It’s mid-February, and this is only the second snowfall of the season here in Rhode Island. Which means that we have only had two chances to make Snow Day Food! And who knows how many more we will have before Spring is here, so we have to make them count.
That’s all there is to it. When you’re feeling low, surround yourself with family and friends and sit down in front of a bowl heaping with oozy, melty lasagna and red sauce, and your day will do a 180 right there and then. It’s impossible to feel defeated when you’re eating lasagna made with, and surrounded by, love. There is a secret in every layer of my lasagna, and I’m going to share them all with you, right here.
Split Pea Soup, anyone? So far this month, we have made Italian Wedding Soup, Mushroom Beef Barley Soup, and now Split Pea. I think there is still time for Minestrone, Avgolemono and Sixteen Bean, don’t you?? When the grill is covered in snow and the ducks have fled the pond, it’s time for dishes that warm your kitchen and your belly: lasagna, red sauce, short ribs, roasted chicken, pulled pork and SOUP. (Spoiler alert: short ribs and lasagna are coming here later this week.) Soup is such a wonderful mother-of-all-foods. It can be hot, cold, sweet, sour, savory, starchy, clear, creamy, hearty, vegan, meaty, fishy, tomato-y, fruity… anything! Soup can be anything and is often everything you need, right in one bowl. I keep a couple loaves of roasted garlic ciabatta in the freezer, so I can pull one out and pop it into the oven whenever my soup calls for a crusty heel in hand to mop up, or “dienge” the last drops from the bowl.
This word, “dienge” (deenj). It’s not really a “word,” but more of a “Calvano-ism,” which is the dialect that my Italian-American family created when there was nothing in either language (Italian or English) that would do the job. So, the next time you are mopping or sopping (you can see how those words don’t feel good in this context) the last half inch of sauce or soup from your bowl with a bit of bread, you can know that in my house, you are dienging, and you are doing it just right.
Who doesn’t love Peanut Butter Kiss Cookies?!? They are nutty and sweet and “eat like a snack,” especially when paired with a few granny smith slices and/or a cup of chai tea. I don’t associate Peanut Butter Kiss Cookies with any particular holiday or season, so these babies show up in my kitchen all year round! I’m sharing with you the basic, classic recipe, with two special twists: instead of vanilla, we use almond extract, and we add a teaspoon of salt to punch up the flavor. Enjoy baking these with your favorite baking buddy; last night, I had the pleasure of the company of my two teenaged step kids, who did all the rolling! A small price to pay for a few warm, oozy cookies straight from the oven. A lot of people call these “Peanut Butter Blossoms,” but I like to call them “Kiss Cookies” because they will earn you kisses. XO!
“The commonly accepted history of Beef Stroganoff is that a French chef who worked for a wealthy St. Petersburg family created the dish for a cooking contest in 1891. Following the Russian custom of the day, he named the prize-winning dish for his employer, Count Pavel Alexandrovich Stroganov. A convincing detail sometimes offered is that the thin slices of meat called for were to accommodate the elderly Count’s failing teeth.” http://forknplate.com/2014/12/01/as-russian-as-it-gets-the-history-of-beef-stroganoff/
Here is what Bon Appetit says about it: “According to the cookbook A Taste of Russia, the original beef Stroganoff recipe derived from a basic French mustard for seasoning beef, combined with a dollop of Russian sour cream, which Stroganoff’s chef named after his benefactor. The count himself died of tuberculosis at the age of 43, somewhere near Copenhagen.”
Given that, what could be more comforting, or more delicious!? Better yet, this dish is easy to make and wows the crowd, even if you aren’t making your own egg noodles to go with it. Although ancient and Russian, beef stroganoff has become an American staple. From Betty Crocker to Better Homes and Gardens, I think every cookbook that was ever referenced at any time between 1940 and 1980 contains this dish. It has three main components: sliced sirloin (this is a good use for sirloin tips), sliced mushrooms, onions and garlic sautéed in butter, and a heavenly, aromatic sauce made of beef stock (or boullion), worcestershire and sour cream. That’s it. Easy-peasy lemon squeezy. Ladle over a bed of egg noodles or any type of starch (smashed potatoes are a delight with stroganoff) and you have yourself a timeless, classic dinner that will warm bellies and put smiles on faces.
If you have some flour, a few eggs, an afternoon and a pasta machine, you can make these silky, decadent egg noodles. The thing I like best about making any kind of pasta/noodles is that noodles have been made this very same way, in every culture under the sun, since the beginning of time. Or since the first person ground grain into flour. The act of beating eggs into a well of flour with a fork makes me feel connected to my mother, and my grandmothers, and my great grandmothers back in Sicily. But it also makes me feel connected to every woman who has ever made any noodle from scratch: lo mein, ramen, pad thai, udon, etc. It makes me feel connected to something ancient and pure and good, and then I feel good about bringing it into today and keeping something so good alive. And now I feel good about sharing it with all of you. Pasta making is some good, cheap therapy, my friends.
These egg noodles are just the thing to support your beef stroganoff. The uses for egg noodles are endless, but when they are homemade, they will disappear before before you have a chance to re-envision them under your next dish.
It’s so totally YUM. It’s painfully easy to make. It’s inexpensive. It has a pleasing texture, a neutral flavor that pairs with just about anything else, and it’s super trendy these days. So the next time you are at the grocery store, do yourself this favor: buy two spaghetti squash and roast them up. You can use it in place of pasta, rice, bread… or just as squash! So far this week, we’ve had it under chicken and pulled pork, and next was going to be next to fish, but it’s gone.
Just slice the squash in half, scoop out the seeds and guts (I give the seeds and guts to the birds and squirrels), drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper, and turn cut sides down onto a large baking sheet.
Place into preheated 425 degree oven for about 25 minutes, or until the squash is tender and easily releases with a fork, like the first picture, above. When cool enough to touch, scoop out all of your squash and serve it with whatever protein you’re having for dinner and/or pack it into the fridge for meals all week.
The weekend is over and you’re thinking: five more dinners until the weekend… Don’t worry: slow cooker pulled pork is here! And it’s so easy. And so delish. And does so well in lunches and as leftovers. Tonight, we had it two different ways: some of us had it over roasted spaghetti squash and others had it on bread. Tomorrow, I will heat some over a bed of barley leftover from my mushroom beef barley soup. And maybe later in the week, if there is any left, I’ll put the rest on a pizza. No matter which way you go with this incredibly flavorful, tangy, spicy, savory dish, you can’t go wrong.