Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Anniversary Dinner...a tradition in our house

So today is our 31st anniversary. I missed making "the meal" on our engagement anniversary (a tradition) because veal was in rare supply in Omaha. This past Easter, veal reappeared in the market so I bought a few packages for the freezer. Tonight was the very traditional dinner for such occasions in our house...Veal Saltimbocca, Fettuccine Alfredo, steamed broccoli and a new addition "Crostini ala Romana". I posted this delicious appetizer earlier but tis the season and its delish!

For the Veal

sliced Prosciutto

I usually pound the veal to about 1/8 inch thick, dredge it in flour and saute in a bit of olive oil with a sage leaf. When done top with a slice of Prosciutto and Provolone. I broiled it a bit to make it all nice and melty. Yum.

The Alfredo is pretty basic. I buy a very thick cream, heat it with a clove of crushed garlic, a bit of salt and 1/2 c Parmesan. After the noodles are al dente, add them to the mix and serve immediately.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Eating Omaha....Mai Thai

Nick and Brooke wanted a night out so after the long drive from Grandpa's 80 Birthday celebration we rolled into town and went to the Mai Thai restuarant for dinner. Mackenzie and Emily and their beaus joined us so we had a table for eight.

Nick and Brooke had been here before so they knew the ropes. Brenda ordered the Garlic Chicken (3 heat) while I took on the Crsipy Duck (4 heat). Wow. It was all good. Brooke's Yellow Curry (her standard) was also a 4 heat but curries are hotter anyway. Mine could have gone up a few notches but was just so good. Tasty, tender crisp green beans, onions and peppers. And the duck...heaven.

Samples of each were passed around, some of the heat varied widely depending on the dish but nothing outrageous. I liked the curries a lot. Just an all around tasty great place to eat with friendly staff, great servive and a nice atmosphere ala the now defunct "Z" Gallerie. A lot of native folks eating here so it must be authentic. Yum, we'll see this place again.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Eating Omaha....Piccolo's

We are hitting some really old standards these next few months starting with a Omaha favorite...Piccolo's Steak House. A classic Omaha restaurant in South Omaha it has been a standard of the city for years. Part of a large Italian family of restaurateurs, it is huge, has a regular Saturday crowd and offers a side of pasta with every meal (as a vegetable).

I had read a lot of reviews online before we dined on Saturday and was a bit disappointed that the "Warren" groupies were generally disappointed in Piccolo's, generally known in the Bershire Hathaway circle as one of Warren Buffet's favorite eateries. Not sure what folks expected. Yes, the interior is a bit dated and the decor is a tiny bit schmaltzy but where on God's green earth can you find a perfectly cooked 16 oz New York cut for $21? This place was great. Great service, nice people, casual atmosphere and fair price. The four of us drank a beer and ate steak dinners for about $45 per couple. Crazy good.

The ladies had the special Bacon wrapped Fillet (6oz) for $15.95 while the boys dined on the New York cut for $21. The sides were baked potatoes or hash browns, green beans or pasta and a small dinner salad with house dressing. It was great, all of it. The steak was nicely trimmed, not a iota to waste cooked a perfect medium. The service was right on the ball if maybe a bit too fast as we we in and out in about 45 minutes. Nice size crowd for a Saturday they must do a brisk business.  Four thumbs up from this group. We'll be back for sure.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Cook's Illustrated Pizza recipe....this one is different

Researching high hydration doughs. Doughs that are not kneaded and almost pourable at first make for airy and light crusts that can be rolled thin. Here is one from America's Test Kitchen that has 1/2 and 1/2 in it. Odd.  It is made for freezing in tin pans and then baking whenever.

1½ cups half-and-half, heated to 110 degrees
½ cup water, heated to 110 degrees
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
4 cups all-purpose flour
¼ cup cornstarch
1 envelope (2¼ teaspoons) instant or rapid-rise yeast
½ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon sugar
1½ teaspoons salt

1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil, plus additional for brushing
1 tablespoon tomato paste
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon dried basil
1 teaspoon dried oregano
¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
3 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
¼ cup Parmesan cheese, grated
¼ cup half-and-half
1. MAKE DOUGH: Adjust oven rack to lowest position and heat oven to 200 degrees. When oven reaches 200 degrees, shut it off. Grease large bowl. Combine half-and-half, water, and oil in liquid measuring cup. In bowl of stand mixer fitted with dough hook, mix flour, cornstarch, yeast, baking powder, sugar, and salt until combined. With mixer on medium-low speed, add half-and-half mixture in steady stream and mix until dough comes together, about 1 minute. Continue mixing until sticky strands form around exterior but center of dough is uniform in texture, about 5 minutes. Transfer dough to prepared bowl, coat lightly with cooking spray, cover with plastic wrap, and place in warm oven. Let rise until doubled in size, about 1 hour.
2. MAKE SAUCE: Pulse tomatoes in food processor until coarsely ground. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in large saucepan over medium heat until shimmering. Cook tomato paste until just beginning to brown, about 2 minutes. Stir in garlic, basil, oregano, and pepper flakes and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add pulsed tomatoes and simmer until reduced to 1½ cups, about 10 minutes. Season with salt and let cool.
3. CONSTRUCT PIZZA: Remove dough from oven and divide in half. Following the photos, transfer each half to 12-inch disposable aluminum pizza pan and, using oiled hands, press dough to cover pan. Combine mozzarella, Parmesan, and half-and-half in large bowl and stir with rubber spatula until well combined. Top each pizza evenly with half of sauce and half of cheese, leaving ½-inch border around edges. Wrap each pizza tightly with plastic, then aluminum foil. Freeze up to 1 month.
4. BAKE PIZZA: Adjust oven rack to lowest position, place pizza stone on rack, and heat oven to 500 degrees. Discard foil and plastic and remove frozen pizza from aluminum pan. Place pizza on large square of parchment paper and brush edges of dough lightly with oil. Transfer parchment and pizza to hot pizza stone. Cover pizza loosely with greased aluminum foil and bake until underside is golden brown and cheese is starting to melt, about 25 minutes. Discard foil and bake until crust is golden brown and cheese is completely melted, about 5 more minutes. Serve.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Authentic Enchiladas?

I had a wild hair. A Tuesday with nothing in particular on the docket for dinner. Brenda was off  and participating in retail therapy sessions. I had a few pounds of lean burger in the fridge. What to do? Luckily I was still at work when I brainstormed "enchiladas" and I was close to the Hispanic market to stop by and get some hard to come by ingredients. I wanted these babies authentic which means making your own enchilada sauce. Just in case, I Brenda pick up a jar from Trader Joe's.

The Hispanic grocery, Avanza,  in Midtown caters to Latino and Asian customers. They display a huge array of beans, rice and peppers along with corn to grind for tortillas and a vast selection of prepared Mexican specialities. I need a jar of "Sofrito" paste for the recipe and a few dried Ancho Chiles. They were more than happy to oblige my fantasy.  Ever since we went to Nettie's in (deep) South Omaha, I have been craving her enchiladas with that dark red, dry coating on the tortilla and piquant sauce.

I found a recipe that had to be translated so I figured that had to be authentic. Just to make sure I checked a dozen other recipes to validate the ingredients. I did not use chicken in my enchiladas but this is the original recipe from
  • 8 dried ancho chiles, rehydrated in hot water, drained and seeded
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 2 packets (3.98 ounces each) MAGGI Sofrito Seasoning Paste (tomato, garlic, onion)
  • 1 1/2 MAGGI Chicken Flavor Bouillon Tablets, dissolved in 1/2 cup hot water
  • 1 teaspoon oregano
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 16 medium corn tortillas
  • 2 cups shredded, cooked chicken breast meat
  • 2 1/2 cups (10 ounces) crumbled Mexican panela cheese, divided
  • NESTLÉ Media Crema
  • Thinly sliced onion
  • Thinly sliced radishes

  • PREHEAT oven to 350° F.
  • PLACE chiles, water, sofrito, dissolved bouillon and oregano in blender; cover. Blend until smooth. Pour sauce in large bowl; set aside.
  • HEAT oil in large skillet. Fry tortillas one at a time for 2 to 3 seconds to soften. Drain tortillas on paper towels. Dip tortillas in chile sauce; fill evenly with shredded chicken and 2 cups cheese. Roll filled tortillas and arrange in large baking dish.
  • POUR remaining chile sauce over filled tortillas in baking dish. Sprinkle with remaining ½ cup cheese; cover with foil.
  • BAKE for 15 minutes or until heated through and bubbly. Serve topped with media crema, sliced onions and radishes.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Graduations abound......

I have a family of scholars this year. Brenda became certified in her field of Peri Anesthesia Nursing, Ben obtained his BSN and Mackenzie completed her Masters for a APRN in NICU (tough course work) This called for a major celebration for sure and celebrate we did.

The kids called the shots. Since we have a Mediterranean obsession, the food was Greek in theme with chicken and tzatiki, feta and kalamatas. An assortment of flat breads and few other favorites like Brenda's avocado- black bean salsa and chicken wings. No matter how many pounds of wings I make, they disappear in a heartbeat. Crazy.  We had a lot of food and wine and I had an expertly made Dirty Vodka Martini that Nick made for me.  Good friends came over although less than I expected so we have some major leftovers.

I grilled about 10 pounds of boneless, skinless chicken after brining for a few hours then cut it into chunks and strips. I dressed it with lemon juice, olive oil and a hefty dose of garlic and oregano for a decidedly Greek influence.

Tzatiki is just a mix of sour cream and yogurt with shredded cukes and garlic, dill and a drizzle of olive oil. So nice and fresh tasting with the chicken. A beautiful salad of greens topped with olives, feta, cukes, tomatoes and red onion completed the major food stuffs.  Ben insisted on Honey Chipotle wings. I roasted about 10 pounds and covered them in the sauce and then roasted them again for 15 minutes. They had a nice zing to them from the Chipotle powder.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Killer Bread

A long time ago in a land far, far away (Cedar Rapids IA) a buddy of mine ran across a recipe in a food magazine for this bread. Ever since,  I make it when ever we grill out AND my daughter, Mackenzie is coming for dinner. It's her favorite and anyone who needs the key to hear heart just has to master Killer Bread.

Max's Killer Garlic Bread. Photo by Proud Veteran's wife
This is not my photo so it actually looks better than this but the premise is super simple and you will not be disappointed. I generally pick up a loaf of fresh Italian or French Bread from the market. Sometimes a baguette will do but mostly it's one of those big doughy loafs at the front of the store in a warmer or hot from the bakery section.

Mix 1/2 to 1 cup of Mayo with
1/2 cup Parmesean or Romano
6 cloves of finely minced garlic.

Split the loaf  lengthwise and butter both sides, broil till golden.
Spread the above mixture and broil again till the topping is bubbly and golden.

If I keep giving out my favorite recipes,  no one will come for dinner again......

Sunday, May 6, 2012

To The Grill

Today is a lazy day after so much work yesterday. After church we stopped and picked up some boneless back ribs. Not sure where they come from the pig but they look like pork loin cut into long 1 1/2 thick strips. I brined them in the usual brine of 1/4 c salt, 1/4 c sugar and 4 cups water for about 3-4 hours.

I grilled them over medium heat to get some nice marks and sprinkled them with my rub on each side. Once they had a nice crusty brown and were cooked about medium, i removed them and cut them into rib sized pieces.

Ahead of time I made my favorite barbecue sauce that uses just stuff from your pantry.

1 medium onion processed with a few tablespoons of water, pressed through a strainer. Collect the juice in your saucepan. Add

1 cup ketchup
5T Molasses
2t Dijon mustard
2T Worcestershire
2T Liquid smoke
2 T vinegar
1 t hot sauce
1/2 t black pepper
2T oil
1 t minced garlic, chili powder
1/4 cayenne

Mix and simmer for 30 mins. Check the seasoning add what you need.  Today my pantry lacked a few ingredients so I subbed and it still tastes great. I used prepared mustard, onion salt, powdered garlic and had a few ounces of left over BBQ sauces left in the fridge which I added.  Yum.

Dinner will be done after a few ears of corn, some roasted Brussel's sprouts and a loaf of Killer Bread.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Man Pleasing Chicken...we'll see about that

So today I was up early and had taken advantage of an artichoke sale a week ago. I decided to stuff hem and the process, cleaning and rest of the making seems so tedious I am glad its over and they are in the fridge for dinner tonight. Not doing that again for a while.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch I ran across an interesting premise on Pinterest for Man Pleasing Chicken. So simple yet could it live up to it's title. Well,  I was out of milk so while at the grocery I also picked up some chicken thighs and breasts for my non dark meat eating wife.

Here is what the dish is supposed to look like courtesy of "Witty in the City" blog

She does a better job than I of telling the story so retrieve the recipe and lets check this bad boy out. Mine is in the fridge marinating as we speak. It's only 9 am here folks. I told you I got early. The recipe does not call for it to marinate but.....what the heck.

5-10-12  Okay. I have to admit this was pretty good. Not as described in the article but I would make this again. It needs a bit of salt but the chicken was great and it was tasty and easy to make and while this photo is from the website, mine looked very similar.  Just a warning that the sauce gets a bit thin as the chicken juices run.


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