in. thick pieces.

2. Place the Peppers, the Cucumber pieces, and the Carrots into a large bowl, and sprinkle with Sesame Seeds, Salt, Pepper, Garlic Salt, and Chinese Five Spice Powder. Toss until well mixed, and let sit for 5 minutes.

3. Sprinkle on Sesame Salad Dressing, Ginger-Mandarin Salad Dressing, Rice Vinegar, Olive Oil, and Thai Chili Sauce.

4. Mix everything together, and taste. Adjust seasonings and let sit for 10 minutes before serving. Serve chilled.

Note: This salad can be refrigerated and stored overnight so you can serve it the next day. If you’re going to refrigerate it for more than about 12 hours before serving, though, mix all of the solid ingredients, but wait to add the oil, dressings, vinegar, and chili sauce. Once those get added, the cucumbers will not last for long before becoming too soft.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Le Dauphin au Chocolat (Cocoa flavored Semi-freddo)

This recipe is for my dear (and occasionally patient) friend, Lis, who has been bugging me to post it on my blog ever since I made it for her more than a year ago. Well, next week is her anniversary, so I intend to count this as her present. Now, if she's really nice to me, maybe I'll even make it for her.
You'll notice in the title that this recipe says "semi-freddo". Not ice cream, not gelato. This is a completely different item, and if you're Jonesing for a serious chocolate hit, then this will almost certainly do the trick.
Semi-freddo, in Italian, means half-cold, or more loosely translated, half-frozen. In this case, that's the perfect name for this sweet. The semi-freddo will not freeze up hard. The massive amount of sugar prevents it from doing so, or even from forming large ice crystals. The result is therefore a smooth, velvety chocolate ice cream that’s better (and far, far richer) than any soft-serve ice cream you’ve ever dreamed of.
My wife loves this stuff, but she can't eat more than about a quarter cup at a time, so it lasts a looong time on our house. It's so rich that most people can't eat a lot at once, so don't stress that your final product doesn't make buckets and buckets of the stuff. Even the amount in this recipe is enough to last awhile.


5 Large Egg Whites (or 6 medium)
1½ cups Superfine Sugar
¼ t. Cream of Tartar
½ cup Unsweetened Cocoa
1 cup Heavy Cream
½ cup Powdered Sugar
1 t. Vanilla Extract

  1. Place the Egg Whites and Sugar in a large mixing bowl and place over a large pan of boiling water. Don’t let the mixing bowl touch the boiling water.
  2. Stir continually with a whisk until the mixture is warm, but not hot. Remove form the heat.
  3. Add the Cream of Tartar, and beat with the whisk attachment of your mixer until the meringue is stiff, white, and shiny.
  4. In a large, chilled mixing bowl, beat the Heavy Cream and Powdered Sugar until soft, gentle mounds form when you lift out the beaters. Add in the Vanilla just at the end and beat for 30 more seconds.
  5. Using a large whisk, or a clean spatula, fold the meringue into the cream until completely incorporated.
  6. Pour the mixture into a large, fancy serving dish, or individual fluted glasses, and cover with Saran Wrap.
  7. Freeze for at least 4 hours, or up to 5 days, before serving.

Saturday, January 6, 2007

Second Recipe - Enchilada Sauce

Well, here's the second recipe. I love this enchilada sauce. I made it by trying a dozen or so other recipes, and putting together all of the things that I liked best about all of them. I think it works wonderfully with cheese enchiladas, but if you stew some chicken or beef with Mexican seasonings, and use that as a filling, you can get marvelous results.
I like using the larger flour tortillas, and they are wonderful when you first cook them. If you don't eat them right away, though, they can get soggy upon reheating, especially if you cheat and do it in the microwave. Corn tortillas have a wonderful flavor too, though. Whichever you use, heat them up in the microwave before filling and rolling them, to make them easier to work with.
Before filling the tortillas, either dip them in the sauce, (which I prefer to do), or include some of the sauce with the filling.


½ cup ground red chilies* (See note below.)
2 cups beef stock
¼ cup oil
½ onion, finely minced
2 cloves garlic, finely minced

Flour mixture:
3 Tbsp. flour
1½ tsp. ground cumin
½ tsp. salt

1 (8-ounce) can tomato sauce
Tapatillo sauce


1. Heat ½ cup ground red chili in 2 cups beef stock in saucepan until hot.

2. Place oil in saucepan and sauté onion. When transparent, add garlic and sauté for one minute.

3. Add flour mixture, and cook while stirring for 1 minute.

4. Slowly add chili/beef stock purée and cook and stir for 2 minutes.

5. Add tomato sauce. Simmer for at least 10 minutes, or while you prepare the other ingredients for enchiladas.

6. Add a few shakes of Tapatillo sauce to taste.

Will keep in refrigerator for 1 week or may be frozen.


For the Red Chilies, don't use Chili Powder. I use "guajillo" chilies. They are the large, dark red, dried chilies that you can find in Mexican food stores. Just get a bag and grind them into a powder using a food processor.

Once again, please let me know what you think. I love hearing about other people's experiences.