Tender-Crispy Artichoke Hearts

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Here’s a favorite recipe that appears on our table year after year (sometimes week after week). I love it so much it’s included in my recently released cookbook, The Easy Italian Cookbook. But here it is for you!

I prefer Trader Joe brand frozen artichoke hearts, thawed, and patted dry. And a lot of supermarkets carry frozen artichoke hearts. Frozen plain hearts are better for this recipe than canned. Canned has a lot of acidity and that affects the flavor.

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Season about a half-cup of AP flour with salt and pepper (tip: sometimes I use self-rising flour for this — it’s my mom’s choice — and I think it somehow seals the little package more).

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Beat 2 eggs in a bowl with some salt. Dredge arties in flour, dip in egg, sauté till golden on each side in some olive oil. Drain on paper towels, salt again. Yum!

Crispy-Tender Artichoke Hearts

12 ounces frozen artichoke hearts, thawed and patted dry

1/2 cup flour, seasoned with salt and pepper

2 eggs, lightly beaten

3-4 tablespoons olive oil

Salt to taste

Heat the oil in a medium skillet. Toss artichoke hearts in the seasoned flour. Remove one by one shaking off excess, dip in the egg to coat, then fry in oil. Cook until golden on each side, about 2-3 minutes per side. Drain on paper towels. Lightly salt.

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Quick, Easy (& Cheater) Paella

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I love paella. I loved it before sampling in Madrid, and loved it even more after my true Spanish experience. I’m pretty sure that — officially — when you make a seafood paella it should be all seafood. But I can’t help myself. This one combines meats and fish (shrimp) and I’m enthralled with the combo! I think this version is the shortest way to get to an authentic tasting paella.

See the recipe below. You simply sauté your aromatics, and sausage or chorizo. Sauté rice. Add broth & saffron and cover. 15-20 minutes later add your chicken breast and shrimp…

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…Back in oven for about 10-15 minutes. Done! The saffron gives it the color and that unmistakeable smoky atmosphere. It’s rich, but you can’t help but inhale rapid forkfuls. Enjoy.

Saffron-Infused Paella

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 medium onion, chopped

3 garlic cloves, minced

2-3 chorizo sausages, sliced into bite-sized pieces

2 cups short gain rice, preferably Spanish rice

3 cups chicken stock

1 tablespoon saffron, crushed

2 roasted peppers, sliced into small pieces

1 lb. shrimp, shelled, deveined

1 large boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into bite-sized pieces

salt & pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

On the stovetop, heat the olive oil in a large pot that has a cover and can go into the oven. Add the onion, garlic, and chorizo. Sauté on medium heat until onion is softened. Add the rice, coat it with the oil and let it get hot. Add the stock and crumble the saffron in. Stir to combine. Season with salt & pepper. Cover pot and place in the oven.

When the rice is almost cooked and the liquid is almost absorbed (about 15-20 minutes), take out the pot and slip the shrimp and chicken pieces into the rice. Add some more stock or water if all has been absorbed (just a bit, don’t drown it). Cover and put back in the oven until chicken, shrimp, and rice are cooked, about 10 minutes more. Serve hot.

Pasta with Vodka Sauce

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Where did this dish ever come from? I’m not sure. I’ve never seen it in Italy — I think it might be an Italian-American concoction. And I didn’t know how to make it until very recently. I was stumped on the idea of the vodka. Vodka doesn’t taste like anything, so in a sauce, what does it add?

Turns out it adds lusciousness, and dimension, and –oddly–silkiness. I officially love it. Here’s my take on Tomato Vodka Sauce — nice and easy. And delicious!

BTW. I’m also in love with these Mutti cherry tomatoes in the can. So good! Picture your usual plum tomatoes in a can, except these are darling sweet cherry toms.

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Pasta with Tomato Vodka Sauce

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 small onion, peeled and diced

1 garlic clove, peeled & left whole

2 tablespoons butter

1/2 cup vodka, divided

1 28-ounce can of crushed tomatoes (in my dish here, I used instead: 1 14-ounce can whole cherry tomatoes in puree, and 1 15-ounce can crushed tomatoes)

1/3 cup heavy cream or half & half (you can a little more if like creamy)

1 lb. cut pasta, such as penne or rigatoni (I used garganelli here)

salt and pepper to taste

1/2 cup grated parmigiano

In a large sauté pan or shallow pot, heat the oil, onion, and garlic until simmering. Add the butter. Let cook on a low heat until the onion is softened but not colored. Add about half of the vodka. Bring to a lively simmer until vodka is mostly evaporated. Add the tomatoes. Stir to combine. Season with salt and pepper. Let simmer for about 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, bring a pasta pot of water to a boil. Season generously with salt. Add pasta. Cook till al dente.

For the sauce, after ten minutes, add the cream or half and half, and the rest of the vodka. Let simmer gently for 8-10 minutes more.

When pasta is al dente, drain and add to pan with cooked sauce. On low heat, toss pasta with sauce to coat for about a minute or two. Transfer pasta to a serving bowl. Serve with grated parmigiano on the side.

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More Quick Vegetable Ideas

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The vegetable factory keeps cranking in my kitchen. So many of these dishes have been cooking in my family’s kitchens for many years. Try them out!

One: Broccoli with Garlic and Vermicelli. Basically boiled broccoli with a boost from garlic, olive oil, and the addition of a comforting handful of pasta.

Two: Crunchy Zucchini Slices with Mint. Here’s how to wake up zucchini!

Three: Stuffed Mushrooms. Turn mushroom stems into tasty mushroom stuffing.

Four: Mini Peppers with Crunchy Breadcrumbs. These are so delicate, and a savory surprise flavor pop.

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Broccoli with Garlic and Vermicelli

Vege Broccoli1 bunch broccoli

2 garlic cloves, peeled

1/4 cup olive oil

1/4 pound (or handful) vermicelli or capellini

salt to taste

Cut off the broccoli stems, discard. Cut up broccoli heads into florets with some stem attached. Rinse under cool water.

Fill a medium saucepan halfway with water. Bring to a boil. Add a drizzle or so of olive oil and some salt. Add broccoli. Break up vermicelli into 1-2-inch pieces. Add to pan. Bring back to a low boil and cook until broccoli and pasta are tender, about 10-12 minutes. Drain. Adjust for seasoning — if needed, add more salt and/or another drizzle of olive oil.

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Crunchy Zucchini Slices with Mint

Vege Zucchini Slices1 large zucchini, or 2 small

2 eggs

1/4 cup grated parmigiano

1 cup AP flour, or self-rising flour

olive oil for frying (about 1/4 cup in all)

salt to taste

1-2 mint sprigs, stems discarded, leaves torn into smaller pieces

Trim the stem ends off of the zucchini. If large, cut zucchini in half crosswise. Then cut each half into thin slices.

In a medium mixing bowl, beat eggs with grated cheese. Add some salt. Add flour to a different (medium shallow) bowl. Season with salt.

Heat 2-3 tablespoons of olive oil in a large frying pan. When hot. Dredge a few slices of zucchini in the flour, then coat each with egg mixture. Add to oil, repeat with more slices until they fill pan in one layer. Fry on each side until golden. Let drain on paper-towel-lined plate. Repeat with remaining slices, add more oil to pan if needed. Season fried slices with a little salt.

Transfer cooked slices to serving plate. Garnish with mint.

Stuffed Mushrooms

Vege MushroomsCheck out this easy recipe from an earlier post of mine:

https://chefpaulette.net/2019/10/13/easy-stuffed-mushrooms/

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Mini Peppers with Crunchy Breadcrumbs

Vege Peppers Bread2 cups mini bell peppers

1/2 cup breadcrumbs

1 garlic clove, peeled and minced

2-3 sprigs fresh Italian parsley, stems discarded, leaves rough chopped

Salt to taste

Olive oil for drizzling

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Cut the stem tops off of the peppers, discard. Slice peppers in half lengthwise, clean out and discard seeds and membrane inside. Line a baking pan with foil. Drizzle a little olive oil on foil to coat.

In a medium mixing bowl, stir together breadcrumbs, garlic, and parsley. Season with salt. Drizzle some olive oil to make a “wet sand” consistency.

Fill each pepper with breadcrumb mixture and place each one on the prepared pan in one layer. When pan is filled with stuffed peppers, drizzle a little olive oil on top. Bake in oven for about 20 minutes, until peppers are tender and breadcrumb is golden. Serve hot or at room temp.

Enjoy!!

Four Quick Stovetop Vegetable Dishes

Ahhhh! Some nights you just can’t figure out what to do for a vegetable dish. Well, here are 4 suggestions that seem to pop up at our house pretty often. And we love them all. And we’re happy to see each one return to the table time and again. AND they are easy. They are quick. And they are all inventions of my mom! (Believe me, she knows what she’s doing.)

Escarole with Cannellini Beans and Garlic. This is a green that makes me super happy. It’s got just a hint of bitter, and the leaves are smooth and crunchy. With the beans (there’s your protein!) and some garlic, it’s almost a meal in itself.

Mushrooms with Peas and Shallot. Mushrooms are almost a super food and high on the umami meter. Peas add a pop of green and pop! in your mouth and the shallot aromatic pulls all the flavors together.

Zucchini Fritters. You’ll sit up and take notice once zucchini is fried. Frying brings out the best of zucchini and these fritters are like little comfy pillows for your taste buds.

String Beans and Potatoes. String beans, green beans, take your pick– all the same. I like to use the skinny french beans, but the regular Mr. Green Jeans string beans are perfect. The added potatoes give a nice starchy smoothness.

Try one, try all. Let me know your faves.

Escarole with Cannellini Beans and Garlic

Escarole and Beans

1 head escarole

2-3 tablespoons olive oil

2 garlic cloves, peeled

1 15-ounce can cannellini beans

salt to taste

Clean the escarole: discard any outer leaves that are bruised. Rinse the head well (into the center, too) and drain and pat dry. Tear leaves into just a little larger than bite-sized pieces (or as you prefer).

Heat olive oil in a large saute pan. Add garlic, let cook for about 2 minutes, but don’t let it color. Add the escarole. Season escarole with salt and toss until it begins to wilt. Add beans. Toss to combine, cook until leaves have wilted completely and are tender to the bite, about 4-5 minutes more. Adjust seasoning if needed. Add a little more olive oil if too dry. Serve.

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Mushrooms with Peas and Shallot

Mushrooms and Peas

8 ounces whole white mushrooms, or baby bella

2-3 tablespoons olive oil

1 shallot, peeled and sliced

1 cup peas (you can add frozen peas right into the recipe)

salt to taste

Rinse mushrooms to remove any loose dirt. Slice mushroom into thick(ish) slices.

Heat the olive oil in a large saute pan. Add shallot, let cook for a minute. Add mushrooms. Let cook at a lively simmer for about 3 minutes. Stir in peas. Season with salt. Cook until peas are cooked through and mushrooms are cooked, about 2-3 minutes more. Serve.

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Zucchini Fritters

Zucchini Fritters

2 small zucchini or 1 medium-large

2 tablespoons flour

1 egg

1/4 cup grated parmigiano

3-4 tablespoons olive oil

salt to taste

Trim the stem end from the zucchini. Grate the zucchini on the large holes of a box grater. Transfer grated zucchini to a medium mixing bowl. Add flour, egg, and cheese. Season well with salt. Stir to combine.

Heat olive oil in a large saute pan. When hot, spoon a couple of tablespoons zucchini mixture per fritter into the oil. Fill pan with fritters in one layer. Cook at medium high heat. Let them brown on the first side, then flip them to brown on the other. About a minute or so per side. Drain them on paper towels. Sprinkle a little more salt when the come out of the pan. Serve warm or at room temperature.

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String Beans and Potatoes

String Beans and Potatoes

1 pound string beans, tipped

1 medium russet potato (or golden potato), peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks

2 garlic cloves, peeled

2-3 tablespoons olive oil

salt to taste

Fill a medium saucepan halfway with water. Bring to a boil. Add olive oil and some salt. Add string beans, garlic, and potatoes. Let simmer for about 10 minutes until the vegetables are soft. Drain and serve. (Add a drizzle of olive oil if you’d like and season with some more salt if you’d like.)

🙂 All YUM.

 

 

 

Find the Fava Beans (with Pasta)

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It’s spring. The best time to find some fava beans. (Although, because food tends to travel long distances, you may find them during other seasons.)

When I worked at Batali’s restaurant, Lupa, in NYC, springtime fava beans were on the menu every day. In the prep kitchen, shucking the beans was a daily routine. We shucked and parboiled with love. And the beans ended up in pasta, vegetable sides, and appetizers. I LOVE them.

You can often find them at international markets. When you buy them, buy a lot. The pods are bulky and once you get the beans out, the volume shrinks to about a quarter of the original beans-in-the-pod. But the little beans are rich, in a vegetable-healthy way.

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Here’s a recipe for a quick pasta dish with fava. I added shallot and mushrooms and a little bit of fresh herbs — basil & parsley — to go with spaghetti.

First: break open the pods and remove the beans. Discard the pods.

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Now: bring a medium saucepan– half-way filled with water — to a boil. Add a little salt, add beans. Par-boil for about 1-2 minutes. Then drain, and run under cool water. We’re not trying to cook the beans here. We want to loosen the shell coating.

Here’s where it gets a little tedious (but so worth it!): peel shell off of each bean. I usually pull from the thick bump on one end of the shell.

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Inside the tender beans are bright deep green.

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Now you’re ready to start your pasta sauce. Put a pasta pot of water on the stove to boil. Sauté a minced shallot and a handful of sliced mushrooms, and your fava beans in a few tablespoons of olive oil. Cook at a lively simmer for about 3 minutes. Then add a 1/4 of dry white wine. Let it simmer and almost evaporate.

I love some toasted breadcrumbs with this dish. Just add a 1/2 cup of breadcrumbs or Panko to a small frying pan. Add a drizzle of olive oil, and sauté until browned.

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As your fava/mushrooms mixture cooks, boil some spaghetti. When spaghetti is done, drain (reserving a cup of pasta water), add to sauté pan with fava. Cook for another 2 minutes, coating pasta with sauce. If too dry, add pasta water and a little olive oil. Then a handful of the breadcrumbs.

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Mix them in. Serve. Eat. Mangia. Enjoy!

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Spaghetti with Fava Beans and Mushrooms

1  1/2 pounds fava bean (in pods)

2-3 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for drizzling

1 shallot, peeled and minced

1 cup sliced mushrooms

1/2-3/4 pound spaghetti

1/4 cup dry white wine

1/2 cup breadcrumbs or Panko

handful basil and or parsley leaves, rough chopped

salt to taste

Shuck the beans from the pods. Discard pods. Bring a half pot of water to a boil in a medium saucepan. Add beans and boil for 1-2 minutes. Drain and rinse in cool water.

Peel shells off of fava beans. Heat 2-3 tablespoons olive oil in a large saute pan. When hot, add minced shallot, sliced mushrooms and fava beans. Saute until the mushrooms brown. Add the wine and let evaporate. Season with salt. Cook for about 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat a pasta pot of water to a boil. Add spaghetti and cook to al dente. When done, drain (reserve a cup of pasta water) and add to pan with vegetables. Toss to coat, cook for 2-3 minutes more. Add more olive oil or pasta water if too dry. Add a handful of toasted breadcrumb. Mix in. Add herbs. Taste for seasoning, add more salt if needed. Serve.

 

Family Sicilian Chicken

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This is the simplest and most delicious chicken recipe ever. Ah-ha! Hard to believe? Well, it’s true. 😜 It’s been in my family for a couple of generations at least.

And it has a very Sicilian name: spizzadeda. That’s the best spelling I can come up with. I never saw it written down; I’ve only cooked it  after seeing it cooked by my mom. She attributes it to Palermo, home base for the Sicilian side of my mom’s family.

All you do is add a little olive oil to a frying pan to heat. Season your chicken pieces with salt and pepper. Cook chicken in hot oil until golden on each side. Take out. Add sliced onion.

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Cook onions till soft. Add a splash of white wine.


Add back chicken. Add water to about halfway up chicken. Season with salt & pepper. Cover askew. Simmer for 30 minutes until chicken is cooked through.

Meanwhile, boil some spaghetti.


When done, mix spaghetti with the simmering juice of the chicken. Sprinkle grated Parmigiano on your pasta servings with the chicken.

Sound simple? Soooo surprisingly good!

Spizzadeda

8-10 pieces bone-in chicken

2-3 tablespoons olive oil

salt and pepper to taste

1 medium onion, peeled, thin slices

1/4 dry white wine (optional)

1/2 lb. or 1 lb. spaghetti  (you can use more water in the cooking if you use a full pound.)

grated Parmesan for sprinkling

Add a little olive oil to a frying pan to heat. Season your chicken pieces with salt and pepper. Sauté  chicken in hot oil until golden on each side. Take out. Add sliced onion.

Cook onions till soft. Add a splash of white wine. Add back chicken. Add water to fill to about halfway up chicken. Season with salt & pepper. Cover askew. Simmer for 30 minutes until chicken is cooked through.

Boil spaghetti until al dente. When done, mix with the simmering juice of the chicken. Sprinkle grated Parmigiano on your pasta servings with the chicken.

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Pork Pizzaiola

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What is pizzaiola? It’s either the guy making your pizza or a dish cooked “pizza-style.” In this case it’s a dish cooked pizza-style– which means it has tomato sauce and oregano in it. Those are the ingredients that are the signature tastes of pizzaiola.

Usually it’s made with steak. Here I’m using pork “chops” instead, but they are chops without the bone and really just thickish slices of pork loin.

It’s an easy dish and comes together in a half hour. Perfect! Serve it with a little pasta using the pizzaiola sauce.

All it takes is browning the pork coated in breadcrumbs (I got a trick from my mom– season pork with salt and pepper, then give them a light coat of olive oil for the breadcrumb to stick on). After they get golden on both sides, take them out of pan…

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…and saute onion until soft.

Build your sauce. Then add back chops for 5-6 minutes more. It’s so tasty. Try the same process with chicken cutlets. Oh yes!

Pork Pizzaiola

6-8 boneless pork chops

olive oil for drizzling and sautéing

1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs

1/2 cup plain breadcrumbs

1 medium onion, peeled & thinly sliced

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1/4 cup dry white wine

1 15-ounce can crushed tomatoes

salt & pepper to taste

Lay chops out on a plate or pan. Season them well with salt & pepper on both sides. Lightly drizzle a little olive oil across them and then turn them to get lightly coated in the oil. In a medium shallow bowl, add the 2 types of breadcrumb. Season crumbs with salt and pepper. Stir to combine.

Heat 2-3 tablespoons olive oil in a large nonstick frying pan. When hot, press the chops onto the crumbs to adhere, on both sides. Place crumb-coated chops in pan. Sauté till golden on both sides, about 2 minutes per side. Take them out to a paper-towel-lined plate or pan.

If needed, add a little more oil to pan, keep hot. Sauté onion until soft, about 3-4 minutes. Add oregano. Add splash of wine. When wine evaporates, add tomatoes. Season with salt & pepper. Let tomato sauce simmer for 10 minutes. Add back chops. Spoon sauce on top. Let simmer with a cover askew for 5-6 minutes more. Serve.

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Mini Pies with Fresh Orange

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mini pies with fresh orange

Let’s celebrate a winter fruit: here’s a dessert that makes fresh oranges the center of attention. Mix them up with mascarpone, some sugar, and some extract boosts…and these mini-hand-pies are the perfect perk-you-up bite for a snack, with afternoon tea, or a morning coffee friend.

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I found the best way to get the flesh sans peel and pith is to cut off the peels and pith by sliding a knife all around the edges (careful—do it on a cutting board). Then cut flesh of oranges into slices then cubes.

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I added a vanilla glaze to drizzle on top with some crushed walnuts. (Don’t you always find the possibilities are endless?? 🙂

I did a demo on Nashville’s WSMV-TV “Today in Nashville” with Kelly Sutton and Carole Sullivan…here’s the segment on YouTube. (I also show you how to cut the orange.) And find the recipe below. Have fun!

Orange Mini Hand Pies with Mascarpone

3 navel oranges

2 sheets store-bought puff pastry

8 ounces mascarpone, room temperature

1/3 cup sugar 

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 teaspoon orange extract

1 egg (for egg wash)

Vanilla Glaze & Topping

1 tablespoon unsalted butter, room temperature

1/2 cup powdered sugar

1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/3 cup walnuts, crushed

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Zest all 3 oranges. Cut off the peel and pith off the oranges. Cut oranges into slices and then into small dice.

Add the mascarpone to a medium mixing bowl. Add sugar and extracts. Stir to combine well. Stir in the orange pieces and orange zest. 

On a lightly floured work surface, roll out the dough pieces until just slightly larger and thinner. Using a 3-inch square cutter, cut out squares of dough. Add a tablespoon of mixture in the middle. Fold to make triangles. Press along the edges to seal. Then use the tines of a fork to press closed more securely. Place triangles on a parchment or silpat-lined baking sheet. Re-roll dough scraps to make more — you should have about 30 mini hand pies.

Mix the egg with a teaspoon of water. Brush egg wash on each triangle. Poke a small hole in the center of each one. Bake for about 15-20 minutes until golden.

Make the Vanilla Glaze:

In a medium mixing bowl press out the butter with a spoon to make it smooth. Add the powdered sugar and mix until the butter is blended into small pieces. Add the vanilla and mix well. Run the kitchen faucet until very hot. Add 1-2 tablespoons of hot water to the mixture and stir rapidly to combine. If frosting seems too thick, add more hot water until it becomes the right consistency for drizzling.

Wait until mini pies are completely cool. Drizzle glaze on top in a zig-zag design. Sprinkle with crushed walnuts.

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