Italian Onion Soup

Categories: Soup
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Published on: October 21, 2011

Italian Onion Soup

Italian Onion Soup
Italian Onion Soup

Baked French onion soup. Who hasn’t been ordering that since they were a kid?
As far as I can recall, that was the first “adult” thing I ordered in a restaurant when I was a kid.
Seeing all that cheese baked over the top of the crock. Getting to that soggy crouton underneath. Mmmm. That was good eating.
All that cheese and bread made it worth having to eat all those onions. But as I grew up and the novelty wore off, I ordered it less and less.
I do still enjoy it, but I’ve gotten a few “bad bowls” of it over the years. So I tend to not order it when I am out. Plus…who can eat all that and then a meal. That is a mean.

Last year, I thought I’d give it a try myself, but instead of French Onion, I put more of an Italian spin on it and made my own “Italian Onion Soup”.
It doesn’t roll off the tongue like French Onion, but damn is it good. And simple to boot.

6 cups beef stock
1 large sweet onion (cut in 1/2 and then sliced)
1 large white onion (cut in 1/2 and then sliced)
2 cloves garlic (pressed)
1 tbs olive oil
1 tsp thyme
½ tsp oregano
Grated Fontinella (about 3 cups)
Grated Romano cheese (about ¼ cup)
Salt and pepper

Large Ciabatta bread crouton

TIP: I suggest you make the croutons in advance of making the soup.
Or you can do it while the soup is simmering. Either way, have them ready to go when you need them.
You can read how to make them here: Ciabatta Bread Crouton.

If you really have some time on your hands, you can make your own hearty beef stock. Which I did when I made this one. It adds more complexity to the flavor of the soup.
if you don’t have time, pre-made beef stock will do.

Heat oil in a large pot on medium.
When the oil is hot, add the onions and salt and pepper. Sauté until they begin to soften. About 10 minutes. (DO NOT BROWN!)
Add thyme, oregano and garlic. Continue to sauté for another 2 minutes stirring frequently, so the garlic cooks a bit but does not brown or burn.
Add your stock. Turn the heat to low  and let it simmer for an hour.

TIP: After about 15 minutes of simmering, taste the broth and adjust with salt and pepper.

Ladle into oven safe bowls (or crocks) and drop your Ciabatta bread crouton on top.
Cover with Fontinella cheese and top with a little grated Romano cheese.
Personally, I just like enough cheese to cover the bread. I don’t overload the top, so it’s dripping down the bowl. It’s just too much cheese.

Place bowls on a sheet pan and under a broiler for about 5 minutes, or until cheese is melted. (You can keep it under until cheese is brown if you like.)

Use pot holders to remove sheet pan. Top with a little more grated Romano cheese (And chopped chives if you like) and serve.

The Ciabatta bread has a great chewy crust to it, which stands up to the liquid in the soup. Because of this, you should serve this soup with a fork and knife as well as a spoon.

An alternative to the large crouton is to use a bunch of little ones. It’s easier to eat, but lacks the presentation value that impresses your guests.

Cheese Stuffed Bread

Cheese Stuffed Bread

Cheese Stuffed Bread
Cheese Stuffed Bread

This is a great appetizer that people seem to love and it looks pretty cool too.
What I like so much about this, is that it is completely versatile. You can add,  take out or adjust all the ingredients based on your tastes. There really is no right and wrong.  I like using some brightly colored ingredients so it looks pretty when you slice into it. The deep red from the sun-dried tomatoes, the black and purple from the olives and the green from the onion. They make a great contrast to the pure white cream cheese.

1 loaf of French baguette
12 oz. cream cheese
5 sun-dried tomatoes
8 black olives
6 Kalamata olives
1 clove of garlic
1 green onion
¼ cup fresh grated Romano cheese
2 slices of Genoa salami
salt and pepper

Let cream cheese soften to room temperature before you start.

While cheese is softening, take out a serrated knife and cut off the ends of the bread and then cut the bread into 3rds.  With the serrated knife, hollow out the entire center of the bread, leaving only the outer crust.
After this is done, place the 3 sections of hollowed bread into a Ziploc bag and set aside.

Hollowed French Baguette
Hollowed French Baguette

Put softened cream cheese into a mixing bowl.
Cut tomatoes into quarters. Dice the olives and slice the green onion.
Cut the salami into long strips and then make tiny little 1/8 inch squares.
Press garlic.
Add all ingredients along with a little pepper to bowl and gently fold them all together until well blended. Taste and add salt as well as make adjustments to any of the ingredients.

TIP: DO NOT add a lot of salt. There is a lot of saltiness in the Olives and the Romano cheese. So taste it before you add any salt.

After all the ingredients are blended and adjusted, get the bread back out.
Using a spoon and long butter knife, start stuffing the cheese into one of the open ends of the bread. I usually spoon it in and use the knife to move it further into the center. Once it is about half way stuffed, turn it around and start from the other end. When it is full,  roll it tightly in plastic wrap and place in the fridge.
Do the same to the other 2 sections of bread.

Let them chill for about an hour. Then when you are ready to serve, take them out and use that serrated knife to slice then in about ¼ inch slices.

TIP: Don’t leave them in the fridge for more than a few hours and don’t cut them until you are ready to serve them.

Calzone

Categories: Pizza
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Published on: October 7, 2011

Calzone

Christmas Calzone
Christmas Calzone

This has been a staple at my family Christmas gatherings, since long before I was born.
When my dad made it, he would make one huge Calzone….1/2 sweet and 1/2 hot. You could tell which side was which before you even cut into it, because he would poke little holes in the shape of an “H” and a “S” into the top of the dough before baking it.

Keep in mind that this will make a massive calzone that will feed a lot of people.
We usually serve it as one of the dishes on Christmas Eve.
You can cut the recipe in 1/2 to make it smaller.

Also pictured below that beautiful calzone is my great grandmother’s dough rolling stick.

DOUGH:
3 lbs Rhode’s frozen pizza dough (3 loaves in package).
Use 1 ½ loaves for top crust and 1 ½ loaves for bottom crust.

FILLING:
2 pounds Italian sausage removed from casing
1 – 3 tbs Hot red pepper flakes (to taste optional)
1 tbs Fennel seeds
4 pounds whole milk Ricotta cheese
4 – 5 Eggs
A handful of Italian flat leaf parsley
2 cups grated Romano cheese
Salt & Pepper

Mix meat, fennel seeds, (hot pepper), salt & pepper and fry until pink color is gone from meat.
Let that cool.
In a large bowl, mix Ricotta, eggs, parsley, Romano cheese, salt & pepper.
When meat has cooled, combine meat mixture with cheese mixture.
Roll out bottom crust to fit large sheet pan (sprinkle bottom of pan with corn meal to prevent dough from sticking).
Brush inside of bottom crust with egg whites before filling to prevent pizza from being soggy. (Save egg yolks!)
Fill bottom crust with cheese/meat mixture. Cover with top crust and close edges.
Prick entire top of pizza with fork to let steam out when cooking or it will explode in your oven.
Brush top and sides with egg yolks.
Bake at 375 degrees until done – Approx. 45 min. to 1 hour (depending on oven)
Remove from pan immediately and cool on rack.

TIP: DO NOT COOL IN THE FRIDGE. The calzone will become soggy.

This can be served warm or cold.

When my sister Judi was making it last Christmas eve, she called and asked for the recipe that I had. I sent it to her and I must admit that her Calzone turned out to be the best I’ve ever tasted. You can check it out here: Calzone

Stuffed Zucchini

Categories: Turkey
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Published on: October 3, 2011

Stuffed Zucchini

Stuffed Zucchini
Stuffed Zucchini


When I was growing up my parents always had at least 1, if
not 2, gardens going in the back yard. Throughout the summer we feasted on tomatoes,
cucumbers, peppers, zucchini and various other fresh veggies.

Every once in a while we would get a monster sized zucchini and
my mom would end up stuffing it with a meat and rice mixture. Sometimes it would
have a tomato sauce on top and other times it would not. I don’t think she had
a recipe for it, although I never thought to ask.

This year we ended up with an arm-sized zucchini in our garden, so I thought I
would try my hand at stuffing it myself. It came out pretty good.

The kids only ate the meat out of the middle, but I ate it for lunch for the
next 3 days.

1 large zucchini
1 medium white onion – diced
1 red pepper – diced 
4 cloves of garlic – minced
2 sprigs of Thyme – chopped fine
About a teaspoon of oregano – chopped fine
Provolone cheese (about 5 slices cut into small squares)
About 1/4 cup grated pecorino Romano
3/4 lb ground turkey
2 Cups cooked long grain/wild rice ( Any rice will probably do. I just happened to have that on hand)
About 2 cups of chicken stock
Salt and pepper
Olive Oil

Boil the whole zucchini in a large pot of water until Fork tender.
Remove from water and let cool.

For the stuffing:
In a large pot sauté the red pepper in some olive oil for a few minutes, then added the onion and sweat that down until soft over a medium heat.

Add the garlic, thyme and oregano. Continue to sauté that for about 3 or 4 minutes so the garlic starts to cook.

Add  the cooked rice and a splash of the chicken stock, salt and pepper.
Cook it for another minute and taste. Adjust seasoning if needed.

Put that mixture is bowl on the side.

Add a little more olive oil to the pan and toss in the turkey.
Brown turkey and then add the rice/veggie mix and incorporate all.

Put that mix back in the bowl to cool a bit. After it cools add both cheeses and mix well.

Cut the zucchini lengthwise and scooped out the seeds. Leaving about ½ inch of flesh in the side.

After the filling cools, stuff it into the zucchini and put it into baking dish or roasting pan with the remainder of chicken stock in the bottom.

Cook at 350 for about 40 minutes or so. Just till it starts to brown on the top.

Let stand for about 5 minutes.

Slice and eat.

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