Thursday, November 29, 2007

Artichoke Alfredo Sauce

Tonight we revisited the Artichoke Alfredo Sauce recipe that I tried over the summer. For those who don't remember, it was a creamy sauce made to taste like hot artichoke dip, something I've been known to love more than life itself.

The dish is so simple to make but it tastes like a million bucks. It really does taste like the artichoke dip my mom makes at the holidays.

Artichoke Alfredo Sauce
Cook's Country

Olive oil
1 onion, finely diced
3 cloves garlic, grated
2 cans artichoke hearts, drained, rinsed and chopped into large pieces
1 cup heavy cream plus 1/4 cup, divided
Juice and zest of one lemon
1/2 cup sour cream
Grated pecorino cheese
Salt and pepper
1 lb spaghetti
2 tablespoons chopped parsley

Heat oil and saute onion in a large skillet over medium-high heat until tender. Add garlic and cook until fragrant before adding artichoke hearts. Cook together for about 5 minutes then add 1 cup of heavy cream, the juice and zest of one lemon, 1/2 cup of sour cream, some grated Pecorino cheese, salt and pepper off the heat.

When the spaghetti is just about done put the pan back on the heat just to warm up the sauce (don't boil the mixture or it will separate) and then toss the pasta with the sauce and an additional 1/4 cup of heavy cream, chopped parsley and more cheese, salt and pepper to taste.
Pin It!

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Pork Chops, Pierogies, Zucchini

Last night's dinner was all about using up some of the odds and ends in the freezer. We had two bone-in pork chops and about 1/3 of a bag of frozen pierogies. SP asked if we could have steamed zucchini and it just happened to be on sale at the store.

In an effort to be slightly more healthy, I opted not to make the pierogies with bacon. Instead I thinly sliced two small onions and about 1/3 of a red onion I found in the fridge and slow cooked them in a touch of oil until they were soft. I boiled the pierogies until they floated to the surface and then tossed them with the onions.

We both wanted a thin, breaded pork chop but I didn't want to forgo the bone, which helps keep them moist as they cook. As luck would have it I saw a recipe in a magazine that called for pounding a bone-in chop so I used that method. All you do is make a slit to separate the meat from the bone at both ends and then pound it like you normally would. I coated the chops in egg beaten with a little water and then some Italian seasoned bread crumbs with some grated Pecorino tossed in. The chops were fried in a little olive oil until they were crispy and golden brown. In this photo I've removed the bone from my chop to make it easier to eat.

Steamed zucchini is a new one for me, so I was pleasantly surprised by how good it was. I cut the zucchini in half and then into large pieces and put them in my steamer basket along with two cloves of crushed garlic. I made sure to keep a close watch since we both like tender-crisp veggies. As soon as they were done I put half the zucchini (my portion) in a bowl along with the garlic, a little olive oil, salt, pepper and a little grated Pecorino and tossed them around. SP opted to have his zucchini plain. I absolutely loved these and wished I'd bought more. I'll definitely make zucchini this way again.

Pin It!

Tuesday, November 27, 2007


I don't usually write about restaurants on this blog (save for road trips and anniversaries) but in this case I have to make an exception for posterity. DeLorenzo's on Hudson Street in Trenton, NJ has been around since 1947. I've been going here for years, back before my palette had been refined and my idea of good pizza was Pizza Hut. My father used to take me here and I remember sitting in a booth in the back playing with straws as we waited for our food. The first time he took me here he explained that they only serve tomato pie - no salad, no garlic bread, no sandwiches - just tomato pie. For those of you not from NJ, this is not pizza it's tomato pie, as the sign below indicates:

DeLorenzo's used to be a regular haunt for both my father and my mom and stepdad. I can't even count how many times we enjoyed their pies, waiting in long lines that sometimes stretched around the block. This bench provided many with a comfortable place to sit as they waited:

The reason I took these photos is simple - as the atmosphere in Trenton changed over the years restaurants started looking to the suburbs, where most of their clientele lived, to open new restaurants. DeLorenzo's is opening a new store in Robbinsville's Town Center sometime in the next few months. Word around the pizza oven is that the Hudson Steet location will close once the new store gets on its feet. SP and I rarely venture into Trenton to eat these days, so since my parents invited us to have dinner with them last night, I took the opportunity to document what I believe is the quinessential tomato pie experience.

The restaurant is housed in an old, narrow row home:

... and they only serve dinner (no lunch except for call-ahead service on Fridays):

The inside is narrow and it's hard for me to imagine what it once looked like as someone's home:

The oven is in the back with the prep counter in front where the latest generation makes the pies. All the tables are booths except for the large table right in front of the oven that's reserved for parties of 5 or more. I used to love sitting there with my dad and his family because you were right in the center of the action and could watch the pies being made.

The view from the small room in the back:

... shows the soda machine (one of the few places I've been where they have Fanta Birch Beer "on tap") and the cutting station. I was actually shocked to see that they have regular ice cubes now:

... since one of the things I loved about coming here was that their drinks were served with crushed ice. Call me crazy, but I love the texture of the crushed ice.

Here's a pie waiting to be cut and delivered to hungry diners:

We started out by ordering two large pies, the first with half extra tomato and half pepperoni:

... and the second with sausage and sweet peppers:

The crust is super thin so you can eat a lot of pie without feeling full. We polished off these two pies and ordered a third (a small half sausage, half pepperoni) but I was in a tomato pie coma and forgot to snap a picture. Like always, everything was sensational. One of the best things about coming here was leaving with the smell of the pizza oven lingering on your clothes. Hopefully we can make another trip before they close (we've heard early spring 2008) since I know my father is anxious for one last trip, but just in case we don't I've got these photos to remember them by.
Pin It!

Spaghetti Carbonara

I really hate when a meal I've been looking forward to all day, spent upwards of 30 minutes preparing, watching over it to make sure everything came together just right, gets ruined in the last few seconds before it hits the plate.

Such was the case on Monday when I made Nigella's Spaghetti Carbonara. About a month ago I tried this version for the first time and it was fantastic. Please, click on the link and look at the picture. Absolutely gorgeous. The words silky and creamy come to mind. Then there's this:

Can you see all the little flecks? That's cooked egg. I was rushing and forgot to remove the pan from the stove when I mixed in the cream and eggs and the eggs scrambled. I cannot even begin to tell you how upset I was. I'd been looking forward to this meal all day, babysat the bacon and onions as they cooked so they'd be perfect, cooked the pasta al dente so it didn't get mushy and then, when the moment of truth arrived, I got careless and messed the whole thing up.

SP, bless his heart, said it tasted just fine, but with every bite I grew more and more annoyed. But like they say, I'll never make that mistake again.
Pin It!

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Sunday Roast

I consider myself a good cook, but even I have an albatross - roast beef. I think in all my years of cooking I've only attempted roast beef once before and I don't remember it being anything special. But then Cook's Country came into my life and with it a recipe for garlic roast beef. Unfortunately for me, I couldn't find the recommended cut of beef in my supermarket. To make matters worse, when I looked at the recipe yesterday morning I saw that I'd actually purchased the cut they say to steer clear of because of it's "sour, livery taste." Great.

But I soldiered on, spending upwards of an hour dutifully toasting, peeling and slicing garlic to stuff into the roast, boiling oil, seasonings and a full head of garlic for the garlic paste and mincing even more garlic and seasonings for the garlic rub. My hands smelled fantastic. I did everything according to the recipe, but I knew as soon as I cut into the meat that it wasn't going to be good. For starters, it was overcooked. And there was no discernible garlic flavor. Instead I was met with...shock of all shocks...livery, sour meat. SP, being the product of Depression-era parents that he is, ate his serving and mine and refused to throw any of it away.

The only good things about the meal were the potato gratin and the steamed green beans. The gratin was perfect:

... with it's delectable garlic-infused cream and milk, the soft, creamy layers of sliced potato and the generous sprinkling of grated pecorino cheese that forms a nice crust.

But never fear, all was not lost. We had cupcakes for dessert:

Pin It!

Eggs in Purgatory

Since we had some leftover mashed potatoes from Thanksgiving and SP made sauce on Saturday, I thought Giada's recipe for Eggs in Purgatory would make an excellent Sunday breakfast.

I love the way the yolk spills down over the crispy potato cake and into the spicy tomato sauce:

Eggs in Purgatory
Giada De Laurentiis

5 large eggs
2 cups mashed potatoes, chilled
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 cup marinara sauce, warmed
2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees F.

Stir 1 egg in a large bowl to blend. Mix in the potatoes, then the flour. Using a generous 1/2 cup of potato mixture for each, form the potato mixture into 4 (4 1/2-inch) diameter pancakes.

Heat the oil in a large nonstick fry pan over medium heat. Fry the pancakes until they are golden brown and heated through, about 2 minutes per side. Transfer the pancakes to paper towels to drain. Keep the pancakes warm on a baking sheet in the oven. Pour off the excess oil from the pan.

Heat the pan over medium-low heat. Crack the remaining 4 eggs into the pan. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cook until the white is firm, about 2 minutes. Using a spatula, turn the eggs over and cook for 30 seconds longer.

Spoon the sauce onto 4 plates. Place a pancake atop the sauce. Top each pancake with a fried egg. Sprinkle with the Parmesan and serve.
Pin It!

Friday, November 23, 2007

Thanksgiving: The Leftovers

One of my favorite things about Thanksgiving is the leftovers. When I was growing up we had our leftover sandwiches on rye bread and I continue that tradition today. On the way to my parent's house yesterday I stopped at the Italian bakery (the same place we get our pizza dough) to pick up a loaf of sliced rye. This afternoon I made myself a Thanksgiving sandwich:

It starts with two slices of lightly toasted rye bread slathered with a good helping of mayo on both the top and bottom slices. The turkey goes down first so it can sit on top of the mayo, followed by the stuffing. The cranberry sauce comes last, as it should be touching the other mayo-slathered slice. The cranberry sauce mixes with the mayo to form the perfect condiment compliment to the turkey and stuffing and the rye provides a mild tang. There you have it, the perfect Thanksgiving leftovers sandwich.
Pin It!

Thanksgiving Day Part 2

We got to my parent's house around noon and my mom and I set to putting the finishing touches on our Thanksgiving feast. I just love looking at this picture - it really was a feast.

In order to keep our energy up while we cooked, we noshed on a few nibbles:

... pita chips, crackers, hummus, various pitted olives and marinated mozzarella and sundried tomatoes. The turkey looked beautiful when it came out of the oven:

... all crispy and golden brown. My stepfather did an expert job of carving it using a new butcher's method:

We had two things of stuffing, one that was inside the bird:

... and the overflow that was baked alongside with some of the tasty pan drippings. While they both tasted sensational, I preferred the insider stuffing since it had that amazing turkey and butter flavor you can only get from stuffing cooked inside the bird.

We also had the rest of the usual suspects, including mashed potatoes:

... steamed green beans:

... and roasted sweet potatoes:

Here's the table all set and waiting for everyone to sit down and dig in:

For dessert we had three kinds of pie - pecan, pumpkin and cheesecake (if that counts as a pie):

I opted for a big slice of cheesecake with raspberries and raspberry sauce, and pumpkin pie, both of which were outstanding. Another successful Thanksgiving dinner. I hope everyone had a nice holiday!
Pin It!

Thanksgiving Day Part 1

On Thanksgiving we usually eat a light breakfast in preparation for the big feast later in the day, so I made us both breakfast sandwiches. Mine:

... consisted of a fried egg and two strips of bacon on a toasted, buttered English muffin. It went down easy with a glass of ice-cold orange juice.
Pin It!

Tuesday, November 20, 2007


Since Friday is the day after Thanksgiving and we're anticipating a lot of leftovers, SP asked if we could have Pizza Friday on Tuesday. I thought calzones would be easier to reheat for lunches then pizza (I can't stand cold pizza) so I made two huge calzones for dinner tonight.

We each ate half of a calzone, which were huge:

For the filling I combined one 15-ounce container of ricotta, 8-ounces of mozzarella cut into cubes, 3/4 of a stick of pepperoni cut into large dice, 1/3 lb of deli ham thinly sliced and cut into squares, one 8-ounce can of sliced black olives, one egg lightly beaten, salt, pepper, and grated pecorino cheese. I brushed the tops with olive oil and sprinkled on more grated pecorino. They cooked in a 550-degree oven on a pizza stone for about 15 minutes until the edges were golden brown. I served them with some marinara for dipping.

After he wolfed down his half SP turned to me and said, "This is the only type of calzone allowed in this house from now on." I think we have a winner! It really was the best calzone I've ever made. It tasted just like the calzones I used to get from the pizzeria growing up.
Pin It!

Spaghetti and Meat Sauce

Monday is grocery night and that means quick cooking using whatever we have around the house. SP thought a meat sauce would be an easy and tasty dinner, so I combined ground beef from the freezer, garlic, onion, dried oregano, salt, pepper and a can of crushed tomatoes to make a sauce for ziti:

We had a smidge of ricotta leftover from last week's pizza that we mixed with our pasta for a satisfying dinner.
Pin It!

Sunday Dinner

You might be wondering why I cooked a roast chicken dinner a few days before Thanksgiving. The answer is because I forgot Thanksgiving was this week. The holiday falls a little earlier then usual this year, not to mention I'm having a hard time wrapping my head around the fact that it's the end of November already. Wasn't it just August? Wasn't I just lamenting the hot weather that was keeping us from enjoying apple and pumpkin picking with friends? Where does the time go?

In addition to the perfectly cooked chicken:

... we had the sweet potatoes and carrots that roasted in the pan with the chicken:

... creamed spinach (I cheated and used Seabrook):

... mashed potatoes:

... and an acorn squash roasted with butter, salt, pepper and brown sugar until it was tender:

I also made a quick gravy using the pan drippings, aromatics, some chicken stock and a slurry made with flour and water. It was a mighty tasty meal and certainly made the house smell good, but now I'm worried I won't be in the mood for the big feast on Thursday.
Pin It!

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Sunday Dinner Preview

This went into the oven 30 minutes ago:

In the bottom of the roasting pan there's sweet potatoes, onions, garlic, carrots and celery. Inside the bird is more garlic, carrots, celery and onion as well as sprigs of thyme and rosemary and a few lemon wedges. Slathered all over the bird is an herb butter made with parsley, thyme, rosemary, salt and pepper.

The house already smells fantastic.
Pin It!

Chocolate Chip Pancakes

This morning I made pancakes for breakfast.

As always, I cooked mine with chocolate chips. Yum!
Pin It!

Pizza Friday

This week's Pizza Friday featured a white pizza:

... topped with crumbled Italian sausage, slow-cooked onion seasoned with sage and thyme, as well as ricotta, mozzarella and cheddar cheeses. I meant to put dollops of ricotta all over the pizza, but it ended up covering most of the pie. Next time I'll do less ricotta. The mix of mozzarella and cheddar worked well - I put some on the bottom, under the toppings, and the rest on top. It was a cheesy, delicious combination of flavors.
Pin It!

Burger and Fries

I'm sorry it's been so long since I've updated. I don't really have an excuse - things haven't been too busy, it's just been hard to find the time to sit down at the computer in the evenings. I spend most of my day in front of one at work so when I come home I want to read the newspaper or watch TV or just sit with SP and enjoy the quiet.

Thursday night we had burgers and fries for dinner. I was worried about how this meal would turn out since I cooked the burgers on the stovetop and the fries in the oven, but the whole meal was a success:

Just look at that juicy burger with all those gorgeous toppings:

I topped my burger with pepper Jack cheese, fried myself an egg and layered the burger with mayo, ketchup, sliced red onion, crispy bacon and some lettuce. For the burgers I grated some onion and garlic and mixed that into the meat with salt, pepper and Worcestershire sauce.

The fries were the biggest surprise, though. I used the remainder of a package of frozen fries I found lurking in the freezer. I got some tips for cooking frozen fries from the girls on a cooking board I frequent. One gave me a recipe for tossing the fries with chopped garlic, parsley, salt, pepper and olive oil:

I cooked the fries on a baking sheet for about 20 minutes. They were still a bit soggy - next time I'm going to cook them on the pizza stone. That was another suggestion and I think it sounds like it'll work perfectly.
Pin It!