Mushroom, Pancetta & Italian Sausage Stromboli

Stromboli is spiral of Italian goodness. Traditionally, it is made with pizza dough or bread dough. The dough is shaped into a rectangle for rolling with meats, vegetables and cheeses. Unlike pizza or calzone, sauce is not used when forming the Stromboli as it it brings too much moisture. Some people do choose to do this, but if so, it must be done with a light hand.

Departing from tradition, this Stromboli is made using puff pastry instead of bread or pizza dough which take time to rise. It is quick and easy to thaw, and makes an amazing flakey brown crust.

Sliced Stromboli with Marinara

Ingredients

8 oz Pancetta, chopped fine
6 oz. Sweet Italian Sausage
1 large Shallot
16 oz. White Mushrooms
4 oz. Oyster Mushrooms
6 cloves Garlic, minced
1/2 Cup Flat-Leaf Italian Parsley, chopped fine
1 Cup Parmesan Cheese, freshly grated
Salt and Pepper, to taste
2 Sheets Puff Pastry (1 box)
1 Egg, beaten
1 Tablespoon Water

Instructions

  1. In a large deep dish skillet or dutch oven over medium heat, cook Italian Sausage until no longer pink and beginning to brown, crumbling the sausage as it cooks. Remove sausage from pan and place in a bowl lined with paper towels to drain. Wipe all residual fat that has rendered from the pan away with a paper towel (drain the pain if sausage is very fatty)
  2. Add Pancetta to pan and cook, stirring frequently, until the fat renders, 10-12 minutes. Reduce heat to low and continue cooking pancetta until it is crisp.
  3. While the Pancetta cooks, finely chop shallots with a knife or foood processor and place in a bowl. Do the same with the mushrooms, placing in a separate bowl once finely chopped.
  4. When the Pancetta is finished cooking, add the shallots to the pan with the pancetta and rendered fats. Cook until the shallots are tender about 5 minutes.
  5. Add mushrooms and cook until the mushrooms have released all their liquid and begin to brown. It is important that the mushrooms are dry. Remove from heat and let cool for 10 minutes.
  6. While mushrooms cool, roll out the two puff pastry sheets on a lightly floured surface into 12″ X 10″ rectangles.
  7. Add Parmesan and Italian parsley to the cooled mushrooms. The residual heat from the cooking will melt the cheese and wilt the parsley. Taste before seasoning as the Italian Sausage and Pancetta and Parmesan carry salts and seasonings. Add salt and pepper to taste, if desired.
  8. Heat oven to 400 degrees F. Line a large rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.
  9. Divide mushroom mixture in half and spread half on each rolled pastry sheet, leaving a 1/2-inch border on the long sides, and a 1-inch border on the top and bottom of the pastry sheet.
  10. Make an egg wash by beating the egg with the water in a small bowl.
  11. Using a pastry brush, place a strip of egg wash along the top border of each pastry sheet.
  12. Roll first pastry, starting at the short edge closest to you towards the top border with egg wash. Roll tightly and uniformly to make a log. Seal the roll using the moisture from the egg wash. Place seam side down on the pastry sheet. Repeat with second pastry.
  13. Brush each Stromboli roll with egg wash. Fold ends under sealing the filling inside.
  14. Bake Strombolifor 15 – 20 minutes, until golden brown. Remove from oven and rest on the baking sheet for 5 minutes before slicing and serving.
  15. Serve immediately with a dipping sauce of your choice. Try the basic marinara sauce here.

Notes:

  1. It is very important that the filling is dry to prevent a soggy crust. Allow yourself at least an hour of cooking time and do not rush the process of cooking the mushrooms until dry.
  2. Keeping fats from the sausage and pancetta to be just enough to prevent sticking of the shallots and mushrooms during cooking will help keep the dish dry.
  3. Using a large skillet helps keep mushrooms in a thinner layer, increasing cooking surface and allowing liquids to evaporate.
  4. Use your favorite combination of mushrooms…just keep the weight to 20 oz. total mushrooms before cooking.
  5. A garlicky white sauce would be a good alternate for dipping.

Rhubarb & Strawberry Sauce

Yield: 8 – 12

I remember first eating rhubarb out of my Great-Grandma Lamb’s garden. Esther Lovina Heaton Lamb was the first person to introduce me to the marvels of rhubarb (and gardening in general). As a skinny six year old, I would raid the garden in late spring for gooseberries and tart rhubarb stalks. My face would pucker, but I loved a fresh stalk of rhubarb. Sometimes I even added salt to it. It was years before I could get my mind around cooking the stuff and adding sugar to it. My mother did not encourage eating sugar, and I didn’t know what I was missing, so we were both happy.

I use this sauce over ice-cream, with butter for rolls and bread, in grilled cheese and charcuterie sandwiches, as a base for BBQ sauce, and as the start to a family favorite: Strawberry – Rhubarb ice-cream. The quanities here are for a large batch recipe, but it can be cut down by 1/2 or 1/4 easily to make a smaller batches. It freezes well, or can be canned for longer shelf-life.

Ingredients

8 Cups Rhubarb, cut in 1/2 inch pieces
8 Cups Strawberries, washed and quartered
1 to 1 1/2 Cup Sugar, to taste
1 Lemon, juiced and seeds discarded
1/2 Cup Water

Instructions

  1. Combine all ingredients in a large stock pot or dutch oven. Use only one cup of sugar initially. Additional sugar can be added later in the process if desired.
  2. Place on stove top and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer (medium to medium-low) and cook for 45 minutes, or longer, depending on how thick you want the sauce. Stir frequently to prevent sugars from sticking to bottom of pan and scorching. Near the end of cooking, taste and adjust sugar in 1/4 cup increments until desired sweetness is achieved.
  3. Serve warm or cold. Refrigerate to store for up to one week. Freeze for up to six months, or utilize a sterile canning process to preserve for up to one year.

About Rhubarb

I have two beautiful rhubarb plants just off the border of the back lawn. Rhubarb is one of the things I can grow in the open yard vs. the fenced off garden area because the deer, rabbits, squirrels and birds will leave it alone. My rhubarb plants were established from rhizome starts provided by a neighbor reducing his rapidly expanding crop. I felt fortunate and grateful to recieve a well-acclimated, edible variety. Today, it is well established and produces up to 5 pounds of rhubarb per plant per year. Eventually, I will need to divide it and share it with another rhubarb enthusiast.

Rhubarb is grown from divided rhizome roots, or seed, does best in Northern climates, and begins to emerge from dormancy in the late winter and early spring. The leaves are actually poisonous and should be avoided. Wild animals know this instinctively and will not bother Rhubarb mixed in with your ornamental beds. Do not try to feed it to domestic pets and livestock.

Rhubarb does not have to be relegated to a formal fruit and vegetable garden setting. There are ornamental, medicinal, and culinary varieties. I accidentally bought an ornamental cultivare as an early vegetable gardener, quickly recognizing my mistake when it bloomed beautifully, and rained seeds from very hollow stalks that were not at all edible. I’ve transferred this lovely specimen to a place where it provides cover for baby Quail each year, and now grow the edible varieties separately.

Ornamental Rhubarb

Edible Rhubarb

Rhubarb is a vegetable and not a fruit as some would suspect as it is often paired with sweeter fruits and berries. While the leaves are poisonous, the stalks are edible. Rhubarb has high fiber, and is a great source of calcium, vitamin K, vitamin C, iron and manganese. It does carry oxalates (as do almonds, spinach, kale and nut butters) which inhibit the uptake of calcium. Yes, it ironic that it has high levels of calcium and oxalates that bind that calcium and prevent absorption all at the same time. Cooking helps break down oxalates and combining with fruit further reduces the concentration even further allowing more of the available calcium to be absorbed.

Rhubarb is originally from Asia, where it was primarily used for medicinal purposes. It was highly valued for its healing property and was traded with other countries by Asian emperors as a commodity along with tea. It made its way to Europe, via the Silk Road, but was not really introduced into culinary arts until the 1700’s where it first emerged as a filling for pies and tarts.

Homemade Meatballs

This recipe is for a big batch of meatballs, intended to be prepped ahead and frozen for use in dishes such as traditional spaghetti and meatballs, meatball soups, meatball sandwiches, appetizer meatballs, etc.

Yield: 80 meatballs if formed into balls using approximately 2 tablespoons of meatball mixture. I typically use a cookie scoop to measure so I get uniform meatballs. Meatballs can be made larger or smaller to your preference. I like mine to be 2 tablespoon size as they reduce slightly when cooked and make the perfect 1-2 bite meatball. This recipe can also be reduced to 1/4 the amounts listed to make approximately 20 meatballs for a single meal and used immediately.

This recipe has very basic seasoning and is neutral so that flavors so the meatballs can marry with a variety of sauces and soup bases. This allows for versatile use of these meatballs in a variety of dishes.

Ingredients

20 oz. Ground Pork
32 oz. Ground Beef
4 Tablespoons Olive Oil
15 oz. Ricotta Cheese
1 Cup Dry Bread Crumbs
4 Eggs, beaten
1 Cup Parmesan Cheese
1 Teaspoon Salt
1/2 Teaspoon Pepper
1 Tablespoon Onion Powder
2 Tablespoons Dried Parsley

Instructions

  1. Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper.
  2. Combine all ingredients in a large bowl and mix thoroughly to combine and evenly distribute seasonings.
  3. Using a measuring spoon or scoop, measure meat mixture into the preferred size meatball.
  4. Place meatballs in uniform rows on the parchment paper until you fill baking sheets. Keep going until you run out of meat mixture. You can place the meatballs very close to each other, but do not let them touch.
  5. Cover meatballs lightly with plastic wrap and place baking sheets in freezer for 2 hours until meatballs are frozen.
  6. Remove meatballs from freezer and package using zip-top freezer bags.
  7. Return bags to the freezer until ready to use.
  8. For use in other dishes, thaw meatballs and then cook according to the recipe direction by oven baking, pan frying or dropping into soup broth. I typically put 2 dozen into a 1 gallon bag. They lay flat in the freezer and stack nicely.

Notes

  • Place 24 to 30 meatballs into a 1 gallon zip-top freezer bag and store them in the freezer flat. By freezing before putting in bags, the meatballs will not stick together when added to the freezer bags. The desired amount of meatballs can be removed individually. The remainder can be left in the resealed bag in the freezer.
  • Other herbs and seasonings can be added as desired.
  • If using a seasoned bread crumb, you may need to reduce the salt in the recipe.

Asparagus Gratin

About 10 years ago I established an asparagus bed in my garden. Each year in late April through June I get a handful of asparagus out of the garden everyday. By the end of each week, I have 2-3 pounds in the refrigerator. Since the harvest time is so short, I freeze some for later, but we eat a lot of it while in season. Our standby is to drizzle with melted butter and sprinkle with our favorite seasoning blends and carmelize it on the grill or in the oven.

This weekend, I decided I needed something with a bit more substance as the weather was unseasonably cold and my original plan of grilling was rained out. Having cream on hand, and dibs and dabs of cheese left from making homemade pizza few nights before, I pulled together this quick gratin at the last minute.

This is a great side with any roasted meat, or as a vegetarian main dish. Although it assembles in under 10 minutes, It can easily be made earlier in the day and stored covered and refrigerated until time to bake.

Ingredients

2 pounds Asparagus, trimmed
1/2 Lemon, juiced
2 Tablespoons butter, melted
6 cloves of Garlic, thinly sliced
1/2 cup Heavy Cream
1/4 teaspoon Salt
1/4 teaspoon Black pepper
1 cup blended Italian cheeses, such as Pecorino, Fontina, Mozzarella, Provolone, etc. (your preference)
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, finely grated

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. Pour melted butter in the bottom of a 2.5 quart oval baking dish.
  3. Toss asparagus with lemon juice, and then add asparagus to baking dish. Add garlic slices, salt and pepper. Gently toss the ingredients together so garlic and seasoning is evenly distributed. the butter will help these ingredients cling to the asparagus..
  4. Drizzle with heavy cream and sprinkle cheeses over the top.
  5. Bake for 20 minutes, or until asparagus is tender and the cheese is melted.
  6. Set oven to broil and place dish under broiler. Broil 1-2 minutes, watching closely, until cheese is golden brown and bubbly. Remove from oven when desired browning is achieved.
  7. Serve immediately.

Notes

  1. Pop the flavor: add favorite herbs to this recipe, adding with the garlic, salt and pepper. Thyme, rosemary, sage, or parsely would all be good additions, individually or as blends.
  2. Turn up the heat: add red pepper flakes to taste.
  3. Explore cheese variations: Gruyere, Emmentaler, Gouda, or white Cheddar would work well in this recipe.
  4. Lower the calories and saturated fat: Use half and half in place of cream, choose low-fat versions of the cheeses, use avocado oil instead of butter.
  5. Keep warm: After broiling, remove gratin from oven and reduce heat to 250 degrees F. Gratin can be kept warm in a low-temp oven for up to 30 minutes, but some cooking of the asparagus will continue.

Lemon Bars

This is one of my son’s favorites. This recipe is quick to prepare, and can be doubled. I usually have the 7 simple ingredients on hand. For the best taste, use fresh lemon juice.

Best served chilled, this makes a wonderful summer time dessert. Easy to make in small or double batches for potlucks, picnics and BBQs, or just to have around the house for a sweet treat.

Ingredients

Crust:
1/2 Cup Unsalted Butter, melted
1/2 Cup Granulated Sugar
1 Teaspoons Vanilla Extract
1/4 Teaspoon Salt
1 Cup + 1 Tablespoon All-Purpose Flour

Lemon Filling:
1 Cup Granulated Sugar
4 Tablespoons All-Purpose Flour
3 Large Eggs, room temperature
1/2 Cup Lemon Juice, room temperature

Optional Topping:
1/4 Cup Confectioner's Sugar 

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line the bottom and sides of an 8 x 8 glass baking dish with parchment paper. Leave enough paper to hang over the sides to make lifting the finished bars out of the pan. Set aside.
  2. Make the crust by mixing the melted butter, sugar, vanilla extract and salt together in a small bowl. Add the flour and stir to completely combine and form a thick dough. Press the dough evenly into the prepared pan.
  3. Bake the crust for 16-18 minutes until the edges are very lightly browned.
  4. Make the lemon filling by sifting the flour and sugar together into a medium bowl. Stir the flour and sugar until they are completely combined. This will allow the flour to fully incorporate into the remaining ingredients for the lemon filling. Add the eggs and lemon juice and whisk until completely combined.
  5. Pour the filling over the hot crust. Bake the bars for another 20-24 minutes until the center is set and no longer jiggles.
  6. Remove bars from oven and let cool in pan until room temperature.
  7. Using the parchment paper, lift the bars from the baking dish. Cut into squares.
  8. For optional topping, sift confectioner’s sugar over the bars.
  9. Cover and place bars in the refrigerator. Chill before serving about 2 hours. Bars will keep in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.

Notes

  • Use a glass baking dish for best flavor. Metal dishes react with the acid in the lemon and leave a metalic taste.
  • Doubling the recipe will require the use of a 9 X 13 pan. Bake crust for 18-20 minutes and the filling for 22-26 minutes.

Dr. Pepper Cupcakes

An amazing co-worker has a birthday this week. He is brilliant and never lets our team down. More often than not, he comes to our rescue and is a “go-to” guy for our team and many outside our group. Not an easy feat in a demanding engineering environment. He deserves a sweet treat to celebrate with the office crew in honor of his special day. He is very healthy. He works out, eats right and stays in shape. I rarely see him eat anything sweet, but he does enjoy the occasional Dr. Pepper. I set out to create a cupcake that would echo one of his few indulgences.

This is a rather simple recipe, one that can be thrown together the night before and chilled for morning delivery to the office. It starts with a cake mix, what could be easier?

The addition of Chinese Five Spice powder may seem odd, but it amplifies the undernotes of the Dr. Pepper and is surprisingly complimentary to the chocolate and cherries.

Ingredients

For the cake
1 box Devil's Food Cake Mix
1/2 cup Butter, melted
3 Eggs, room temperature
1 1/4 Cup Dr. Pepper
1/2 Teaspoon Chinese Five Spice

For the frosting
2 Cups Whipping Cream
1 Cup + 1 Tablespoon Confectioner's Sugar
1/4 Cup Dr. Pepper Reduction (recipe below)
1/4 Teaspoon Chinese Five Spice

For the Dr. Pepper Reduction
1 Cup Sugar
2 Cups Dr. Pepper

Optional Topping
Dr. Pepper Reduction
Maraschino or Bing Cherries

Instructions

  1. Line cupcake pan with paper or foil cupcake liners.
  2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  3. With a stand mixer or hand mixer, prepare cake per package directions, substituting oil with butter, and water with Dr. Pepper. Blend Chinese Five Spice into cake batter.
  4. Fill cupcake liners 2/3 full with cake batter. Bake for 15-20 minutes until toothpick inserted in cupcake comes out clean. Remove to a rack and cool completely.
  5. While cupcakes are cooking, make Dr. Pepper reduction by combining sugar and Dr. Pepper in a quart size sauce pan. Slowly bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer. Cook for 30 minutes or until reduced to a thick syrup. Cool completely.
  6. Prepare whip cream frosting. Combine whipping cream and confectioner’s sugar in a chilled mixing bowl. Use all of the confectioner’s sugar to stablize the whip cream. Beat on high speed until soft peaks form. Add in Dr. Pepper reduction and Chinese Five Spice. Continue beating until stiff peaks form.
  7. Spoon or pipe frosting onto cupcakes. If desired, drizzle with remaining Dr. Pepper reduction and top with a cherry.

Huevos Rancheros with Chipotle Black Bean Sauce

Happy Cinco de Mayo! We decided to skip the heavy Mexican food meal at the end of the day, and opt for Heuvos Rancheros for brunch this year. It is hearty and filling and will probably stay with us all day.

This dish is basically a layering of ingredients. The Fresh Red Salsa, Chipotle Salsa, and Chipotle Black Bean Sauce can be prepared a day in advance to save time. You could even fry the tortilla shells in advance as they will reheat well in the oven.

This recipe serves 4, but can be easily scaled up or down.

Ingredients

Base
4 Tablespoons Vegetable Oil
8 Corn Tortillas
8 Eggs
15 oz. Can Refried Beans, divided
1 Cup Chipotle Black Bean Sauce, divided
1 Cup Shredded Cheese, divided (can use Monteray Jack, Cheddar or any combination you prefer)

Toppings
Shredded Lettuce
Chopped Fresh Cilantro
Lime Quarters
Sour Cream
Diced Tomatoes
Avocado Slices
Chipotle Black Bean Sauce
Fresh Red Salsa
Chipotle Salsa

Instructions

  1. Prepare a baking sheet with parchment paper and preheat oven to 450 degrees.
  2. Heat oil in a small skillet over medium-high heat and fry tortillas one at a time until firm, but not crisp. Remove to paper towels to drain grease.
  3. Meanwhile, place refried beans in a microwave-safe dish. Cover and cook in the microwave until heated through.
  4. When tortillas are fried and beans are heated, assemble the base by placing four tortillas on the baking sheet. Top with 1/4 of the refried beans, 1/4 cup Chipotle Black Bean Sauce. Sprinkle with 1/4 cup grated cheese, or more if you like it really cheesy.
  5. Place remaining fried tortillas on serving plates.
  6. Bake base until cheese is melted, 2 to 5 minutes, keeping an eye out so you don’t overcook.
  7. While base is cooking , fry eggs over-easy in the skillet. Add butter if the tortillas have absorbed all the oil.
  8. Remove base from oven, place on top of tortilla on serving plate. Top with two fried eggs per plate.
  9. Add desired toppings and serve immediately with extra salsa and sauce on the side.

Chipotle Black Bean Sauce and Dip

This sauce is so smooth and it’s easy to vary the level of heat by adding more or less Chipotle Salsa to the Black Beans.

Ingredients

15 oz. Can Seasoned Black Beans (I prefer Rosita Brand for this recipe)
1/2 to 3/4 Cup Chicken Stock (less for Dip, more for sauce)
1/4 to 1/2 Cup Chipotle Salsa (depending on your preference for heat)

Instructions

Combine all ingredients in a sauce pan. Bring to a boil and reduce to simmer. Simmer for five minutes and remove from heat. Using an immersion blender (or traditional blender or food processor), blend all ingredients into a smooth sauce, or leave a bit chunky for dip.

Chipotle Salsa

This a smokey hot salsa that can be used on it’s own, or added to other ingredients as a seasoning for other sauces, dips and spreads.

This recipe makes 4 Cups. It freezes well and can be doubled easily.

Ingredients

1 7 ounce can Chipotle Peppers in Adobo Sauce
3 Cups Fresh Red Salsa (homemade or store bought)

Instructions

Combine all ingredients in a medium sauce pan. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to a simmer. Simmer for 30 minutes until fresh salsa is cooked and chipotle peppers are incorporated into the sauce

Fresh Red Salsa

Makes 4 Cups

This is a raw Salsa with simple, fresh ingredients that can be whipped up in less than a half hour. It stores well for several days, or can alternately be cooked and kept for up to a week. After cooking, it freezes well. Recipe can be adjusted up for canning.

Ingredients

6 Medium Tomatoes, seeded and quartered
1 - 2 Jalapenos, seeded and ribs removed
1 Red Bell Pepper, seeded and ribs removed
1/2 to 2/3 Medium Yellow Onion, cut into large chunks
1/2 to 3/4 Teaspoon Salt
1 Lime, juiced
1 to 3 Garlic Cloves, peeled
2 Handfuls Cilantro Leaves

Instructions

  1. In a food processor fitted with an S-blade, pulse onion, bell pepper and one jalepeno until large chunks. Do not over pulse at this stage.
  2. Add tomatoes, lime juice, cilantro and 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1 clove of garlic to food process bowl, and pulse to a chunky stage. Adjust onion, garlic, jalapeno and salt to taste. Before adding adjusted ingredients, chop into small pieces.
  3. Pulse a few more times, being careful not to puree.
  4. Chill for 2 to 4 hours before serving to allow flavors to blend.