Friday, January 31, 2014

WINGING it on Super Bowl Sunday!

Super Bowl is a weekend that celebrates our American culture, and it is also the realization that we are now five weeks into 2014. That means we have all recuperated from the feasting and celebrating of the holidays, and we are also allowed a small and deserved break from our New Year's dieting resolutions.

Very few foods equate Super Bowl Sunday in our minds like Buffalo Wings! There are countless ways to prepare wings, and I personally love them in a mouthwatering and crispy toss of buttery hot sauce and sweet honey. Enjoying them with a fresh blue cheese dip is an added plus. I strongly encourage making your own blue cheese with fresh ingredients. The rich flavors are just so much better than store-bought, and I am happy to share my recipe.

I will be spending Super Bowl with friends and family and enjoying great food and a variety of great wings.
I wish all my readers a fun and exciting game!

2 dozen wings (washed and patted dry)
salt and pepper
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon garlic powder
3/4 cup honey
1/2 cup hot sauce
1 stick butter, melted
2 tablespoons brown sugar

Spray a baking sheet lightly and evenly with nonstick cooking spray. Mix the salt, pepper, cayenne pepper, paprika and garlic powder. Layer the wings on the baking sheet and sprinkle with the mixed spices. Bake at 400 degrees until golden brown, turning over once in the middle of baking. The wings will be done when the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees. You may also opt to deep fry the wings in a large pot. Heat several inches of vegetable oil to 350 degrees, and fry the wings in batches until golden brown.

In a large bowl, mix honey, hot sauce, butter and brown sugar very well. Add cooked wings a few at a time and toss until fully coated. Layer the wings on the baking sheet and heat under the broiler for a few minutes in order to let the coating set to a nice golden crisp.
Serve with celery, carrots, red pepper slices and blue cheese dressing.

Home-made Blue Cheese Dip

1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup sour cream
2 tablespoons heavy cream
1 tablespoon white vinegar
1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
3/4 cup crumbled blue cheese
freshly ground black pepper

In a bowl, mix first five ingredients well. Gently stir in crumbled blue cheese. Sprinkle black pepper to taste. Serve chilled.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Happy New Year! No Resolutions! Italian Wedding Soup!

Let's face it, we don't keep our resolutions. Resolutions are pretty much a thing of the past by the third week of January, and I believe my estimation is a generous one! In that spirit, I do not have a resolution for 2014. I just intend to keep on cooking, eating and creating beautiful foodships throughout the year.

So let's begin!

For me, January is all about winter storms and Italian wedding soup. While every other food writer, chef and TV food show host hail the virtues of health salads and detox cocktails in this aftermath of the holiday season, I decline to join the crowd. Why should I blog about one of my salad recipes? There will be time enough for that in July. There are plenty of lean meal recipes floating all around the universe this week, and that fact puts me right into a comfort zone where I am completely off the hook from encouraging everyone to go from 5000 calories per day to 1200.

That said, I am sitting here on the second day of this month and waiting for the predicted snow storm to hit the Northeast. I get a lot of work done at my desk during the winter months and especially during a snowstorm. On such occasions I always like to have a pot of soup ready to keep me company. Italian wedding soup is among my favorites, and it is perfect snowstorm comfort food.

In my new cookbook, Foodships, I write about my love for Italian wedding soup, and I also write a bit about its origins. Contrary to what many may think, the name of this soup did not develop due to a presence at the happy occasion of marriage. Rather, it is called wedding soup because the ingredients, to many Italians, are a perfect marriage of meat and vegetables in a delicate broth.
For my Northeast readers, enjoy your soup in the coming snowy days! For the rest of the country, make soup anyway! Happy New Year to one and all!

Italian Wedding Soup

1 cup seasoned bread crumbs
1 pound of ground beef
1 cup Pecorino Romano cheese, grated
1 egg
1/4 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley, minced
4 garlic cloves, peeled
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
In a large bowl, mix bread crumbs, ground beef, Pecorino Romano cheese, egg, and parsley, salt and pepper. Press garlic cloves through a garlic presser and add to mixture. Mix all ingredients until well blended. Roll into baby meatballs. In a large soup pot, warm olive oil over medium heat and brown the meatballs. Remove meatballs and set aside.

One medium onion, diced
2 teaspoons chicken base
2 cups of fresh escarole, cleaned and chopped
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 1/2 quarts chicken stock
1 cup Pecorino Romano grated cheese
Acini de pepe
In the same large soup pot used to brown the meatballs, add onion to the drippings and cook until tender. Mix in chicken base and allow to dissolve well. Add escarole and stir as greens start to wilt down into the onions. Sprinkle in salt and pepper. Pour in the chicken stock and simmer for 30 minutes. Add meatballs and allow to simmer another 15 minutes. In a second pot, boil water for the acini de pepe. When water begins to boil, add salt liberally. Let water return to a boil. Add acini de pepe, and cook until al dente. Drain and add to soup along with Pecorino Romano cheese.