August 2013


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For as long as I can remember, my mom made broccoli and pasta–something she learned when she moved to my hometown, the sister city of Melilli, Sicily. I point this out as my Nanny wasn’t a nonna, so my mom learned Italian cooking from her neighbor, Mrs. Adorno. Then my mom passed what she learned on to me over time.

Though I wasn’t quite so fond of trees (you know, kid code for broccoli) back then, somehow, the magic of garlic and pasta with “sprinkle cheese”–always Pecorino Romano in our house–even made trees taste good. And now that I make this on my own, I’ve adapted the original recipe to include hot sausage, white beans, lemon juice and lemon zest. It’s versatile. You can add and subtract as you like. So, let’s get cookin’!

BROCCOLI ‘N PASTA WITH HOT SAUSAGE AND WHITE BEANS

1 pound broccoli, chopped into bite-sized pieces
2 cloves garlic, pressed
1 shallot, chopped
Olive oil
1 pound hot sausage (I love Longhini, out of  New Haven–you can buy locally at Xpect Discounts in Cromwell)
zest and juice of half a lemon
1 can white beans, rinsed and drained (cannelini, navy beans or small white beans)
1 tablespoon or so of butter (optional)
1/2 pound pasta–try bite-sized rigatoni or double elbows (a.k.a. cellentani or cavatappi)
Note: save 1/2 cup of pasta water before you drain. Tip: put a 1/2 cup measure in your colander as a reminder!

Steam your broccoli till it’s tender, but still bright green. Timing? Oh, I don’t know. Set the timer for 5 minutes or so after it boils and stick a fork in it to check after that.

Meantime, boil a pot of water, add salt, cook pasta according to package instructions. Save a 1/2 cup of the pasta water before you drain it.

Sautee garlic and shallot in a skillet. You know the drill: don’t let it brown! Add sausage, breaking up into bite-sized pieces as it cooks. Once the sausage is no longer pink, add the beans to warm them up. Then add the lemon zest and juice along with the broccoli and pasta. Let the butter melt in as you toss. Add however much pasta water you like to make a bit of a sauce. You may find you like it with more or less–it’s up to you.

Serve with grated Pecorino Romano and crushed red hot pepper flakes. And a nice glass of wine, if you like. This reheats beautifully with a spin in the microwave.

So, what will be your pasta shape of choice for this dish? Back in the day, it seems ziti was a popular pick overall. For this broccoli dish, it was often elbows. For vodka sauce, penne. And for sauce in general, spaghetti or perhaps the occasional screws (rotini). Screws is a funny word, anyway. Especially because in its singular form, it was a verb in my family: “Oh, really? Well, screw that!”


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Ah, 2013–the summer of coconut and corn flakes! Here’s a recipe that features both. Chocolate chip cookies–affectionately known ’round heah as CCCs–with the added joy of crunch and coconut. You know, why don’t we abbreviate these new little treats right now: the 5 Cs! It sounds like an important life lesson, doesn’t it–the 5 Cs? I do think it’s important to bake and enjoy them. That is my life lesson to you this Sunday. So, let’s go do something important right now.

COCONUT CORN FLAKE COOKIES WITH CHOCOLATE CHUNKS: THE 5 Cs
adapted from recipes all over the Internet

½ cup granulated sugar
½ cup light brown sugar
1 stick salted butter, softened
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup flour
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
½ cup corn flakes, crushed fine (crushing corn flakes is cathartic!)
½  cup coconut flakes (Baker’s is my coconut of choice)
¼ cup dark chocolate, chopped into small chunks

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Cream together sugars, butter, eggs and vanilla.

Sift together flour, baking powder, soda and salt.

Add dry ingredients to creamed; mix . Stir in corn flakes, coconut and chocolate; mix well.

Drop by small cookie scoop. I used my Zeroll 60 pink scoop (roughly 2 heaping teaspoons). I made 9 at a time: three across, three down. Cookies will spread out, so give them room to grow.

Bake 12 minutes at 350 degrees. Check at 10 minutes in case your oven runs hotter than mine. Let the cookies rest outside the oven for a minute or two before transferring to a cooling rack…or your mouth! 😀

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I’ve been taunting my friend Linda with a recipe I found for these yummy chocolate-covered peanut butter no-bake corn flake treats via Serious Eats. “Whoever makes these first wins a prize,” I challenged. I even bought a big, new box of corn flakes for the occasion.

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Well, whoever makes these wins, period. They’re super-easy. Just five ingredients and a little time and they’re all yours to enjoy and share. The hardest part is waiting for them to chill in the fridge so you can cut ’em up and dig in.

I don’t think the amount of chocolate was right in the original recipe. I spread very carefully and no way do four ounces of chocolate cover an 8″ x 8″ pan–even with my brilliant (!) addition of vanilla rum and heavy cream to make a lovely shiny coat. So, I added an extra 2 oz. of chocolate. I’m not a fan of peanuts in or on my baked–or no-baked–treats, so I omitted them and added extra cornflakes instead.

CHOCOLATE-COVERED PEANUT BUTTER CORNFLAKE BARS
adapted from Serious Eats

4 tablespoons (½ stick) salted butter
1 cup creamy peanut butter
½ cup light corn syrup
1/3 cup light brown sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
4 ½ cups corn flakes, lightly crushed
6 ounces dark chocolate (I used 70% Valrhona feves)
2 teaspoons vanilla rum (or rum of your choice)
2 teaspoons heavy cream

Line an 8″ x 8″ pan with foil. In large saucepan over medium heat, melt butter. Then add peanut butter, corn syrup and brown sugar. Stir and cook till melted and smooth. Stir in vanilla. Using your hands to crush them as you go, add cornflakes by the handful till combined. Press into foil-lined pan and smooth top.Melt chocolate, using the defrost setting in the microwave. Take it slow and check every 30 seconds or so to make sure it doesn’t burn. You’ll find you can help the process along by stirring each time you check.

Once completely melted, stir in rum and heavy cream till shiny and smooth. Spread evenly over top of bars.

Chill in the fridge until firm, about 2 hours–maybe even a little less if you’re not so patient. Remove from pan and cut into 16 pieces, then cut each square into triangles. This gives you the illusion of getting two treats for the price of one, HA HA!

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I often say I’m a lucky ladybug. I try all sorts of things and am decently successful at many of them. Except for math, perhaps. And when it comes to making popsicles, there’s a bit of math and science in the mix, especially where alcohol is concerned.

A dear friend sent me rocket popsicle molds earlier this summer and I couldn’t wait to try them. “I’ll make coconut margarita popsicles!” Now, your friend The Kat tends to pour generously. That’s a mistake when you’re trying to fuel rockets to freeze. I filled the molds, placed them in their tray in the freezer for a good 48 hours, and invited my #1 taster to try them with me after work.

BUT THEY WERE LIQUID.
THEY DID NOT FREEZE WHATSOEVER.
SO WE DRANK THEM.

They were damn fine margaritas (I’ll share soon!), but they weren’t popsicles. Lesson learned. Mission aborted–or, rather, repurposed. Less alcohol for rocket launch. And at last, we have liftoff! Guitar! Drums!

Remember Fudgesicles? These are the Vietnamese grown-up version. Slightly fudgy, wicked coffee, icy and refreshing. NOM!

VIETNAMESE COFFEE POPSICLES

1½ tablespoons strong ground coffee (I use decaf Cafe Du Monde–you know me, I don’t lack energy!)
1¼ cups hot water
2 tablespoons + 1 teaspoon sweetened condensed milk
1 tablespoon Malibu rum
1½ teaspoons cocoa powder
1½  teaspoons milk

I have a neato contraption to brew Vietnamese coffee individually, just as they do in restaurants.

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I used it to brew bit by bit as 1¼ cups of water is more than it will hold at one time.

Brew coffee. Whisk together sweetened condensed milk, milk, cocoa powder and Malibu. Pour into popsicle molds and freeze. My rocket molds need 1/2 inch of space to allow for expansion. You don’t want them to liftoff without you, after all. Freeze and enjoy!

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