Friday, April 26, 2013

A Sauvignon Blanc Wine; A Perfect Complement For "Shrimp Scampi Florentine"

Shrimp Scampi
 “National Shrimp Scampi Day” is celebrated on April 29th every year. The word Scampi suggests the cooking style of the shrimp in the United States. This Italian -American shrimp dish is prepared by sautéing the shrimp in butter or olive oil, with garlic, lemon juice, fresh parsley, and your favorite white wine, which is then placed over Linguine pasta. National Shrimp Scampi Day is an unofficial holiday of unknown origin. The Italian people have been cooking shrimp this way for many years from the 1920‘s.

Shrimp is America’s favorite seafood and tastes succulent and sweet. Shrimp is available, fresh all year-round and is an excellent source of protein. Naturally low in fat, and calories which are an ideal choice for a low-carbohydrate diet. They are also a source of omega-3 fatty acid, which medical research shows may reduce the risk of heart disease. The average life cycle of a shrimp in is only 13 months or less. They reproduce rapidly, which is a good thing since so many people like to eat them. Female shrimp lay over a thousand eggs, which are attached to her swimming legs. Most shrimp release eggs offshore in deep water from early spring through early fall.

Here are some tips to help you purchase, safe handling, preparation, and cooking of shrimp:

  • Raw, headless and unpeeled shrimp: 1/3 pound per serving
  • Peeled and de-veined shrimp: 1/6 pound per serving
  • Two pounds of raw headless, unpeeled shrimp will yield 1 pound of cooked, peeled and de-veined shrimp
  • Remember to purchase seafood last and keep it cold during the trip home
  • Shrimp are available in a variety of fresh or fresh or frozen and can be sold by peeled, de-veined, or with the tail on
  • Shrimp should have a mild aroma (similar to the ocean), tightly adhering shells and firm fresh
  • Store shrimp in the coldest part of your refrigerator at 32 degrees F. and use within two days, or freeze at 0 degrees F for up to six months
  • Keep raw and cooked seafood thoroughly wash knives, cutting surfaces, sponges and your hands with hot soapy water
  • Always marinade seafood in the refrigerator
  • Discard marinade; it contains raw juices which may harbor bacteria
  • When marinade is needed for basting reserve a portion before adding raw seafood
  • Shrimp are easily prepared by the following methods: boiled, broiled, baked, grilled, or fried

My recipe this week is my take on Scampi called: “Shrimp Scampi Florentine”.  This delicious dish is made with fresh flavors of spinach, tomatoes, mushrooms, spices, and sweet shrimp. I would also recommend a very aromatic bottle of Vintner's Cuvée Sauvignon Blanc, 2008, from Rosenblum Cellars in California. This Sauvignon Blanc is crisp and has aromas of citrus, melon, and figs. Chill a bottle to share with friends over good conversation. This versatile wine makes the perfect complement for fresh green salads. Please drink responsibly.

Shrimp Scampi Florentine
"Shrimp Scampi Florentine"
Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 15-20 minutes

2 1/2 lbs of fresh spinach
2 oz. of unsalted butter
1 shallot
8 oz of button mushrooms
2 tomatoes, seeds removed, sliced thinly
Salt and fresh ground pepper
A pinch of Nutmeg
1/2 ounce of flour
1/2 pint of whole milk
1 ounce of grated Fontina cheese: (Mild provolone, gruyere, or gouda cheeses may all be substituted for Fontina, depending on your personal preference)
1 lb of cooked, de-veined, and shelled shrimp

Rinse the spinach well, removing any thick stalks, and put into sauce pan with a good pinch of salt. Cover and cook for about 3-5 minutes. In a small saucepan, heat half the butter. Chop the shallot finely and cook it in the butter until soft. Next, wipe and slice the mushrooms. Place in pan and cook with the shallots. Drain the spinach well and chop finely. Mix the shallots, mushrooms, and tomatoes with the spinach. Then add seasonings and a pinch of nutmeg. Place mixed ingredients into oven proof dish. Melt half the remaining butter in a saucepan and add the flour. Gradually stir in the milk, return the sauce to the heat and bring to a boil. Season with salt and pepper. Grate the cheese and add half to the sauce. Heat the remaining butter and quickly toss the shrimp over heat. Put the shrimp on top of the spinach mixture and cover with sauce. Sprinkle the remaining cheese over and brown quickly under a hot broiler. Serve immediately over pasta with a big tossed green salad, and a piece of crunchy Italian bread.  Serves: about 4 people 

Till Next Time..........................................................

Copyright © 2013 “Family Plus Food Equals Love” All Rights Requested

Friday, April 19, 2013

“Grandma's Marinara Tomato Sauce” & “Grandma's Meatballs” Recipes

As the weather gets warmer and Spring is really in full bloom, it brings to mind that Summer time is approaching. A time for the beach, BBQ’s, picnics, family gatherings, and just enjoying the time outside in the sun. One of my favorite foods to eat in the summer are tomatoes. Tomatoes are now available year-round, but the most quantities, and the best flavor are when they are at it’s peak season from July to September. They can be red, yellow, orange, green, purple, or brown in color. Tomatoes are fruits in a botanical sense. Their taste and flavor have a subtle sweetness that is harmonized by a slightly bitter and acidic taste.

Packed with vitamins and antioxidants, tomatoes are one of the healthiest foods you can purchase. They are high in Vitamin C, Vitamin A, fat-free, low in sodium, and satisfy 10 percent of your daily potassium needs. Tomatoes should be kept at a cool room temperature, never refrigerated.

The varieties of tomatoes come in several shapes and sizes, plus can be used in numerous ways of eating, drinking, or cooking. The spherical tomato, or known as rounds can be used for juice production, sandwiches, and salads. The pear-shaped or oval tomatoes, known as plum tomatoes, are primarily used to make tomato paste, due to being less juicy and less flavorful. Then we have the small cherry or grape tomatoes, which are usually eaten whole in salads or as a snack. These also are firmer and may be cooked on kabobs or grilled. Lastly we have the beefsteak or sandwich tomatoes. These are about 5 inches in diameter. One slice is enough to cover a large sandwich.   

The tomato was introduced from the Spanish New World to European botanists in the 16th century. The use of tomato sauce with pasta appears for the first time in the Italian cookbook “L’Apicio Moderno,” by the Roman Chef, Francesco Leonardi, edited in 1790.

Making a great tomato sauce is something you can be proud of once you get it right. No store bought pasta or spaghetti sauce can compare with the taste of a sauce that you make from scratch. You can use this sauce on a variety of pasta including spaghetti, macaroni and it is also a good base for lasagna. My recipe this week is two fold, one is my mom’s Marinara Sauce and the other is her Meatball recipe. The recipe for this sauce was passed down from my family, and now to you. Buon Appetto! 

Grandma’s Marinara Tomato Sauce

2 cans of 28 oz. crushed tomatoes
2 cans of tomato paste
Olive Oil or Canola Oil
5 large garlic cloves
Salt to taste
2 1/2 tablespoons of Oregano flakes
2 1/2 tablespoons of Parsley flakes
2 1/2 tablespoons of Basil flakes
2 dried Bay leaves

On medium heat sauté olive oil to thinly cover bottom of pot. Add garlic. Then add crushed tomatoes and paste.  Add 1/2 can of water (use paste can). Put in salt, parsley, basil, oregano to taste and add 2 dried bay leaves. Stir while cooking on low simmer (after starts to boil) for 1 hour. You can add a small amount of sugar if desired (optional). Cover on or slightly off to thicken sauce. Enjoy with pasta of your choice and meatballs.

“Grandma’s Meatballs”
Yields: 30 meatballs-(10 meatballs per pound)

2 cups of bread crumbs (if too stiff add a sprinkle of water)
3 lbs of beef chuck chopped meat (80% lean, but not too lean, you need a little fat for moisture)
1 1/2 teaspoons of minced garlic
3/4 cup of fresh Pecorino Romano cheese, grated
6 eggs
1/2 teaspoon of salt
1/2 teaspoon of freshly ground pepper
3 fistfuls of fresh parsley-chopped
Vegetable oil or Canola oil 
Place oil about 1/4 to 1/2 inches in frying pan. Heat oil before placing the meatballs in pan. Put the beef chuck in a med-sized bowl and add all ingredients except the oil. Gently combine the meat using your hands until evenly mixed. The mixture should be slightly wet and workable, not too sticky. Using your hands, gently shape meat into balls. Don’t worry if they are not perfectly round, but try to make them all uniform for even cooking. Don’t roll them over and over, be gentle. Add the meatballs to the pan and fry them until they are brown on one side then turn. Keep turning with tongs until they are completely and evenly browned. Transfer the cooked meatballs to a paper towel to drain. Now it is time to place your meatballs into your sauce to cook for a while and then serve with pasta of your choice.

Tip: In place of bread crumbs, take chunks of stale Italian bread and soak in a bowl with water or milk. As it softens remove crust and squeeze water or milk out of bread chunks. Separate into small pieces and add to chopped meat mixture.

Till Next Time………………………………..

Copyright © 2013 “Family Plus Food Equals Love” All Rights Reserved

Friday, April 12, 2013

"Sicilian Baked Caponata with Spinach Pasta" In Honor Of The "Goddess Ceres"

In the ancient Roman religion, there was a goddess called “Ceres“. She was the daughter of Saturn and Ops, plus the sister of Jupiter, Pluto, Neptune, Vesta, and Juno. Many countries claimed the honor of her birth. An ancient temple was dedicated to her in Catania, in Sicily, Italy. Ceres was beautiful. She was tall, majestic, fair in complexion, had flaxen hair, and her eyes were luxurious. Her head was crowned with a garland of poppies, ears of corn, or wheat. She is holding in her right hand a bunch of wheat and in her left hand was a torch. 

Ceres was described as being the Roman Goddess of agriculture, abundance, grain crops, and fertility. She is honored for seven days in April, May, at harvest time, plus during Roman marriages, and funeral rites. Ceres was believed to be the Earth Goddess and equivalent of the Greek Goddess Demeter. Greek and Roman religions plus mythology therefore become very closely entwined.  The word “cereals” derives from the name of the goddess Ceres due to her association with edible grains. At harvest time, Ceres was credited with teaching humans how to grow, preserve, and prepare grain and corn. She was thought to be responsible for the fertility of the land.

Ceres had a strong mythological and cult connection with Sicily. According to the legend, she begged Jupiter (her brother) that Sicily be placed in the heavens. The result, because the island (Sicily) is triangular in shape, was the constellation Traingulum, an early name of which was Sicilia. Ceres was the only one of the goddesses who was involved on a day-to-day basis in the lives of the common people. While others occasionally “dabbled” in human affairs when it suited their personal interests, or came to the aid of “special” mortals they favored, the goddess Ceres was truly the nurturer of mankind.

The Romans explained the turning of the seasons by the story of “Proserpine,” who was Ceres daughter. Proserpine was forced by her husband, to stay in the underworld for “four” months every year because she once ate food in the underworld and now she can never leave forever. She comes out in the spring and spends time until autumn with her mother Ceres. Then she goes back to the underworld in the winter. Her parting from Ceres every fall is why plants lose their leaves, seeds lie dormant under the ground, and nothing grows until spring when Proserpine is reunited with her mother. This is a short version of the myth.

Most of the information on Ceres was taken courtesy of “Long Island Cares, Inc. / The Harry Chapin Food Bank” a food bank on Long Island, New York. Their food banking computer system was named in honor of “Ceres.” Harry Chapin founded Long Island Cares in 1980. It is a non profit organization and community based.  Their mission is to bring together all available resources for the benefit of the hungry on Long Island. They provide emergency food where and when it is needed. They sponsor programs that help families achieve self-sufficiency, and educate the general public on hunger on Long Island. Long Island Cares relies on the generosity and strong support of the individuals, corporations, and foundations that make up the community. They are deeply grateful to so many who support their commitment to the community. So please help us fight hunger by going to Long Island Cares which is and click on the donate page. It is a secure site plus there are a number of ways to make donations. Thank you so much for your help. 

My recipe this week is in honor of the Goddess “Ceres”. It is called “Sicilian Baked Caponata with Spinach Pasta”. This dish is totally amazing! Being Ceres is the goddess of agriculture; I thought this recipe fits perfectly for what Ceres is believed to be about. Most of the ingredients are freshly grown vegetables and grains for the pasta. This dish is not only pleasing to your taste but very colorful to put on any table. The marriage of all the veggies and the grated cheese melted and gooey brings a taste of unending love for simple good food. Enjoy!  

"Sicilian Baked Caponata with Spinach Pasta"

1 medium onion, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves of garlic, peeled and finely chopped
1 large green pepper, seeded and cut into cubes
1 large red pepper, seeded and cut into cubes
1 small eggplant cut into cubed
6 tomatoes, skinned, seeded and chopped
1 tablespoon tomato puree
3 tablespoons of red wine
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
6 oz of spinach (green) noodles, cooked
4 oz of Pecorino Romano grated cheese

Fry the onion gently in the olive oil for 4 minutes; add the garlic, red and green peppers, eggplant, chopped tomato, and cook covered for about 5 minutes. Add the tomato puree, wine, salt, and pepper to taste. Simmer gently for 10-15 minutes, until the vegetables are almost soft. Remove from the heat and stir in the cooked noodles. Spoon into a shallow flameproof dish and sprinkle with the grated cheese. Bake into a pre-heated oven at 375° F. for 15 minutes. When the cheese is melted and browned you know that it is ready to mangia! Serves: 4

Till Next Time……………………………….

Copyright © 2013 “Family Plus Food Equals Love” All Rights Reserved

Saturday, April 6, 2013

A "Sour Cream Coffee Cake" Recipe For "National Coffee Cake Day"

Did you know that the word “cake” has had a long history and it is of Viking origin? It comes from the Old Norse word “kaka”.  In ancient Rome, basic bread dough was sometimes enriched with butter, eggs, and honey, which produced a sweet and cake-like baked good. Early cakes in England were mostly bread. The difference between a “cake” and “bread” is that a cake has a flat shape and it is round, plus the cooking method is different.  Bread is cooked upright and it is not turned in the cooking process.

Easter and Passover has come and gone and I hope everyone enjoyed their holidays. But even though there was so much food, we still crave desserts, cookies, and cake, that will never end. Which brings me to Sunday, April 7th “National Coffee Cake Day".  Yes, there is a day to celebrate Coffee Cakes! This holiday has been celebrated for many years and it seems to have started in the United States. There isn’t any record or proclamation on how it started, but it is still a food holiday and we have to celebrate it! Who doesn’t enjoy a slice of coffee cake with a cup of coffee? So let’s get in on the fun!

What is coffee cake anyhow? It is a cake served with coffee or eaten as a dessert. Under this definition, a coffee cake does not necessarily contain coffee. Coffee cakes are typically flavored with cinnamon, apple, nuts, and fruits. Blueberries and raisins are a common ingredient added to this dessert. These cakes sometimes have a crumb topping or just a sugar glaze, made with cinnamon. There are many different variations and ingredients that make each baked coffee cake unique.

My recipe this week is my mom’s “Sour Cream Coffee Cake”. I made this cake as an extra dessert for Easter this year. When my sister-in-law saw me put it on the table, she was so happy as it is her all time favorite. This recipe is our “go to” cake for a delectable dessert. The taste is delightful with a cup of coffee but also can be enjoyed with a cup of tea too! It is very easy and is done in a short time, ready for unexpected company. Under the crunchy sugar top is a delicious interior with sweet soft raisins that melt in your mouth. You can add a dollop of Ice Cream or a few strawberries on the side, but it really needs no embellishment. It is that good! So, enjoy your celebration of “National Coffee Cake Day” and don‘t forget to save a piece for yourself. 

I have to give a big THANK YOU to Rossella from “Cooking with Nonna”. My recipe for the “Cuzzupa - Calabrian Easter Cake” was entered in a contest for traditional Italian Easter desserts. (This recipe was posted on my blog for Palm Sunday) Well, I won the contest! I will be receiving a beautiful gift basket filled with Academia Barilla products. If you would love to see my recipe plus many other Italian dishes, you can go to Thank you again.

“Sour Cream Coffee Cake”
Sour Cream Coffee Cake

3 large eggs
1 1/2 cups of sugar
1/2 cup of vegetable oil
3 cups of unbleached all purpose sifted flour
1/2 teaspoon of salt
1 teaspoon of baking soda
1 teaspoon of cream of tarter
1 cup of dairy sour cream
1/2 cup of raisins
1/4 cup of sugar for top of cake before baking

Preheat oven to 350° F. In a bowl beat eggs until thick and lemon colored. Gradually add sugar beating until light and fluffy. Gradually beat in the oil. Add the sifted dry ingredients alternately with the sour cream. Add the raisins. Pour into greased and floured pan. (9 x 12 x 2) Sprinkle the last 1/4 cup of sugar over top of batter in pan. Bake in moderate oven for 30 minutes or so until cake tester inserted in center comes out clean.

Serves: 12 or more depending on how you cut it. Cutting it on a diagonal makes it look like a diamond shape. 


Till Next Time…………………………….

Copyright © 2013 “Family Plus Food Equals Love” All Rights Reserved