Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Chef Chuck's Minestrone Soup

Some of the best soups in the world originated from Italy, Minestrone is one of those soups that have been around for hundreds of years. This soup is mostly made with a blend of vegetables found in your refrigerator, I basically start with a soffritto, celery, carrots and onions. As we know, Italians are the best at making dishes with what they have available at the time! Be creative making this recipe and make it your own special way using this recipe only as a guideline. This warm hearty soup should be served with bread and a salad. Great anytime of the year.
Happy New Year!!






Chef Chuck's Minestrone Soup

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

4 ounces pancetta or bacon chopped
3 celery stalks, chopped
3 carrots, chopped
1 onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 large fresh tomatoes, chopped or

15 ounce can chopped tomatoes
4 cups chicken stock or vegetable
1 can cannellini beans drained and rinsed
1 cup small pasta cooked set aside
3 tablespoons flat leaf parsley chopped
salt and pepper to taste
parmigiano cheese

Heat oil in large pot add pancetta, celery, carrots, and onions.
Cook over low heat about 5 minutes, stir often. Add garlic and
tomatoes, pour in stock, add salt and pepper, bring to boil.
Half cover and lower to simmer for 20 minutes. Add beans
cover and simmer 10 more minutes. Stir in parsley, sprinkle

on cheese and serve with crusty Italian bread.
Buon Appetito

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Chocolate Ricotta Layer Cake

Happy Birthday, Margaret our web master, but more importantly a new family member whom we adore! This is Margaret's official birthday cake request. It is day dream worthy: rich, creamy, and worth waiting a whole year for!




Chocolate Ricotta Layer Cake
6 ounces bittersweet chocolate
1 cup of butter (2 sticks)
2 3/4 cups sifted flour sift before measuring
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 large eggs room temperature
1 cup organic sugar
1 cup brown sugar
11/2 teaspoons vanilla
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons ricotta whole milk


Frosting
1 cup sugar
6 tablespoons flour
6 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
pinch of salt
11/2 cups whole milk

4 ounces bittersweet chocolate
1 tablespoon vanilla
3 sticks butter room temperature
1/2 cup confectioners sugar
optional shredded coconut or chopped nuts





Melt chocolate with butter then set aside and cool. Sift together flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder and salt set aside. Beat eggs, sugars and vanilla in a large bowl with mixer at medium speed about 3 minutes. At low speed mix in chocolate then alternate flour and ricotta, ending with flour. Spread batter evenly in pans. Bake at 350 degrees for about 35 minutes in middle oven rack until toothpick comes out clean. Cool cakes 10 minutes then invert onto cake racks for 1 hour. While cake is cooling start your frosting. In a small saucepan whisk sugar, flour, cocoa, and a pinch of salt over medium heat for 1 minute. Whisk in milk stirring constantly until mixture boils. Remove from heat, whisk in chocolate and vanilla until smooth. Transfer to bowl and cool cover surface with parchment paper. Beat butter in mixer till creamy, then slowly add chocolate a little at a time, then add sugar. If icing is too thin refrigerate for up to 1 hour. Cut each cake into 2 layers with a serrated knife and place cut side down onto cake plate. Spread frosting on top of each layer, and add remaining on top and sides. Coat with organic coconut. Serve with berries and ice cream.
Ricette by Chef Chuck's Cucina

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Chef Chuck's "Tuscan Round Bread"




Old World Tuscan Bread!

Here I go again, I have a strong desire on the weekends to bake bread. There is no doubt I have a bread making addiction, this craze has been with me a long time. Come join me on this baking experience, I promise it will be tasty!

This bread is loaded with strong tastes and aromas. The garlic is home grown, I brought it back from Italy. This particular garlic is from the ancient Island of Sicily, in the town of Nubia, {Nubian red garlic}. I grew lots and lots so that I will make it through the winter. I once did a live segment making this bread and I left the studio with a strong smell behind! There is more inside this round glory of delight, pancetta, Italian bacon. We have two main ingredients that pack distinct flavor in this bread. So gather round the Tuscan Round!!

Our basic Italian Bread Recipe:

2 cups warm water
1 tablespoon dry yeast
1 tablespoon sugar
4-5 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon salt
Plus: 4 thick slices of pancetta 1/4" thick cut in small pieces
4-5 garlic cloves minced
cracked black pepper
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Add 1 tablespoon of yeast to warm water and sugar, stir. Let sit for 7 minutes (until foamy). Pour into mixer bowl, set to a medium speed, add olive oil. Mix in one cup of flour at a time with salt until it forms into ball of dough. Dust a cutting board with flour and knead dough for 3 minutes. Transfer to large bowl, lightly coat with olive oil, cover with plastic wrap and place a small towel on top. Let rise in a warm area for 1 hour 30 minutes - 2 hours. In a small frying pan add olive oil and saute pancetta till lightly browned then add garlic for no more then 1 minute stir in black pepper, set aside. When dough becomes 2-3 times it's original size transfer to floured board. Using a rolling pin roll dough to about 12x18. Spread evenly your pancetta, garlic and olive oil mixture. Gently roll up and place in a deep oiled round pan pinch ends together. Bake at 475 degrees for 15 minutes or until golden brown to your liking.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Chocolate Espresso Cookies


Chocolate Espresso Cookies
One of our most frequently requested cookies. 
Rich and flavorful, they will certainly fulfill your chocolate fix. 
If not, just eat another one, or two. They're that good.

2 cups flour
1/2 cup cocoa powder
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
16 oz or 2 cups semisweet chocolate
4 large eggs
2 tsp vanilla
2 tsp espresso powder finely ground
10 tbs butter softened
1/1/2 cups packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar

Sift together flour, cocoa powder, baking powder and salt in a bowl, set aside. Melt chocolate in a bowl over simmering water on stove, stirring till melted. Beat eggs and vanilla lightly with a fork and sprinkle coffee over, set aside. In a mixer beat butter till smooth and creamy, beat in sugars. Reduce speed add egg mixture then chocolate in a slow stream beat till combined. Scrape bowl set mixer on slow add dry ingredients mix till combined. Do not over beat. Cover with plastic and let sit for 30 minutes. Set oven to 350 and line baking pans with parchment paper. Scoop 1 heaping tablespoon of dough onto paper. Bake 5 minutes then rotate pan and cook another 5 minutes, cool cookies on paper then slide parchment paper onto the racks. These are chewy and quite tasty.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Chef Chuck's Mediterranean Stuffed Shrimp


Crustacean Creations!!


This salty crunchy goodness is one of my creations that you must indulge in.
Its the beginning of our traditional 7 seafoods for Christmas Eve. Our families
have enjoyed this seafood tradition forever. We have changed some of the recipes
like this one but still continue to have 7 different seafoods for dinner.
This shrimp dish is stuffed with gooey goodness of herb goat cheese then wrapped
like a gift with one of the best hams known to man, proscuitto! So please try
this recipe, it will be your present to you and your family. Also for Christmas
Eve our special pasta dish, Nanie's thin tomato sauce with black olives and pinon nuts over
angel hair pasta.


Happy Holidays


Mediterranean Stuffed Shrimp
12 medium shrimp peeled, tail on and butterfly
12 thin slices of prosciutto
5 ounces herb goat cheese
2 eggs beaten with a little salt and pepper
1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs
1/2 cup light olive oil or canola oil for frying


Prepare shrimp and rinse, stuff with about 1 teaspoon of cheese then wrap
with prosciutto. Dip shrimp carefully in egg mixture then in bread crumbs.
Fry in oil 3 minutes until golden brown or deep fry using canola oil at 350
degrees about 2 minutes, only fry a few at a time. Place on paper towels to
remove any excess oil. Arrange on serving platter and enjoy.
Can replace goat cheese with your favorite soft cheese.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Italian Cream Puffs



Oh, so light and creamy!


Hello my fellow foodies, I thought I would do another dessert, you know you can never have enough around the holidays. This is the season to enjoy sweet pastries. These cream puffs are no doubt a party favorite. One is just not enough, I find myself going back for more. Puff, there gone!
Happy Holidays




Italian Cream Puffs
1 cup flour
1 cup eggs 4-5 eggs
1/4 cup whole milk
3/4 cup water
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
chocolate for melting
pudding or pastry cream of your choice


In a small saucepan on medium heat add water, milk, salt and butter heat to boil
remove from heat add flour and mix with a wooden spoon till ball forms, return to heat for 10 seconds. Place in mixer and cool for 7 minutes. Add lightly scrambled eggs slowly, batter should be smooth. Fill pastry bag and swirl dough in about 2" diameter circles or you can make mini eclair shapes or drop by tablespoon on an un- greased sheet. Cook 20 minutes at 400 degrees or until golden brown. When cooled dip in melted chocolate or drizzle melted chocolate on tops, refrigerate then fill with pastry cream.
Cream suggestions: pastry cream, vanilla pudding made with 1 cup heavy cream and 1 cup whole milk or any pudding you like, whip cream, whip cream with cocoa powder, or whip cream with espresso coffee finely grated. Use your imagination for the fillings let me know what you come up with.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Italy's Creamy Dessert, Tiramisu


This recipe is sent from the dessert heavens. Tiramisu is a holiday favorite. The cookie (ladyfingers) recipe dates back to the 13th century. Easy to make and always a crowd pleaser! Have your guests sign a disclaimer stating "habit forming and addictive" before they take their first spoonful.

Savoiardi or Ladyfinger Cookies

3 eggs
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup flour
pinch of salt
2/3 tablespoon butter
1/4 cup powdered sugar



Marscarpone Cream
3/4 cup heavy cream
5 tablespoons organic sugar
4 egg yolks
1 pound mascarpone cheese
24 lady fingers
4-5 tablespoons strong espresso

cocoa powder, for dusting
optional: 4 tablespoons amaretto, cognac, or Marsala, add to coffee




Separate the eggs, in a bowl beat the yolks with 1/3 cup of sugar until frothy. Gradually add 1/3 cup flour, pinch of salt and mix. In another bowl mix egg whites until stiff, carefully and gently fold into egg yolks. Grease a baking sheet with butter, sprinkle with remaining flour. You can either pipe the cookies 4 inches long and about 1/2inch wide or I found it easier to spread it on a baking sheet about 1/4" high making one large cookie. Mix powdered sugar and the remaining 2 ounces of granulated sugar and sprinkle on cookies. Wait 10 minutes, so the sugars absorb into the cookie mixture. Bake at 300 degrees till golden brown about 12-15 minutes. Cool on rack 10-15 minutes. Then cut sheets of cookie to fit your dish.
Cream
Beat heavy cream with 1 tablespoon sugar until stiff. Set aside. Whisk egg yolks with 4 tablespoons of sugar until creamy, add mascarpone one tablespoon at a time, scraping sides of bowl. Gently fold in heavy cream. Line ladyfingers in your dish sprinkle espresso over cookies then a layer of cream. Repeat one more layer, ladyfingers, espresso, cream. Sprinkle with cocoa powder using a fine strainer and tap on gently. Chill at least two hours, better over night.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Focaccia, A Sunday Tradition

Pizza's inspiration came from focaccia, and so does mine. I find myself roaming the kitchen Sunday afternoons waiting to start up the Kitchen Aid. After many years this recipe has finally been perfected. For years I have been evading requests for my secret ingredient, but this is the season of giving, so here we go:


Focaccia

2 cups warm water

1 tablespoon dry yeast
1 tablespoon sugar

4-5 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon salt






Add 1 tablespoon of yeast to warm water and sugar, stir. Let sit for 7 minutes (until foamy). Pour into mixer bowl, set to a medium speed, add balsamic and olive oil. Mix in one cup of flour at a time with salt until it forms into ball of dough. Dust a cutting board with flour and knead dough for 3 minutes. Transfer to large bowl, lightly coat with olive oil, cover with plastic wrap and layer small towel on top. Let rise in a warm area for 1 hour 30 minutes - 2 hours. When dough becomes 2-3 times it's original size, take out and spread onto flour dusted cutting board until it fits into 11"x18"cookie sheet. Add whatever toppings you'd like, our favorites include: parmigiano cheese, onions, peppers, mushrooms, artichoke hearts, olives. Or, you can keep it simple with rosemary. Bake at 475 degrees for 12-15 minutes, or until golden brown. Let cool on a rack for 10 minutes, cut and enjoy!

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Chef Chuck's Eggplant Parmigiana



Melanzane alla Parmigiana

This recipe is handed down through my family, my mom taught me at a very young age. Some say it originated in Naples, but I say who cares, it's everyone's favorite! We find the less ingredients the better, allowing each flavor to stand on it's own.



Sauce
1 large can of tomato sauce
3 garlic cloves, chopped
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon each parsley, oregano and basil
salt and pepper to taste

or...
2 cups of your favorite tomato sauce preferably homemade!






One of Mother Earth's
many gifts.

Eggplant

2 firm eggplants

2 eggs
1/2 pound mozzarella cheese
1 1/2 cup Italian breadcrumbs
1/4 cup parmigiana reggiano grated
salt and pepper to taste
extra virgin olive oil for frying


In a medium pot saute olive oil and garlic for about 30 seconds, stirring, add sauce, herbs, salt and pepper. Simmer on low heat while preparing eggplant. This is a quick marinara sauce.



Peel and slice eggplant in 1/4 inch slices. Lay eggplant on paper towels and cover with more paper towels on top for about 30 minutes, this will eliminate any tartness. Meanwhile, whisk eggs with about 1 tablespoon grated parmigiana cheese, salt and pepper. Dip 1 slice of eggplant into egg mixture, then dip in breadcrumbs and lay on plate. In a frying pan heat olive oil and fry 4 slices at a time, until golden brown on each side. In a 9x11 baking dish or similar, coat bottom of dish with sauce then begin the first layer of eggplant. On top of each eggplant slice add a little sauce, followed by grated parmigiana, and then grated mozzarella. Next add a layer of eggplant, sauce and followed by your cheeses. Cover with foil and bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Chef Chuck's Arancini


The word "arancini", in Italy, actually means little oranges! Arancini are an ancient treasure found all over Italy. These wonderful bundles of flavor have been around for over 1,000 years. Traditional arancini were made cone shaped, although I make mine into little balls. Enjoy as a tasty antipasto or snack.








Arancini are made with arborio rice do to its high starch content that releases slowly to make a cream risotto.










Ancient Arancini Recipe

1 cup arborio rice
4 cups stock (vegetable, beef, or chicken)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/3 cup finely chopped onion
1 tablespoon butter

2 eggs
1/2 cup breadcrumbs
1/4 cup parmigiano reggiano

mozzarella cubes and pea's
vegetable oil for frying
salt and pepper to taste

Heat olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add onions and cook for about 2 minutes. Add rice and stir in for 3 minutes. Slowly add stock and about 1/3 cup at a time until all liquid is gone. This may take about 20-25 minutes. Stir in butter, salt, pepper, and cheese. At this time you can add any sort of fillers (I suggest using one or two of these: mozzarella, peas, proscuitto, cherry tomatoes, mushrooms, parsley, etc.) Transfer to a bowl and let cool for 5 minutes. Add 1 beaten egg. Form rice balls. You may press a small filling into the center. Coat with flour, shaking off any excess and then dip into beaten egg, followed by breadcrumbs. Heat oil for frying (350 degrees) and fry in small batches. Drain in paper towels and ENJOY!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Italian Chicken Soup



This is my mother's old world Italian recipe, handed down through the family that we make around the Holiday season. I remember as a child sitting around the table and eating for hours. This recipe is easy to make, and even easier to enjoy!

Chef Chuck's Italian Chicken Soup
1 whole chicken 3-5 pounds
4 cups water
4 cups organic chicken broth 
2 bay leaves
4 celery stalks sliced
 4 carrots sliced
 1 medium onion chopped
1/3 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
3 tablespoons fresh parsley chopped
1/3 cup mozzarella cheese grated
1 cup small pasta or rice

Mini Meatballs

1/2 pound ground beef
1/2 cup Italian breadcrumbs
1/2 cup parmigiana cheese, grated
2 eggs
2 tablespoons fresh parsley
4 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper

For the meatballs, combine all ingredients and form small balls about 1/2 " in size. Heat olive oil in frying pan brown meatballs and add to finished soup. Makes about 50 great tasting meatballs. Rinse chicken thoroughly and remove neck and giblets, place in a large pot add bay leafs add water and broth bring to a boil and then cover with lid and simmer for about 1 hour. Remove whole chicken and shred meat and put back in pot. Add vegetables, parsley, salt and pepper cover and simmer for an additional 10-15 minutes, then add meatballs. Cook pasta and set aside. Serve in bowls with a little pasta then soup and top with cheese. If you put the pasta in the soup pot it will get too mushy!
Enjoy with bread and a salad.

Buon Appetito

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Welcome to the table.

Hello Foodies I am Chef Chuck and I am in the process of putting together a great family food blog. I love to cook and travel the world for great recipes. My blog and website will be up and running soon. Thanks!