Book Review: Ciao Italia Family Classics

Ciao Italia Family Classics - coverWhen it comes to Italian cuisine, Mary Ann Esposito is an institution. She is the host and creator of Ciao Italia with Mary Ann Esposito, the United States’ longest running cooking program which has been on the air since 1989. She is also the author of 12 Italian cookbooks and also has a website, www.ciaoitalia.com.

In her twelfth cookbook, Ciao Italia Family Classics, Esposito admits that she is both a traditionalist and a minimalist as she strives to let the best ingredients shine on their own in all of her recipes. Strongly influenced by both of her grandmothers and her mother, the author has created an outstanding collection of recipes featuring many Sicilian and Neapolitan favorites. In addition to the more than 200 recipes, Esposito also includes a chapter entitled “Italian Pantry Basics” where she describes the key ingredients most commonly used in Italian kitchens. She also stresses the importance of planning meals and bringing the family back to the dinner table to eat together despite busy, hectic schedules. The author contends that eating together, in the Italian tradition, promotes conversation, togetherness, reassurance, and relaxation. She also talks about the importance of teaching children about good food so that they can make healthy choices as adults.

While reviewing Ciao Italia Family Classics, it became evident early on that this book is a must have cookbook for anyone who loves Italian Cuisine. Indeed, it was difficult to choose just three recipes from this book. They were all very appetizing and most were accompanied by amazing, mouth-watering photos. Each recipe also had an interesting anecdote in which Mary Ann Esposito draws from her rich Italian heritage to describe the origins of the recipe and its importance to her. We decided to try the Arancine Siciliane (Sicilian Rice Balls), Calzone di Ricotta alla Mamma (Mom’s Ricotta Cheese Calzones), and Cannoli alla Nonna Saparito ( Nonna Saparito’s Cannoli). Esposito’s recipe for the risotto is delicious enough, but to then to roll it into balls and deep fry it takes it to ethereal levels. The Arancine Siciliane is an amazing side dish or appetizer that you absolutely have to try. The Ricotta Calzones were equally delicious. This is a simple recipe that lends itself to experimentation. There are a multitude of vegetables and meats that could be added to the cheese calzone base to create incredible entrees. For dessert we tried an Italian classic, cannoli. This was also relatively easy recipe that resulted in a delicious dessert with a light crispy shell combined with a cool, creamy, chocolaty filling. It was difficult to eat just three of these!

We give Ciao Italia Family classics 5 out of 5 stars. It is packed with recipes of traditional Italian favorites that are easy and accessible. In addition, most recipes include beautiful photographs and interesting descriptions. It would be a cherished collection of recipes for anyone that loves Italian cuisine.

Louisiana Habanero Hot Sauce Recipe

habanero sauceThis is an easy recipe for a versatile, hot and sweet, Louisiana Habanero Hot Sauce. It works great as a regular hot sauce but it is also good to use as a dipping sauce for egg rolls, samosas, acarajé, malu paan, or other appetizers. You can adjust the overall heat by adjusting the number of habaneros to you own personal taste.

Recommended Equipment:
food processor or blender

7 habanero peppers, seeded and chopped
1/2 cup molasses
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup yellow mustard
1 15oz. can sliced peaches in heavy syrup
1 cup white vinegar
1 tbsp kosher salt
1 tbsp fresh ground black pepper
2 tbsp paprika
1 tbsp ground cumin
1/2 tspn ground ginger
1/2 tspn ground coriander
1/2 tspn ground allspice

  1. In a food processor or blender, add the peaches and heavy syrup. Pulse until the peaches are ground into a puree.
  2. Add the habanero peppers, molasses, brown sugar, mustard, vinegar, kosher salt, paprika, cumin, ginger, coriander, and allspice to the food processor or blender.
  3. Pulse mixture until it becomes a smooth liquid.
  4. Pour the mixture into clean glass jars. Place caps on the jars and refrigerate at least one day before you use the sauce.

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Cannoli alla Nonna Saporito Recipe

cannoliFrom Ciao Italia Family Classics by Mary Ann Esposito....

The queen of all Sicilian desserts is definitely cannoli. Cannoli probably originally came from Arabs, who influenced so much of Sicily’s cooking. These crisp, flaky pastry dough cylinders are filled with sweetened sheep’s milk ricotta cheese, nuts, citron, and bits of chocolate. I cherish Nonna Saporito’s old recipe that originally called for sheep’s milk ricotta cheese for the filling but when she came to America, it was impossible to find, so whole cow’s milk ricotta was substituted instead. Whenever I make these, I use her old and very worn wooden forms, fashioned from a broom handle, but stainless steel forms are available in kitchenware stores.

1 1/2 cups whole-milk ricotta cheese, well drained
3 tbsp granulated sugar
1 1/2 tspn ground cinnamon
1 1/2 cups coarsely chopped milk chocolate (4 to 5 small bars)
1/4 cup pistachio nuts, coarsely chopped

1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1 tbsp unsalted butter or lard
1 tbsp granulated sugar
4 to 5 tbsp dry Marsala wine
2 cups vegetable oil
colored sprinkles
confectioner's sugar for sprinkling

  1. To make the filling, whip the cheese in a bowl until smooth. Stir in the granulated sugar, cinnamon, and chocolate. Refrigerate, covered with plastic wrap, until ready to fill the cannoli shells.
  2. To make the dough, place the flour in a bowl or food processor. Add the butter or lard and sugar and mix with a fork, or pulse, until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Slowly add the 1/4 cup of wine and shape the mixture into a ball; add a little more wine if the dough appears too dry. It should be soft but not sticky. Knead the dough on a floured work surface until smooth, about 10 minutes. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 45 minutes.
  3. Place the chilled dough on a floured work surface. Divide the dough in half. Work with 1 piece of dough at a time; keep the remaining dough refrigerated. Using a rolling pin or pasta machine set to the finest setting, roll the dough out to a very thin long rectangle about 14 inches long and 3 inches wide. Cut the dough into 3-inch squares. Place a cannoli form diagonally across one square. Roll the dough up around the form so the points meet in the center. Seal the points with a little water. Continue making cylinders until all the dough is used.
  4. In an electric skillet(see note), heat the vegetable oil to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
  5. Fry the cannoli three or four at a time, turning them as they brown and blister, until golden brown on all sides. Drain them on brown paper or paper towels. When they are cool enough to handle, carefully slide the cannoli off the forms.
  6. To serve, use a long iced tea spoon or pastry bag without a tip to fill the cannoli with the ricotta cheese mixture. Dip the ends into colored sprinkles, arrange them on a tray, and sprinkle confectioner's sugar over the tops. Serve at once.
Note: If you prefer, you can fry the cannoli in a deep fryer. Be sure to fill the cannoli just before serving - any sooner will result in soggy shells.

Makes 14 to 18 cannoli

Recipe courtesy of Ciao Italia Family Classics by Mary Ann Esposito

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Kir with a Kick Recipe

classic kirUn Kir, Sil Vous Plaît!
Not sure how to kick off a dinner gathering? You can't go wrong with a kir(rhymes with "beer" but is much more enchanting to drink). I've enjoyed it often in homes of families I've dined with, and you'd be hard-pressed to find a café or restaurant in France that does not serve this unofficial French national apértif. The drink was named after Félix Kir, a priest and hero of the French Resistance, who became mayor of Dijon after World War II and was said to have served the popular Burgundian drink at official gatherings.

To make a classic kir, pour a teaspoon or two of créme de cassis (black currant liqueur) into a small, stemmed glass, then fill the glass with chilled white wine. Rarely served in a copius portion (about 4 ounces of wine will do), the drink offers a gleeful little lift that chases away any lingering funk your guests might have brought with them from their day.

The wine traditionally used to make a kir is Burgundy's Aligoté, a white that's much less distinguished than the more famous white Burgundies made from Chardonnay. In fact, some sources say that the kir may have been invented as a way to put this otherwise unimpressive wine to its best possible use. Hence, there's no reason to seek out Aligoté to make a kir. A good, lightly citrusy dry white, such as a California Sauvignon Blanc, works nicely. If you can't find an imported créme de cassis (most domestic versions are, I'm afraid, lackluster), use a raspberry liqueur, such as Chambord.

But experiment. There are creative spins on the kir all over France (I'm dreaming now of a rosé wine-based kir, spiked with a liqueur made from a local berry, that I once savored in the village of Thueyts in the Ardéche). And of course, if you're feeling really splashy, clink glasses with a kir royale - a kir made with Champagne or sparkling wine instead of white wine.

Cognac adds virility to the classic kir royale, which is made with Champagne and black currant liqueur. It's a dashing way to kick off the evening.

For each cocktail:
3/4 ounce Cognac
1/4 ounce créme de cassis or Chambord
Chilled Champagne or sparkling wine
1 raspberry (optional)

  1. Pour the Cognac and the créme de cassis into a flute; fill the flute with Champagne. Garnish with a raspberry, if you like.
Recipe courtesy of The Bonne Femme Cookbook by Wini Moranville

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Sri Lankan Coconut Pumpkin Curry Recipe

This curry has an intense heat of chili running through it, which cuts through the rich, creamy coconut and sweet pumpkin. Use butternut squash if you can't get ahold of pumpkin.

2 tbsp olive oil
2 pounds (900g) pumpkin or butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and chopped into bite sized pieces
2 red chilies, seeded and finely chopped
4 shallots, finely chopped
2 inches (5cm) piece of fresh ginger, peeled and grated
3 garlic cloves, grated
1 lemongrass stalk, trimmed, woody outer leaves removed, and finely chopped
juice of 1 lime
14 oz. (400ml) can coconut milk
2 cups hot vegetable stock for the slow cooker (3 cups for the traditional method)
pinch of dried chile flakes
about 6 packed cups spinach leaves
salt and freshly ground black pepper

In Slow Cooker
  1. Preheat the slow cooker, if required. Heat half of the oil in a large Dutch oven over medium heat, add the pumpkin or butternut squash, and cook, stirring, for about 10 minutes until it begins to turn golden. Add the chilies and cook for a minute more.
  2. Add the remaining oil and then stir in the shallots, ginger, garlic, and lemongrass. Add the lime juice and stir to scrape any sticky bits from the bottom of the pan. Add a little coconut milk and let it bubble for a few minutes. Transfer everything to the slow cooker, then pour in the remaining coconut milk and stock together with the chile flakes. Cover with the lid and cook on high for 3 - 4 hours.
  3. Stir in the spinach and leave for a few minutes for it to wilt before serving. Taste and season, as necessary, and serve with rice.
Using traditional cooking method
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit (180 degrees Celcius). Heat half of the oil in a large Dutch oven over medium heat, add the pumpkin or butternut squash, and cook, stirring, for about 10 minutes until it begins to turn golden. Add the chilies and cook for a minute more.
  2. Add the remaining oil and then stir in the shallots, ginger, garlic, and lemongrass. Add the lime juice and stir to scrape up the bits from the bottom of the pot. Add a little coconut milk and let it bubble for a few minutes.
  3. Pour in the remaining coconut milk and the stock, and bring to a boil. Then reduce to a simmer, add the chile flakes, cover with the lid, and put in the oven for 1 hour. Check occasionally that it's not drying out, topping up with a little hot water if needed. Remove from the oven and stir in the spinach. It will wilt in the heat. Taste and season, as necessary, and serve with rice.
Serves 4 - 6

Recipe courtesy of The Slow Cook Book by Heather Whinney

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Limoncello Recipe

limoncelloLimoncello is an Italian citrus based liqueur that is usually served before or after meals. It originates from the Amalfi Coast region of Italy where lemons grow in abundance. Limoncello is usually served chilled and it is very popular in Italy during the warmer summer months. This traditional version of limoncello is lemon-based but similar liqueurs can be made from other citrus fruits. If you have the patience (this recipe takes about 35 days to make), limoncello is an easy liqueur to make at home. Staying true to this Italian classic, we used I Spirit Italian Vodka for this recipe.

8 lemons
2 cups granulated sugar
2 1/2 cups water
2 vanilla beans
1 750 mL bottle of vodka (we used I Spririt Italian Vodka)

  1. Wash the lemons and pat dry with a kitchen towel.
  2. Zest each of the lemons using a grater or vegetable peeler. Only use the outer yellow part of the rind.
  3. Pour the vodka into a large glass jar. A large Mason jar should work for a single bottle of vodka. Be sure to save the vodka bottle for bottling the limoncello when it is finished.
  4. Add the lemon zest to the jar.
  5. Scrape out the small seeds out of the vanilla beans and add them to the jar along with the vanilla beans.
  6. Put the cap back on the jar and let it sit in a dark place at room temperature for 30 days.
  7. After 30 days have passed, combine the sugar and water in a saucepan over medium heat. Bring the mixture to a gentle boil for about 6 minutes.
  8. Remove the saucepan from the heat and let it cool.
  9. Using a sieve lined with a paper coffee filter, filter the lemon rind and vanilla seeds and bean from the limoncello. Pour the pure limoncello back into the jar.limoncello
  10. Add the cooled syrup to the jar containing the limoncello. Gently mix the syrup in with the limoncello. Put the cap back onto the jar and let the mixture age for another 5 days.
  11. After 5 days have passed, using a funnel pour the limoncello back into the original vodka bottle.
  12. Store the limoncello in the freezer or refrigerator until you are ready to serve it. Serve the limoncello ice cold in shot glasses.
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Interview: Chef Tyler Florence

Chef Tyler Florence has hosted several programs on The Food Network including Food 911 and How to Boil Water and currently hosts Tyler's Ultimate. He is a graduate of the College of Culinary Arts at the Charleston, South Carolina campus of Johnson & Wales University.

In addition to his work in television, he has also developed three new restaurant concepts in the San Francisco Bay Area: Rotisserie & Wine in Napa, El Paseo in Mill Valley, and the Wayfare Tavern in San Francisco. Florence is also the author of several cook books including:

Family Meal

Dinner at My Place
Stirring the Pot
Tyler's Ultimate: Brilliant Simple Food to Make Any Time
Eat This Book: Cooking With Global Fresh Flavors
Real Kitchen

also mentioned in this interview:
Alexia Foods
Husk Restaurant - Charleston
McCrady's Restaurant - Charleston
The Lion - New York City
Wayfare Tavern - San Francisco

Book Review: 150 Best Slow Cooker Recipes

best slow cooker recipesIt’s been 10 years since the first edition of 150 Best Slow Cooker Recipes, by Judith Finlayson, was released. The second edition of this slow cooker “Bible” has been revised by the author to include new, healthier recipes and to upgrade many of the existing favorites. Finlayson has kept about 100 of the original recipes and added new dishes that include whole grains, fish and seafood, and vegetarian and vegan dishes as well. In addition to these new recipes, the book has retained many of the old classics including 15 different recipes for chili.

The popularity of slow cookers has increased dramatically since this book was first released. As such, the sizes and varieties of slow cookers have also increased. In response to these changes, the second edition of 150 Best Slow Cooker Recipes has added slow cooker size recommendations to its recipes and guidance for halving recipes.

In addition to a large collection of slow cooker recipes, Judith Finlayson includes an informative section in her book entitled, “Understanding Your Slow Cooker.” Her recommendations in this section help the reader to not only achieve success with the recipes included in the book but also provide helpful tips that can be used to create new recipes for the slow cooker. Some of the recommendations include:
  • Brown meat and soften vegetables before adding them to the slow cooker as this adds color, begins the caramelization process, and extracts fat soluble components that enrich flavor.

  • Use broth rather than water to reduce the quantity of liquid in the dish.

  • Cut root vegetables into small pieces to accommodate their slow rate of cooking in the slow cooker.

  • Pay attention to cooking temperatures. Use high temperatures when working with milk, cream, or leavening agents. When using large cuts of meat, use high temperature for at least 1 hour.

  • Use whole-leaf herbs and spices instead of their ground counterparts since they will release flavor more slowly and not degrade in the slow cooker. Add leafy greens, peas, seafood, milk and cream during the final stages of the cooking process as these can degrade as well.

In the course of our review, we chose three recipes that are strongly associated with the nations of their origin. These recipes were the Classic Boeuf Bourguignon, Lamb Korma with Spinach, and Hearty Carbonnade from France, India, and Belgium respectively. Each of these three recipes was fast and easy to prepare. Each had exceptional flavor and were very versatile in terms of pairing with side dishes.

We give this book 4 out of 5 stars. The author has successfully built upon the strengths of her original work and added a wealth of new information in response to new trends in slow cooker features and applications. This book would appeal to anyone looking for ways to prepare fast, easy, and healthy meals.

Chicken Calvados Recipe

Chicken CalvadosCalvados is the famous apple brandy of Normandy, and the bonnes femmes of Normandy often use the spirit to flavor their cooking. But don't feel you have to buy a bottle of the real thing for this recipe. If there's an apple brandy made in your region, reach for that over Calvados. As for the apples, use the best locally grown apples you can find. After all, the more local your products, the more true-to-France your cooking will be.

4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves (about 1 1/4 pounds total)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 tbsp unsalted butter
1 large shallot, finely chopped (about 1/4 cup)
1/2 cup low-sodium chicken broth
1/2 cup Calvados or apple brandy or 1/2 cup apple juice or cider and 1/2 cup white wine
2 small tart apples, peeled, cored, and cut into 1/4-inch slices
1/4 to 1/2 cup heavy cream
2 tbsp snipped fresh parsley or chives, or a combination

  1. Place the chicken breasts, one at a time, between two sheets of plastic wrap and pound to 1/4-inch thickness. (Alternatively, you can halve each breast horizontally, or butterfly them). Season both sides with salt and pepper.
  2. In a large skillet, melt the butter over medium-high heat. Add the chicken (in batches, if necessary) and cook, turning once, until no longer pink inside, 6 to 8 minutes (reduce the heat to medium if the meat browns too quickly). Transfer the chicken to a platter and cover with foil to keep warm.
  3. Stir in the shallot and sauté briefly, until translucent. Remove the pan from the heat and add the broth and Calvados, taking care not to let the liquid spatter. Return the pan to the heat and bring to a boil, stirring with a wire whisk to loosen any browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Add the apples. Let the mixture boil until the liquid is reduced to 1/4 cup, turning the apples occasionally - this should take about 4 minutes, depending on the heat and your pan size; it will take closer to 7 minutes if you substitute apple juice and wine for the Calvados.
  4. Stir in 1/4 cup cream and boil until the sauce thickens and the apples are crisp-tender. For a creamier sauce, add more cream, 1 tablespoon at a time, and continue to boil until the sauce thickens to the desired consistency. Season the sauce with additional salt and pepper. Arrange the chicken on four dinner plates, spoon the sauce and apples over the chicken, sprinkle with the parsley, and serve.
Makes 4 servings

Recipe courtesy of the Bonne Femme Cook Book by Wini Moranville

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Calzone di Ricotta alla mamma Recipe

From Ciao Italia Family Classics by Mary Ann Esposito....

Whenever I visited my mother, I would take her out to dinner at one of her favorite restaurants. Mom was never one about ambiance; it was all about the food. So it was not surprising that she often liked to go to a nondescript, hole-in-the-wall diner where they made delicious ricotta cheese-filled calzones. They were as big as a platter and she often brought half of one home for lunch the next day. Mom could re-create anything, so instead of asking the diner folks how they made them, she created her own recipe with many filling variations, such as spinach and cheese or broccoli and cheese or sausage and cheese. Still, I loved the ricotta-filled ones the best because she did, too. The success of this recipe depends on the quality of the ricotta and mozzarella cheeses.

1 pound good-quality ricotta cheese, well drained
1/2 pound fresh mozzarella or provolone cheese, cut into bits
1 1/2 tspn fine sea salt
coarsely ground black pepper

1 cup warm water (110 degrees Fahrenheit)
1 package active dry yeast
1 1/2 tspn sugar
3 to 3 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
2 tspn salt
2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil

1 large egg, lightly beaten with a fork
coarse sea salt for sprinkling on top of calzones

  1. In a bowl, combine the cheeses and salt and season generously with pepper and mix well. Cover and keep refrigerated while making the dough.
  2. In a large mixing bowl or in the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the water, yeast, and sugar. Allow to stand for 5 minutes.
  3. Add the olive oil and 2 1/2 cups of the flour and mix by hand or on medium speed with the dough blade until blended. Add additional flour 1/2 cup at a time until the dough begins to wind around the blade or is not sticking to your hands. Strive for a soft but not sticky dough.
  4. Lightly flour a work surface and turn out the dough. With wet hands knead the dough until it is smooth and elastic. Divide the dough into four equal-size balls and place them on a clean kitchen towel. Cover and let rise until doubled in size.
  5. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. With a rolling pin, flatten each ball and roll into an 8-inch-diameter round. Spread 1/2 cup of the ricotta filling on one half of each round. Fold the other half of the round over the filling to create the calzone, or turnover, shape. Seal the edges with a fork that has been dipped in flour.
  6. As you form the calzones, place them, 2 inches apart, on a parchment paper lined baking sheet. Cover with a clean kitchen towel and let rise for 20 minutes.
  7. Brush the tops of each calzone with the beaten egg; sprinkle with the coarse salt and make an X with a scissors in the top of each one.
  8. Bake the calzones for 20 minutes, or until golden brown. Serve hot.
Makes 4 calzones

Recipe courtesy of Ciao Italia Family Classics, by Mary Ann Esposito

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Kalimotxo Recipe

Kalimotxo was invented in the early 1970s at a Basque festival in Spain. A couple of servers working at one of the stands where drinks were served (txosnas) noticed that the wine that they had purchased had gone bad and they decided to add Coca-Cola to it in order to balance out the sour taste. The drink was named after two friends of the servers: Kalimero and Motxo. Since then, Kalimotxo has become popular throughout Spain and other countries as well.

Our friend John told us about this drink which he had encountered during his travels in Spain. He claims that the actual recipe is literally quite fluid: 50% Coke, 50% wine at first. Then the ratio of wine becomes greater with each subsequent drink. However you decide to mix them is up to you as is the type of red wine that you use. My niece recommended Apothic Red as a exceptionally good, cheap red (about $10) so we decided to use this with the Coca-Cola and the results were very good. Here's to friends and family!

Your favorite red wine

optional: you can also add a dash Ouzo, blackberry brandy, or anise for additional flavor.

  1. In a glass, mix together the wine and Coca-Cola (50% wine, 50% Coke).
  2. Add ice and serve.
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Arancine Siciliane (Sicilian Rice Balls) Recipe

arancineNonna Saporito could do no wrong in her kitchen. She could wield a cleaver like a pro, cut up a chicken lickety-split, and roll out pasta without breaking a sweat. Her signature dish, chicken in wine, is to this day my very favorite and one that I have never been able to duplicate in taste. Never! And when she served it, she also made arancine-fried rice balls. I devoured them. Arancine are traditional Sicilian street food that has its beginnings in many foreign cultures. The rice and saffron from the Arabs, the sheep's milk cheese from the Greeks, ragú from the French, and tomatoes from the Spanish. No wonder they are so good! Do not attempt to make these with regular rice. Make them with Arborio, the short-grain, starchy rice used to make risotto. It has the heft to stand up to frying.

Ragú Sauce
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup minced celery
1/4 cup minced carrot
1/4 cup minced onion
1 tspn hot red pepper flakes
1 pound ground beef or pork
2 cups crushed plum tomatoes
1/4 cup red wine
salt and black pepper to taste
1/2 cup peas

Rice Balls
1 cup Arborio rice
2 1/2 cups chicken broth
1 tspn saffron threads, dissolved in 1/4 cup warm water
1/2 cup grated pecorino cheese
4 large eggs
unbleached all-purpose flour
2 cups fine dry bread crumbs
4 cups canola or peanut oil for frying

Ragú Sauce
  1. Heat the oil in a 2-quart saucepan and cook celery, carrot, and onion until the vegetables soften.
  2. Stir in the red pepper flakes.
  3. Add the meat and brown it well.
  4. Combine the tomatoes with the wine and add to the meat, stirring the ingredients well.
  5. Cook over medium-low heat for 45 minutes. The mixture should be thick, not watery.
  6. Stir in the peas. Season with salt and pepper to taste. The sauce can be made several days in advance.
Rice Balls
  1. Pour the rice into a 2-quart saucepan and add the chicken broth. Stir well and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and allow the rice to cook, covered, until all the liquid has been absorbed.
  2. Strain the saffron threads and add the saffron water to the rice. Stir well.
  3. Off the heat, stir in the cheese, and add 2 of the eggs. Season with salt to taste. Let cool.
To assemble the rice balls:
  1. Scoop up about 1/2 cup of the rice in the palm of your hand; form small orange-size balls then make an indentation in the center of each ball with your finger.
  2. Fill the indentation with a generous tablespoon of the ragú.
  3. Close the rice around the filling. Set the balls aside.
  4. Put the flour in a shallow bowl.
  5. Beat the remaining 2 eggs with a fork in another shallow bowl.
  6. Coat the balls in flour, then the egg mixture. Roll the balls in bread crumbs to cover completely.
  7. Heat 4 cups of oil to 375 degrees Fahrenheit in a deep fryer of heavy-bottomed deep pot.
  8. Fry the arancine in the oil until nicely browned. Drain them on paper towels.
  9. Serve them hot with or without tomato sauce on the side.
Make arancinette, small olive-size rice balls, for part of an antipasto; instead of ragú filling, use a mixture of diced ham and Italian fontina cheese.

Chef's Secret
After coating the rice balls in bread crumbs allow them to dry out, uncovered, in the refrigerator for 15 minutes before frying. This will help the bread crumbs stay put when frying.

Makes about 12 rice balls

Recipe courtesy of Ciao Italia Family Classics, by Mary Ann Esposito

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Classic Boeuf Bourguignon Recipe

Boeuf BourguignonTo the French, this is comfort food - a long-simmered dish that evokes warm memories of childhood. To North Americans, it's great bistro food - flavorful and hearty, perfectly suited to a full-bodied red wine and lively evenings with friends. Either way, it's perfect for the slow cooker and great as a leftover since it's even better reheated. Serve with new potatoes in their skins, buttered noodles or plain white rice and a simple green vegetable such as beans or broccoli.

Recommended Equipment:
medium to large (3 1/2 to 5 quart) slow cooker

1 tbsp oil
4 oz. chunk of bacon or salt pork belly, cut into 1/2-inch(1 cm) cubes
2 pounds stewing beef, cut into 1-inch(2.5 cm) cubes, and patted dry
1 pound cremini mushrooms, trimmed and halved
2 onions, thinly sliced
3 carrots, peeled and thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tspn dried thyme or 2 sprigs fresh thyme
1 bay leaf
1 tspn salt
1/2 tspn cracked black peppercorns
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 cups dry red wine
1/2 cup beef broth
zest of 1 orange
chopped fresh Italian flat-leaf parsley leaves

  1. In a large skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add bacon and cook, stirring, until crisp. Using a slotted spoon, transfer to paper towel to drain. Drain off all but 2 tbsp(30 mL) fat in pan.
  2. Add beef to pan, in batches, and brown, about 4 minutes per batch. Transfer to slow cooker stoneware.
  3. Add mushrooms to pan and cook until tops are lightly browned, about 4 minutes. Transfer to stoneware. Reduce heat to medium. Add onions and carrots to pan and cook, stirring, until softened, about 7 minutes. Add garlic, thyme, bay leaf, salt, and peppercorns and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add flour and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add wine and beef broth, bring to a boil and cook, stirring, and scraping up brown bits from bottom of pan, until thickened, about 5 minutes.
  4. Transfer to slow cooker stoneware. Stir in bacon and orange zest. Cover and cook on low for 8 hours or on high for 4 hours, until beef is very tender. Discard bay leaf. Just before serving, garnish liberally with parsley.
Recipe courtesy of The 150 Best Slow Cooker Recipes by Judith Finlayson

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