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Posts Tagged ‘parmigiano reggiano’

This dish is a simple riff on the classic Beef and Barley Stew. As cheap as stew beef is, ground beef is even cheaper. So, this is a great way to save some cash while still making a delicious and healthy dish.

For the stew I used a handful of parsley chopped, 2 tomatoes chopped, 1/2 onion diced, 1 large shallot diced, 3 cloves of garlic minced, 1 carrot diced, 9 asparagus stalks chopped, 4 cups of beef broth, 2/3 cup of hulled barley, 4 ounces of mixed mushrooms sliced, and a big sprig of thyme.

I heated up a pot and poured in about 2 tablespoons of olive oil and added the garlic. About a minute later I added the onion, carrot, and shallot. I let them sweat down for about 5 minutes and then tossed in the asparagus. I just wanted the asparagus to get nicely coated with the olive oil, so I only let it go for a minute or two before adding the barley. I let the barley sort of toast in the hot oil for a few minutes.

After that I poured in the stock and added the tomatoes and mushrooms as soon as it came up to a slow simmer. Then I dropped the thyme in, covered the pot, turned the heat to med-low, and let it simmer for about 30 minutes.

While the barley was stewing I made my meatballs. In a glass bowl I beat 1 egg. To that I added about 2 tablespoons of fresh grated Parmigiano Reggiano, fresh bread crumbs from 2 pieces of bread, 3 cloves of garlic minced, and 2/3 pound of ground beef. I mixed it all together and then formed walnut-sized meatballs.

I threw the meatballs into the stew, brought it back up to a simmer, then covered it again for about 10 more minutes until the meatballs were cooked through. Then I turned off the heat, added the parsley, and seasoned with salt and pepper. I served it up with slices of french bread.

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Finally, I got Meatless Monday back into my life. No Bears game (thank goodness, I don’t think I can stand to watch that O-line pretend to block anymore) or anything that calls for carcus so I cleaned out some of the vegetables I had in my fridge. With the weather getting a little chilly I thought a nice hot bowl of Minestrone would hit the spot, especially since Yuki loves soup. To go with it I made some mushrooms in soy milk on toast.

For the minestrone I used 1 can of brown beans, 4 quarts of vegetable stock, 1 28oz can of skinned tomatoes, 6oz of farfale pasta, 2 ribs of celery chopped, 1 carrot chopped, 1 zucchini chopped, 1/2 an onion chopped, 1/2 green bell pepper chopped, 1 yukon gold potato skinned and chopped (2 in the pic but I only used 1), 3 garlic cloves chopped, some basil thinly sliced, and Parmigiano Reggiano grated.

In a heated stock pot I poured in about 2 tablespoons of olive oil and then sweated down the onion, carrot, and celery for about 3 minutes. Then I added the green pepper and garlic and let that go for another 3 minutes. I dumped the juice from the tomato can in and crushed the tomatoes with my hands. Once the tomato juice started to boil, about 1 minute or so, I poured in the stock and seasoned with salt and pepper and 1 bay leaf. Once the stock started to boil, about 2 or 3 minutes, I added the potato and zucchini. The potato and zucchini obviously lowered the temperature of the soup, so a few minutes later when it came back to a boil I added the pasta then covered the pot and turned the heat down from medium-high to medium. I let it simmer for about 15 minutes to let the pasta cook properly.

While the pasta was cooking I heated up my saute pan and got the mushrooms ready. I thickly sliced (about 1/4-1/3 inch) 4 button mushrooms and a container of cremini mushrooms and sliced up 3 green onions. I melted 1 tablespoon of butter and poured in another tablespoon of olive oil then dumped all of the mushrooms and green onions in. I let them cook down for about 10 minutes until the mushrooms started to release their moisture. Then I poured in about 1/4 cup of soy milk and let that thicken up for about 2 minutes. I added some thinly sliced basil and turned off the heat. I toasted some sliced of challah during the cooking.

To serve, I ladled some soup into my bowls and topped it with sliced basil. I put the toasted challah on a plate and spooned some of the mushrooms on top. Then I topped everything with fresh grated Parmigiano Reggiano.

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Last night I used up ingredients that were already in my fridge. Fresh vegetables don’t last forever, so I use them up within a couple of days after purchasing them. I decided to make a nice soup and get some salmon to grill alongside it.

For the soup, I started by sweating down half an onion, a carrot, and a rib of celery (all chopped) in some olive oil. After about 7 minutes I tossed in 2 crushed garlic cloves. A couple of minutes later I added a half of a yellow bell pepper chopped. I let that all sweat out for a few more minutes.

Then I dumped in one 14oz can of diced tomatoes (no salt added), one cup of chicken stock, and 1.5 cups of water. I stirred that all around and seasoned with some salt. There was a Parmigiano Reggiano rind in my cheese drawer, I try not to through them away once the grateable part of the cheese is used for reasons like this, so I dropped that in as well. By doing so a subtle sharpness is added to both the taste and aroma, you can tell there’s Parmigiano in there. Once that started to boil I covered the pot and simmered over a med-low heat for about 20 minutes.

I had a zucchini in my fridge from the day before, so I chopped that up and added it along with a half cup of Israeli couscous that was sitting in my cabinet. Then I let the soup simmer for another 10 minutes.

All I did to the salmon was rub some olive oil over the flesh, then salt and pepper. I grilled it to get the skin crisp.

To serve, I drizzled a little balsamic vinegar on the salmon and garnished with some fresh basil. I also sliced up a handful of basil and added it to the soup along with some black pepper just before serving. White rice was also on the menu.

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Last night for Meatless Monday I made these stuffed bell peppers. I do want to apologize to my brother-in-law. You see, he was in town and stopped by for dinner. My sister is a vegetarian (well, she will eat some seafood) which basically makes him one when he eats at home. In the past I would treat him to a big honking piece of meat since he doesn’t eat that at home. He just happened to be in during Meatless Monday. Sure, I could have made this week Meatless Tuesday, but that just doesn’t sound quite right. Sorry Dave. I did dig on that wine you brought over though.

To start, I made the stuffing. I took a medium onion and sliced it. That got sautéed in olive oil with three minced garlic cloves. After a few minutes I added a zucchini that I diced as well as a handful of sliced cremini mushrooms. I let that all cook for a few minutes and then added a 14oz can of crushed tomatoes. I let that all simmer at a low boil for about 15 minutes to thicken up the sauce, then I added a drained can of Italian brown beans as well as a bunch of chopped basil. I set all of that aside.

Meanwhile, I took 4 large yellow bell peppers and halved them. I scooped out the seeds and the white pith and then dropped them in boiling water for just a few minutes. I didn’t want to cook them, just get them slightly pliable.

Then I laid the peppers on a large baking sheet and stuffed them with the tomato sauce mixture. I covered it all with foil and cooked at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes. Then I took them out and sprinkled some freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano over the tops and put them back in, uncovered, for another 10 minutes just until the cheese and the edges of the peppers started to brown a little.

I served them with a mixed green salad with cherry tomatoes and shiitake vinaigrette as well as white rice. I sprinkled some fresh basil and more cheese on top. Dave brought over some kick ass white wines. It was a good Meatless Monday.

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Alright, Restaurant Week restaurant number 2…Cafe Spiaggia. I’ve long thought that Italian food in Chicago was sub par with only a couple of good restaurants around. Most Italian joints here serve big heavy sauces and overcooked pasta. Even some of the higher end ones I’ve been to were extremely disappointing. I’ve always wanted to hit up Spiaggia, but it’s a little out of my normal budget. By a little I mean a lot. When special occasions come along I’ve always opted to go to other places instead. However, the $22 pre fix lunch deal at Cafe Spiaggia this week is too good to pass up. I know it’s not quite the haute that the main room of Spiaggia is, but it did give me a very good idea of what it’s all about. Good things, all good things.

We started with two salads. This one is the PERA; Baby arugula with toasted pear chips, Alto Adige I.G.P speck (a ham from northern Italy), goat cheese and balsamic vinaigrette. The pears were a little under-ripe, but otherwise everything was light, clean, and fresh.

This salad is the ITALIANA; Escarole, treviso, and frisee with Parmigiano Reggiano and Chianti vinaigrette. The vinaigrette was outstanding! Otherwise, it was a very simple salad that was not overdone, exactly what a salad should be.

We ordered one each of the two entrée’s that are offered on the Restaurant Week Menu. First is the CAPPELLACCI; Hand crafted butternut squash filled pasta with amaretti, Parmigiano Reggiano, brown butter, and sage. You see this dish on a lot of Italian menus and in a lot of cookbooks, so it’s nothing creative or off the wall. However, you’d be hard-pressed to find anyone execute the dish to this level. The pasta was perfectly al dente, there was just the right amount squash seasonings (I think cinnamon), and the brown butter wasn’t greasy at all.

The other entrée offered is BATTUTA; Pounded chicken breast with sautéed Swiss chard, fingerling potatoes, cipollini onions, and Pecorino Siciliano. Again, nothing off the wall. Just simple, fresh, top quality ingredients prepared perfectly to allow each other to compliment one another.

For dessert you’re given three choices out of the Gelati and Sorbeti menu. Yuki ordered the passion fruit, vanilla, and pineapple-basil.

I ordered the red raspberry, grapefruit and stracciatella (vanilla with chocolate shavings). They were all great, but out of the six I think the pineapple-basil was the best. It wasn’t too sweet and had just the right amount of herby basil in it. The grapefruit was also great as it tasted just like eating a slice of grapefruit.

Service at Cafe Spiaggia was fluid and attentive. That’s pretty much to be expected of such a high quality restaurant. The interior was also nice and laid back. It had the feel of an outdoor cafe in Italy with views of Lake Michigan. One of these days we’ll dine in the formal restaurant to get the full on experience. I will tell you this though, there is no doubt that Chef Mantuano is one of the few chefs in Chicago who truly understand what Italian food is all about. No need for heavy red sauces or huge plates of gut-busting, overcooked pasta. Keep it simple, light, and fresh while letting the ingredients themselves do the talking. I can’t wait for the full-on experience!

Side note, there is a bit of irony for me to finally dine at Cafe Spiaggia. About 5 years ago when I was looking to get back into the restaurant biz I interviewed to become the manager of the cafe. I was called in for a total of 3 interviews and turned out to be the runner-up in their search. I lost out to a long-time server of theirs. I wonder what life would have been like had she not gone after the position……hmmmmm?

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