Thursday, January 19, 2017

It Never Rains in California

This was the view from our kitchen this morning.  We here in San Diego are in for 6 straight days of rain.  After years of drought, I think we will have our water problems solved for the moment, although there will be problems with this much rain in a short period of time.
And, as usual here at Casa Phillips, it's time to make some soup.  Soup is one of those delicious foods that soothes your insides when your outside is cold and wet.  Today it's minestrone.  Minestrone is different in every part of Italy--literally it means 'without stock' and many cooks in Italy make theirs with water instead of broth, adding rinds from Parmigiano Reggiano and lots of herbs to the pot.

Mine began with sweet Italian sausage in my Cuisinart Multi-Cooker.  If you have a slow cooker, this is a great way to make soup, just set it and forget it.  In the Multi-Cooker, you can saute everything then turn it to slow cooker and you're done.  If you decide to use another protein, chicken, or pancetta will work here.  Or you can make this vegetarian by using olive oil to saute and then vegetable broth for the liquid.
Brown the sausage and remove any excess fat

Next in is the battuto; onion, celery, carrot and some tomato
Saute everything until the onion begins to soften
I add stock, and this is my go to when I don't have homemade, it's a concentrate so you can add as much as you like with water
Parmigiano Reggiano rinds (cut into cubes) zucchini, and some leftover green beans go in
1/2 a head of escarole, cleaned, and then cut into 1/2-inch ribbons---this is about 4 cups

Four hours on high

Serves 6 to 8

1 pound sweet Italian sausage
1 medium onion, chopped
3 carrots chopped
4 ribs celery, chopped, including the leaves
1 tablespoon dried sage leaves (or rosemary or thyme)
1/2 cup canned chopped tomatoes
8 cups broth or water
3 medium zucchini, cut into dice
Rind of Parmigiano Reggiano cut into small pieces
1 cup green beans, ends snipped, and cut into 1-inch pieces
One 14.5-ounce can small white beans, rinsed and drained
4 cups chopped greens (I used escarole, but chard, or kale, or spinach works here)
salt and pepper
Grated Parmigiano Reggiano for garnish

In a Dutch oven, cook the sausage until it is no longer pink.  remove any excess fat from the pan, add the onion, carrot, celery and sage leaves, saute for 5 to 6 minutes until the onion is softened.  Add the tomatoes, and saute another 2 minutes.  (If you are using a slow cooker, saute everything, add it to the slow cooker, then proceed)
Add the broth, zucchini, rind, beans, and greens, and simmer for 1 1/2 hours, or cook for 4 hours on high or 8 hours on low in the slow cooker.  Season with salt and pepper and serve garnished with additional grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese.  
Cook's Note:  If you want to add pasta, cook it first before adding it to the pot since it will absorb some of the liquid.  
Cook's Note 2:  Instead of canned beans you can add lentils or split peas (about 1 cup) not only do they add bulk, but they also thicken the soup.

Soup is a great way to use up leftovers, too.  That leftover rotisserie chicken would be perfect in this soup, or any leftover vegetables from other dinners can be tossed in.
Ciao for Now.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Soup is Good Food

I've had a love for wild rice since I was a child.  Growing up in an Italian household, it wasn't something we had very often, so it seemed a bit exotic.  My first encounter with it, was when my mom decided to stuff Cornish game hens---it was a very 60's meal.
As the weather has gotten colder, I'd been thinking about making a chicken and wild rice soup, and it was a winner here at Casa Phillips.  The great thing about wild rice is that you can cook a pound of it, and then freeze what you don't use to toss into other dishes later.
When wild rice is cooked, it splits, giving you a soft center with a crunchy exterior.

Chicken and Wild Rice Soup
Serves 6
This is a great way to use up leftover chicken or holiday turkey.

1/4 cup unsalted butter
1 cup finely chopped onion
3 medium carrots, chopped
3 ribs celery, chopped including the leaves
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
6 cups chicken or vegetable broth
2 cups cooked chicken, cut into bite sized pieces
2 cups cooked wild rice
salt and pepper

In a Dutch oven, heat the butter, and saute the onion, carrots, and celery for 4 to 5 minutes, until the vegetables have softened.  
Add the flour, and cook for 2 to 3 minutes, whisking constantly.
Gradually add the broth, and bring to a boil.  

Add the chicken and wild rice, and simmer for 10 minutes.  
Season with salt and pepper and serve.  The soup can be refrigerated for up to 4 days, or frozen for 2 months.  

You can jazz this up by adding some heavy cream for a more luxurious mouth-feel, or add some other vegetables, like sauteed mushrooms, zucchini, or spinach.  Buon appetito.


1 1/2 pounds thick cut bacon
I posted this photo on my Facebook page and as with most photos of bacon, I got a lot of requests to know what I was cooking.  So, I'm posting this short blog post to give you the recipe for some awesome bacon jam.  Even my friend in South Africa wanted to know what was I doing.  So here you are.

Bacon Jam

1 1/2 pounds thick cut bacon, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 large sweet yellow onion
1 garlic clove, minced (optional)
1/2 cup maple syrup
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon Creole mustard (or whole grain with a few drops of Tabasco)
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon sherry vinegar (see note)

In a large skillet, cook the bacon until crisp. (you can either leave all the drippings, or take out all but 2 tablespoons---I left them for flavor---it's a holiday, OK??)
Add the onion and garlic if using, and saute until the onions are softened, about 3 minutes.  
Add the syrup, balsamic vinegar, mustard and Worcestershire and simmer for 25 to 30 minutes (this will depend on the surface area of your pan---if it's a 12 inch pan, this will take about 25 minutes, smaller, will take about 40) until the mixture has thickened and is jam-like.
Taste and add sherry vinegar to taste---this will depend on your maple syrup---no maple syrup in containers shaped like women, please--that's NOT maple syrup.
Cool the jam, put into a food processor and pulse on and off for a more jam like consistency. Refrigerate for up to 1 week, or freeze for up to 1 month.  Delicious on burgers, sandwiches, and a cheese platter.

Beautiful and delicious!
Ciao for now.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Not Your Nonnas Panettone

 When I saw this photo on author Elizabeth Minchilli's instagram, and she described it as panettone with ground coffee and chocolate (sans the dried fruit) from  Roscioli Caffe,  I was hooked.  It just so happened, I had 10 pounds of butter, 3 dozen eggs, leftover chocolate from a binge of toffee making, and a recipe that I'd developed for traditional panettone.  Since the dough needs a long slow rise in the refrigerator, I began to make it yesterday afternoon.
First things first, chopping the block of chocolate.  Originally 11 pounds, I've used over half of it already. Best to use a serrated knife to chop the chocolate.

Into the mixer
Adding the chocolate and espresso powder

Doesn't look like much at this stage, but it's well mixed
Into a bowl to rise on the counter
Ready for its slow refrigerated rise
Good Morning!

These needed about 2 hours to rise on the counter since it's cold in my kitchen today

Peeking into the oven about 45 minutes in


Not Your Nonna's Panettone
Makes three 6-inch panettone

1 1/2 cups warm water (110 degrees)
2 packages (3 tablespoons) dry active yeast
1/2 cup honey 
8 large eggs
1 cup unsalted butter (2 sticks) melted and cooled
2 teaspoons vanilla paste or extract
2 tablespoons instant espresso powder
7 cups all-purpose flour plus more for shaping
3 cups chopped chocolate (no chocolate chips---most of them don't melt)
1 large egg beaten with 2 tablespoons of water
Raw sugar for sprinkling over top

  1. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle or dough hook, mix together the water, yeast and honey.  When the mixture is bubbling, add the eggs, butter, vanilla, and espresso powder.  Add the flour and chocolate, and mix until blended.  Turn into a bowl, cover with plastic wrap and let rise for 2 hours.  (Make sure you are using a large bowl, because this will rise out of a smaller bowl)
  2. Transfer the bowl to the refrigerator and let rise overnight.  
  3. Cook's Note:  At this point shape into 3 balls and freeze for up to 2 months.  Defrost in the refrigerator and proceed.  
  4. Coat the inside of 3 panettone bakers with non-stick cooking spray, and shape the dough into 3 balls. Put into the bakers, cover with plastic wrap and let rise on the counter until doubled.  Cook's note: today my kitchen was pretty cold, so it took 2 hours: depending on the atmospheric conditions in your kitchen this may take 1 hour.  
  5. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, put the bakers onto a baking sheet and bake the panettone for 45 minutes, lower the heat to 300 and bake an additional 15 minutes, until the bread is crisp onthe outside, and sounds hollow when hit on the top.  Allow to cool completely. 
                                                                  Buon Natale tutti!

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Meeting the Cheese Maker: Podere il Casale

Early morning found our group on the bus again, headed to the region of Val d'Orcia in Tuscany near Pienza.  This is the area where the best Pecorino cheese is made, and we were headed to Podere il Casale an organic farm.  Our bus driver made a few wrong turns, but we finally headed down a bone shattering rutted road, towards the farm.  A torrential rain was falling, and the weather had turned cold, I was waiting for it to snow.
Our group was epic, they were ready for anything

We were met by the owner of the farm, Ulysses.  He came to this area in 1991 from Switzerland, wanting to start a farm and to make cheese.  He began our tour by telling us a bit about himself, the farm and then inviting us to see the animals.

After explaining the sustainable practices on the farm, Ulysses led us all back to a warm room where he would make some cheese for us.  Pecora is the Italian word for sheep, thus the name Pecorino for the cheese.

After donning his lab coat, Ulysses began the cheese making demonstration.  

Adding Rennet


Cheese molds

Curds and Whey

Shaping the cheese

Putting the cheese into the molds

 Once the cheese was made we were taken to the dairy where the cheeses are aged.

Fresh cheese

Very old cheese

After the visit to the dairy it was on to the dining room for our lunch.  A selection of various aged cheeses, and condiments to serve with them began the meal and from there we were treated to delicious courses from the farm.  

Once we'd had our lunch, and thanked our host, we were off to a walk about in Montepulciano.  The rain continued to fall, but our group was intent on getting the most out of our days in Umbria.  So grateful to have been able to share my favorite places with them.  Ciao for now.