Wednesday, March 05, 2008

baked ziti

Is it cold where you are? Do you want to curl up in front of the fireplace with a glass of wine and a good movie? Try this gut-buster...What it lacks in healthfulness, it makes up in heart and soul. Yum.

Baked Ziti with Sausage and Tomato Cream Sauce
Prep time: 20 minutes
Bake time: 30-45 minutes
Serves: At least 8

You'll need:
  • 4 links spicy Italian Sausage
  • 1 lb. Ziti or Rigatoni (I prefer Rigatoni)
  • 1 large can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 small container part-skim Ricotta cheese
  • 1 large onion
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1 lb. mozzarella/provolone shredded cheese blend
  • Salt & Pepper

1) Sautee the sausages until browned in a skillet. While the sausage is browning, put a large pot of salted water on to boil, and slice the onion and garlic.

2) When the sausage is done, drain the fat from the pan, but don't clean it. Add the garlic and sliced onion to the same pan, and cook until caramelized, or for about 15 minutes. (You may need to add a touch (1 t.) of olive oil if the onions are sticking to the bottom of the pan or burning before they are caramelized).

3) When the water is boiling, add the pasta and cook until al dente. While the pasta is boiling, slice the browned sausages into 1/4 inch slices, and add to the onions and garlic. Continue to cook over medium heat.

4) Combine the ricotta cheese and the crushed tomatoes. Add 1 T. salt.

5) Drain the pasta, and combine with the ricotta tomato sauce, and the sausage and onions. Stir well until all ingredients are evenly incorporated.

6) Put this mixture in a 9x13 baking pan, and top with your desired amount of mozzarella/provolone. You can use the whole pound, if you're into that.

7.) Bake, covered, in a 350 oven for 15 minutes. For the last 15 minutes, uncover, and continue to bake at 350.

Enjoy with:
  • A glass of wine
  • A big appetite

lettuce wraps

Looking for something quick and healthy? You'll love these tasty lettuce wraps...

Lettuce Wraps with Beef
Prep time: 5 minutes
Cook time: 25 minutes
Serves: 4

You'll need:

  • 1 to 1.5 lb. super lean ground beef

  • 1 head Boston Bibb lettuce

  • 1 onion

  • 2 cloves garlic

  • 1 T. olive oil

  • 1/2 C. hoisin sauce

  • 1 T. ground ginger

  • 2 T. soy sauce

  • 1 T. chili paste (if desired)

  • 2 T. rice wine vinegar
  • 1 bunch green spring onions (chopped and added to the beef at the last minute before serving)

1) Chop the onion into a fine dice. Grate the garlic, or crush it, or chop it. Sautee the chopped onion and garlic in a large skillet with 1 T. olive oil. Sautee until carmelized, or about 15 minutes, stirring frequently.

2) Add the ground beef to the onions, and sautee until browned, about 10 minutes.

3.) Carefully wash, dry, and separate the Bibb lettuce leaves.

4.) Add the hoisin sauce, the ground ginger, the soy sauce, the chili paste, and the rice wine vinegar to the beef and onion mixture. Stir, and let the sauce reduce for about 5 minutes. Chop the spring onion, and add it to the beef mixture at the last minute.

5.) Spoon the beef mixture into a lettuce leaf, roll it up, and enjoy!

You may like this with:

  • White Rice

  • Vegetable Dumplings

  • A dry sake

  • Your favorite people



1063 Wisconsin Ave NW
Washington, DC 20007
(202) 337-2782

Love was all around last month, which brought me back to Filomena twice in the same month. I am smitten. When I saw the Rubensian "Pasta Mammas" hand-crafting little doughy bits at the top of the stairs ... it was love, at first bite.

Everything is perfection. Not in a really elegant way, but in a really handmade-with-love way. It reminded me of my grandother's dining room - with kitsch and all. It's a truly hospitable place - they don't serve you bottles of wine, de-corked in front of you - instead they serve accessible caraffes of delicious chianti, merlot, what have you. Portions are gargantuan, and meant to be shared.

I really cannot say enough good things about this place - so I'll talk about what I've eaten:

Just like in Rome. Fried risotto balls with some sausage and cheese inside? Yes, please!

Antipasto Misto
Paper-thin prosciutto, hand-cured olives, roasted red peppers, and generous chunks of parmigianno and gorgonzola. These flavors transport me right back to Italy.

Insalata di Lattuga
Buttery bibb lettuce and tart endive with the wonderful salt-brined olives and a creamy lemon vinaigrette...Could be a meal in itself, if you wanted...but you'll want more.

For entrees...
Gnocchi alla Mamma
Handmade potato dumplings in a homemade meat sauce...Too good to be true? Not at Filomena!

Creamy sauce, creamy dumplings. Not for the faint of stomach!

Penne con Salsicce
Homemade sausage with plenty of fennel, and penne cooked al dente.

Somehow I have been able to resist dessert at Filomena both times I went, in spite of their persuasive cheesecakes near the entrance. But it's not over yet - they'll give you a gratis digstif - either a buttery amaretto or a more assertive sambuca con mosca. Con mosca means "with the fly," and it refers to three coffee beans that float on for health, one for luck, and one for love...

Cin cin...

chicken marsala

The aromas coming from this dish will keep you coming back time and time again. It's simple, it's healthy, and most importantly, it looks, tastes, and smells divine. Traditional chicken marsala uses more of a gravy-like sauce. This recipe has a thinner, healthier sauce that does not lack one ounce in flavor. One serving is about 350 calories! Hooray!

Chicken Marsala
Serves: 4
Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 20 minutes

You'll need:
  • 4 chicken breasts
  • 4 portobello mushroom caps
  • 1 onion
  • 1 T. thyme
  • 1 C. dry red wine (Chianti, Merlot work well!)
  • 1/4 C. brown sugar
  • 1 C. chicken stock
  • Salt & Pepper
  • Olive Oil

1) Clean the portobello mushroom caps, brush either side with olive oil, and set aside.

2) Season each side of the chicken breasts with salt and pepper, and put them in a skillet with 2 T. olive oil. Let them cook for 3-4 minutes, undisturbed, on either side. (They won't be finished cooking in this step - you'll finish them later though!) When they are finished cooking, set them aside on a plate...

3) Chop the onion into a fine dice. Sautee the onion with 2 T. olive oil in a large skillet or a pot. (You will eventually combine the chicken breasts with the onion, so you will want the skillet to be able to fit all of it.)

4) Add the brown sugar to the onions, and stir until it dissolves.

5) Combine the red wine, the chicken stock with the onions and the brown sugar. Let it simmer on low heat for about 5 minutes, until it reduces slightly.

6) Measure 1 T. dried thyme into your palms. Using your hands, rub the thyme to release its aromas, then put it into the pan with the onions and wine and chicken stock. Stir to combine. This is a good time to taste the sauce and adjust the salt to your liking.

7) Add the chicken breasts to the sauce, and cover. Cook for at least 10 minutes, and up to 30 (covered).

8) While the chicken finishes cooking in the sauce, retrieve the portobello mushroom caps that have been brushed with olive oil. Use your broiler to cook these for 5 minutes per side, until the mushrooms are tender.

9) When you are ready to serve, place a mushroom cap, ribs up, on a plate. Place a chicken breast on top of that, and spoon the onions and sauce over that. Enjoy!

You might like to serve this with:
  • Roasted Cauliflower
  • Cous Cous
  • The rest of the red wine

serious supper

I'm back! I've been busy studying and filling out applications...but I'm back, just in time for spring.

We had some friends over last night to watch the Texas, Ohio, Rhode Island, Vermont primaries...and we made a killer dinner in the meantime. It was a delightful departure from a savory steak sauce - and the best part - it's easy!

Filets Mignon with Goat Cheese and Balsamic Reduction
Serves: 4
Prep time: 25 minutes
Cook time: 10 minutes

You'll need:
  • 4 filets mignon, 6 oz. or so apiece (about an inch thick)
  • 3 oz. goat cheese
  • 1 1/2 C. balsamic vinegar
  • 3 T. sugar
  • 2 T. butter (to rub the steaks with)
  • Salt & Pepper

1.) Combine balsamic vinegar and sugar in a small saucepan over medium heat. Simmer uncovered for 15-20 minutes, until the vinegar has reduced to 1/2 C. or less.

2) Rub the steaks with butter on either side, and season with salt and pepper.

3) Broil the steaks for 3 minutes per side (medium rare) or 5 minutes per side (medium well).

4) Top the steaks with crumbled goat cheese, and put them back under the broiler for another 1-2 minutes until the cheese just begins to brown.

5) Serve the goat-cheese topped steaks with a healthy drizzle of the balsamic reduction on top.

Try this with:
Garlicky green beans sauteed with balsamic vinegar
Roasted potatoes with garlic and rosemary
Simple greens with dijon vinaigrette
Your favorite red wine
Your favorite people

Buon appetit! XO