Coda Alla Vaccinara with spincah gnocchi

Tasting Rome’s Coda alla Vaccinara ( Braised Oxtail)

Coda Alla Vaccinara with spincah gnocchi

I’m going to be brutally honest. A lot of cookbooks are not impressing me these days. They are tritely styled , photographed  and promoted. I like a cookbook with real chops, with substance. I want to be inspired and learn a new twist or turn. I want a cookbook that tells a story and really has a soul. Tasting Rome came along and warmed up some inspiration inside. OK, so I’m Facebook friends with Kristina Gil, and wanted to support her work, but it’s something more. When CS and I went to Rome a few years back, this was the food I was looking for. I was told  by my  friend, that in Italy, Florence and Tuscany beat out Rome culinary wise , but I knew there was layer of old Rome that had amazing food. I had brief glimpses of it here and there, like  that famous food from the old Jewish ghetto quarter that I enjoyed in a New York City restaurant around Broadway.

Tasting RomeAs I flipped through the book I fell upon two recipes I knew I had to try. Both were a longer process, which I love, and involved oxtail. I drove to my favorite Korean store here in Chicago because they really have the best quality and price of oxtails from what I’ve seen. Ones with lots of meat. Oxtail has to be my favorite offal  and the dish I’m sharing with you is what you call  a Quinto Quarto dish, the “fifth quarter” of the animal, the offal. The first quarter of the animal was sold to the Nobility, the second to Clergy, the third to the Bourgeoisie, and the fourth to the military’s soldiers. The fifth quarter was all that remained for those less fortunate, the others.

It was suggested one eat these oxtails with your hands, like the modern day Italian American style gravy made with neck bones or short ribs. I knew CS would want some hearty pasta with it, so I made some spinach gnocchi with leftover roasted potatoes .

Spincach gnocchi prep

I loved the addition of a curious mix of pine nuts and raisins added at the end. I wondered if that was the Jewish influence on some Roman cuisine? The Coda alla Vaccinara  was outstanding and tastes even better the next day.

Braised oxtail in pot

A few things. The  recipe calls for salting the meat with kosher salt a day before. I confess I overlooked that and skipped it. It still turned out great. I also toasted my pine nuts in a dry skillet , as I would advise to always do, because it brings out the flavors and oils on product that may have been sitting on shelves. I freeze my pine nuts to preserve the quality and prevent them from going off.  I also did not use celery as CS hates the vegetable.  It’s something I have to sneak in when he’s not looking . I did ramp up the garlic factor more than what the recipe called for , because that’s my style. That’s the beauty of the dish. You can really add your own spin to this.

The  use of cocoa powder in the end transforms the tomato beefy sauce to the extraordinary. I’ve used cocoa before in savory cooking and it’s always a great little surprise ingredient.

I hope you enjoy this. This recipe just keeps giving and giving. I used some of the sauce , which turns into a rich gelatinous tomato beef stock to make a risotto type dish with barley and lentils . Nothing will go to waste to here. The braised oxtail also freezes very well.

This recipe is reprinted from Tasting Rome  Fresh Flavors & Forgotten Recipes From an Ancient City, by Katie Parla and Kristina Gill. Clarkson  Potter Publishers New York

Tasting Rome's Coda alla Vaccinara ( Braised Oxtail)
Author: 
Recipe type: Entree
Cuisine: Roman
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 4-6
 
This recipe is reprinted from Tasting Rome Fresh Flavors & Forgotten Recipes From an Ancient City by Katie Parla and Kristina Gill. Clarkson Potter Publishers New York
Ingredients
  • 2½ oz lardo (cured fatback) or 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3½ lbs oxtail, cut into 3 inch segments
  • 1 yellow onion
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 5-6 whole cloves
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 cup red wine
  • 1 28 oz can whole peeled tomatoes
  • 6 cups beef broth
  • 2 celery stalks cut into 3 inch pieces
  • ¼ cup raisins
  • ¼ cup pine nuts
  • 1 tablespoon Cacao or unsweetened cocoa powder
Instructions
  1. Render the lardo in a large pot over medium -high heat , or heat olive oil until its shimmering.
  2. Add the oxtail segments and cook until browned all over, then remove from the pot and set aside.
  3. Reduce the heat to medium-low and add the onion, garlic, and cloves.
  4. Cook until the onion is translucent and the garlic has just turned golden, about 10 minutes.
  5. Add the tomato paste and cook until it turned a deep brick red, about 5 minutes.
  6. Add the wine, scraping up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan, and cook until the alcohol aroma dissipates, about a minute, then add the tomatoes.
  7. Return the meat to the pot and cover three-quarters of the way with the beef broth.
  8. Cover and cook until the meat is just falling off the bone, 5-6 hours, adding more broth if the sauce reduced too much.
  9. Toward the end of cooking, add the celery, raisins, pine nuts, and cacao, mixing well. Simmer for 20-30 minutes more.
  10. Turn off the heat and allow the oxtail to rest for at least 30 minutes., ideally overnight, in the refrigerator. Serve on its own. Use any leftover sauce to dress Gnocchi di Patate.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Artichoke and garlic

Creamy Artichoke Soup For Easter Brunch

Asparagus soup

I love the concept of serving a soup in a demitasse. It whets the appetite just enough for the next course. I worked in a place known for luxury that served every patron a small demitasse of chicken consommé. Perfect for the ladies that lunched, or just a soothing balm on a cold rainy day. When you start think of your Easter brunch ideas, dust off the collection of demitasse and fine tea cups you hardly use, and greet your guests with an elegant cup of soup to offer a warm welcome.

Artichoke and garlic

I had some artichokes that were screaming to be used in my vegetable bin after serving as models for an illustration. If you don’t have raw artichokes you can use canned bottoms or hearts. It will easier, but I love the process involved in this soup with roasting and coaxing the flavors. Don’t be afraid of the process in the kitchen. It can be very Zen . Use the recipe as inspiration and enjoy. I hope you enjoyed the featured illustration. Its one of many food illustrations I’m working on  for Coco Collection and a book project.

Creamy Artichoke Soup For Easter Brunch
Author: 
Recipe type: Soup
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
 
A creamy artichoke soup with roasted garlic and leeks.
Ingredients
  • 2 whole raw leeks
  • 2 whole raw artichokes
  • 1 large leek
  • 1 head of garlic
  • 3-4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 lemon
  • 4-5 cups chicken or vegetable stock
  • 1 large russet potato
  • ½ cup heavy cream
  • pink peppercorns crushed for garnish
  • kosher salt and black pepper to taste
  • > and black pepper
Instructions
  1. Break down the artichokes but slicing off tops and stems.
  2. Trim to get to the center. Halve and remove any fuzzy center( the choke)
  3. above the stem and purple leaves if any. You want the
  4. tender heart of the artichoke.
  5. Soak in cold water with half a
  6. lemon to prevent discoloration and browning.
  7. Slice entire leek ( white and green part) and soak I cold water to remove
  8. dirt and grit.
  9. In a roasting pan toss the artichokes and
  10. leeks with olive oil and the remaining half of lemon juice.
  11. Season with salt and pepper.
  12. Slice tip of garlic fist and drizzle with olive oil.
  13. Wrap in foil and roast with the other veggies.
  14. Roast on high at 450FPeel and boil the russet
  15. potato.
  16. When deeply browned, remove vegetable and start
  17. pureeing with the chicken stock.
  18. Squeeze the garlic out of its papery skin and pulse with the other vegetables.
  19. Peel the skins off boiled potato.
  20. Add the potato to the blender for puree.
  21. Now take a strainer and strain the fibrous soup
  22. through a fine mesh strainer , forcing the liquid out with a
  23. stirring motion, with a pot or bowl underneath.
  24. You can use a food mill too.
  25. Once all strained, transfer the soup into a clean pot.
  26. Simmer on low.
  27. Add heavy cream.
  28. Reheat gently.
  29. Garnish with pink peppercorns and a bit of minced chives if you have some.

 

Bertolli Italian Wedding Soup with Kale Caprese Salad

Cooking and Eating Well on the Run. Bertolli Soups and Salmon Rillettes Tartines

I work with Bertolli on occasion and always love to receive new products.  Life has been mainly cooking and eating on the run these days.The fast few months the new range of Bertolli  Meal Soups for Two have saved many meals and situations , as I have been :

  • too tired to cook
  • working  or catering and not able cook
  • Certain Someone has no dinner while I’m away working or zoned out from fatigue.

Even industry people take shortcuts. You know the saying about the cobblers kids having no shoes, the hairdresser having bad hair, etc. While we work for others , we sometimes neglect whats at home. If I had to take a shortcut I love the tasty frozen Bertolli soups. These come excellently packaged with frozen cubes of excellent stock, meat and vegetables. It couldn’t be easier. My favorite was the Italian Wedding. I made this with a quick Kale Caprese Salad of chopped kale, small mozzarella balls, grape tomatoes, pesto , balsamic and oil. Dinner in about 10-15 minutes.  Check them out.

Another quick item, stretchable item  to make this winter or even for holiday entertaining, that would pair perfectly with a nice soup , bisque or risotto , is a short cut salmon rillette. I found wild sockeye salmon in cans at Costco that’s far superior than any canned salmon I’ve seen. I purchased a small tub of lox trimmings for less than $3 and made this amazing spread. Try it as a tartine on fresh baguette or on tiny crostini. It’s quite addictive.


Salmon Rillettes Tartines
Author: 
Prep time: 
Total time: 
 
A quick and easy salmon spread
Ingredients
  • 1 6 oz can Wild Sockeye Salmon
  • ½ cup lox trimmings or any type pf smoked salmon
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 3 tablespoon softened unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1 tablespoon dried chives
  • 1 teaspoon capers packed in salt ( you can use more or less)
  • 1 shallot shaved
  • 1 fresh baguette
Instructions
  1. Combine  both types of salmon, spices, lemon, butter and oil in a bowl .
  2. Pulse with an immersion blender to a paste.
  3. Gently fold in capers.
  4. Shave thin slices of shallot.
  5. Spread salmon paste on bread slices.
  6. Top with shallots and additional chives.
  7. Serve.
Notes
You can use an immersion blender or food processor. Chilling improves the flavor.

 

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Leberknödel (Liver Dumplings) with Chicken and Forest Mushroom Soup

In Chicago right now, you can feel the crispness in the air as fall arrives. It teases with some sharp rays of sun, but it’s undeniable Autumn is here.With the turn of season, energy may lag, and colds are common. Soups are craved more to cure what ails us. One of favorite soups in the world is a Leberknödel (liver dumpling )soup. I first had Leberknödel soup in Vienna, Austria and always order it at any German type of restaurant we go to. I love the comfort of a rich dumpling swimming in a crystal clear  flavorful soup. There really is nothing more perfect. While many people don’t like liver, I have never met anyone who doesn’t love Leberknödel , when given a try. To make the flavor milder, soak the liver in milk before prep, and it may be more agreeable to you. Regardless liver ( chicken , pork, or beef) is chock full or nutrition and iron, not to mention inexpensive. Because the liver is ground, is the reason I think many people love this soup as opposed to a big chunk of liver . Texture, as well as presentation is paramount in food.

Dumplings can be tricky, so patience is required. There are many techniques for them and the German people ,especially the Bavarians, have quite a repertoire of them. Traditionally Leberknödelsuppe is served in a clear beef consomme. Or the dumpling can be served on the side with sauerkraut. Certain Someone likes to take leftover potato dumplings, slice  and fry them, which would be amazing with these Leberknödel  as well. I researched several variations for  Leberknödel , and added my own twist. The mixture is very loose, and rather than fortify them with more bread crumbs , I used the more durable semolina to add texture along with the egg, ground liver,fried onions,  and soaked bread rolls. I keep a bag of chicken carcass and odd and ends in the freezer which I decided to use for my soup base along with root vegetables. A rich broth was formed. I added my favorite dried Polish Mushrooms to the soup with the  soaking water. All to simmer some more, strain, degrease, and then clarify with a raft of egg whites and shells ( another method is to use the egg whites shells, lean ground meat , mirepoix, and tomatoes) to remove any impurities and render a beautiful  crystal clear broth. The color is deepened because of the woodsy forest mushrooms.


Leberknödel (Liver Dumplings) with Chicken and Forest Mushroom Soup
Author: 
Recipe type: soup
 
Liver dumpling soup
Ingredients
  • Assorted chicken pieces of your choice ( or leftover carcass, and other parts of chicken )
  • 1 red onion
  • a few stalks of celery
  • 4 carrots chopped
  • Approx 12 cups of water
  • 3-4 egg whites and shell
  • salt and pepper
  • Dumplings
  • 1 2oz pack of dried Polish Forest mushrooms
  • 4-5 stale kaiser rolls or other type of old bread
  • 1 cup of milk
  • 1 red onion minced
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons parsley chopped
  • 1 egg beaten
  • grate of fresh nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 piece of raw liver (3/4 to ½ lb)( and milk for soaking optional)
  • 1 cup or more of semolina as needed depending on moisture of dumpling mixture.
  • salt and pepper to taste
Instructions
  1. To make the soup /consomme...
  2. Roast the chicken and root vegetables at 375 F until golden.Use a pan that can transfer to the range for additional cooking.
  3. Soak the dried mushrooms in hot water and let sit covered while chicken is roasting.
  4. Add water , salt and pepper,mushrooms and soaking liquid,and continue to simmer for approximate 2 hours. Adjust seasoning if necessary.
  5. Strain off solids and reserve to cool. You may pour in the refrigerator to allow the grease to congeal and later skim off.
  6. Add the strained broth to a stock pan.
  7. Mix in egg whites and shells. Bring to a boil and reduce to a low simmer. The egg whites and shells form a raft that will form at the top and capture all the impurities and solids that were not strained out .Do not disturb or stir the raft , but continue to simmer for about 30 minutes more.
  8. Carefully strain the soup, raft and shells into a fine sieve lined double with cheesecloth. You should have a very clear broth. Set aside.
  9. To make the dumplings...
  10. Soak liver in milk if desired for at least 30 minutes if desired to make taste milder.
  11. Soak the torn apart bread rolls in the milk.
  12. In a separate bowl grind the raw beef liver in grinder, food processor, or with an immersion blender. Remove any connective tissue.
  13. Wring out any excess milk from the soaked bread .
  14. Add the ground liver, beaten egg, baking powder, grate of nutmeg, salt and pepper to taste.
  15. At this point determine of the mixture needs more bulk and gradually add semolina to form a consistency that can loosely hold its shape in a ball once formed with with or oiled hands. You don't want the mixture too dry, but wet enough to hold its shape.
  16. Carefully shape dumpling , no larger than a walnut as they will expand in the water.
  17. Drop the dumpling carefully into salted boiling water. You may want to test one to see if they hold its shape while cooking.
  18. Add to clear hot soup and serve.
Notes
Makes approximately 25-28 dumplings. Soup quantity varies according to how much broth you yield from ingredients used.

 

Chilled Summer Borscht

Summer has arrived, and I’m getting inspired again in the kitchen, as you can see from my recent blog posts. This weeks vegetable box inspired this recipe. Beets with the loveliest greens atop them were the centerpiece of box. Pickling was out of the question and I got to thinking of  the refreshing chilled soups you find particularly in Eastern Europe ( Hungary and Russia). I remembered I loved the beautiful beet based winter borscht with its beautiful ruby-red sheen. So what if  I made a more tourmaline hued  like borscht  with a cream base ,seasoned with fresh crisp apples, dill, and cucumber? A beautiful starter , with crisp bright flavors perfect for summer brunch ?

I played around and this is what I got. You will find it light yet filling. The perfect chilled soup for a lovely summer day. As Borscht is really nothing but a seasonal soup ,play around with your produce and combos.  I used chicken stock as a base, however vegetable stock can be used as well.

Chilled Summer Borscht
Author: 
Recipe type: soup
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
 
A chilled soup.
Ingredients
  • 2 apples peeled , cored and diced
  • 3 carrots, peeled and diced
  • 1 red onion diced
  • 2 plum tomatoes chopped
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon chopped dill
  • salt and black pepper to taste
  • 6 cups chicken or vegetable stock
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 2 beets with leaves intact
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 cups sour cream
  • 2 tablespoons Sherry Vinegar
  • fresh dill weed and thinly sliced cucumber for garnish.
Instructions
  1. In a heavy bottomed stock pot, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil.
  2. Add diced apples, carrots, and red onion.
  3. Saute on medium high for about 10 minutes until the vegetables become soft and onions translucent.
  4. Season with salt and pepper, and dill.
  5. Add chopped tomatoes.
  6. Saute for 5 for minutes.
  7. Add the vegetable stock and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes.
  8. Take an immersion blender and puree the soup mixture.
  9. Add the sugar and stir in. Continue to let the soup simmer.
  10. Cut off the greens of the beets and chop up. Add to simmering soup mixture.
  11. With a vegetable peeler , skin the beets and chop into small pieces.
  12. In a small fry pan, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil.
  13. Add the chopped beets and saute for about 10 minutes on medium high, until they are softened.
  14. Remove from heat and add the beets to the soup mixture.
  15. Quickly blend the beets into the soup with the immersion blender.
  16. Turn off the soup. You don't want to overcook the beets once added to the soup as the color will darken.
  17. Let the coup cool down.
  18. Add the sour cream and Sherry Vinegar to the soup. Blend with immersion blender.
  19. Strain soup through a fine mesh wire strainer. There will be pulp. Push out the liquid from the pulp. You want a fine strained liquid, without the thick pulp.
  20. Chill the soup overnight or for at least 6 hours.
  21. Serve cold with chopped fresh dill garnish and thinly sliced cucumber.
  22. *Soup may separate after a few hours while chilling. Just whip up with blender again before serving.
Notes
Equipment A fine mesh wire strainer. Immersion Blender You can make this the day ahead. It will keep for a few days in the refrigerator. Serve in small cordial or shooter glasses or bowls. Servings may vary depending on how served.