Thursday, June 30, 2011

A 75 for 32 [Rhonda]

A 75 for 32

Thirty-two years.

Thirty-two measures of bliss. Laughter, stories, butting heads, how-was-your-day, three little sons, I-can’t-believe-you-just-said-that, where’s the cat, wait-‘til-you-hear-this snippets of dinner conversation.

Tonight we celebrated our classic 32-year run with a classic cocktail.

The French 75

1 bottle of very nice champagne
2 splashes of VSOP cognac
1 squeeze of fresh lemon
Sugar, to rim your most beautiful champagne glass
Lemon rind, to garnish
Pour the cognac, squeeze the lemon, pour the champagne. Toast, sip. Love.

Suggested soundtrack:
Evelyn "Champagne" King's "Boogie Oogie Woogie"
We danced so hard to this song....

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Rigatoni alla Carbonara [Nick]

Slowly crank up the decibel level on your ipod and bring those slow, seductive John Legend tunes to the ears of your lady-friend, because this meal is about to get sexy.

Scenario: cute girl, she's got a knack for you, but you still desperately want to impress her. Well've got to croon for the ladies to swoon (and if you're like me and can't is the best plan for you...)

It's called Rigatoni alla Carbonara. This meal was created as a quintessential "working man's" meal in Italy for coal miners way back in the day. As time has passed, the dish has evolved and only a few restaurants and individuals have seemed to perfect it (including my mother). Unfortunately, Americans have turned the dish into an Alfredo pasta with bacon which, after traveling to Italy, saddens me beyond all measure.

So here it is, the simple meal with simple ingredients that will turn up the volume on your cooking game...


Start by taking the cut of pancetta and slice small, roughly 1/2 inch pieces on a cutting board. Turn your heat to medium/high under a frying pan and cook these little slices of heaven like you would any regular bacon (crispy is better for contrast in the pasta). Once they are done, put them aside and put a large pot of water on the stove (add salt to the water for flavor and an increased boiling point). While the water is beginning to get hot, cut up the 1/2 small white onion, and sauté it in a frying pan. Once the onion appears soft, toss in the 5 cloves of minced garlic for a quick minute (do not let the garlic get overly brown!).

The most crucial part of this dish are the eggs. Differing from other carbonara dishes I've had in the past, and yet replicating the Roman archetype, I use only the egg yolks. The best method to get only the yolk is to crack the egg and use your fingers as a strainer. Eventually, you will see that the yolk is easy to cradle (maybe practice on an egg or two before you invite that nice lady-friend of yours over). Take the 12 egg yolks and mix them together in a bowl. As this is going on, you should be cooking your rigatoni pasta (stirring every minute or so). Once the pasta has cooked for 10-12 minutes, test a noodle and see if it has the texture you enjoy (maybe a little more al dente, maybe a little less).

Now you are ready for the final and easiest step. Strain the pasta, leaving a very small amount of residual water from the cooked noodles. Add the 12 egg yolks to the dish, the chopped onion and the diced garlic. Toss in the pancetta and 1/2 cup of grated parmigiana reggiano.

All the while, you should be stirring the pot of pasta. (note: keep the heat on very low at the bottom of the pot while you are stirring, as the noodles tend to get cold quickly) Add in a pinch of Sea Salt (but remember, the cheese is already salty so don't ruin it!) Finally, liberally add fresh ground black pepper for some pizazz. Give the pot a few more stirs and plate the pasta.


3/4lb Rigatoni
12 Large Eggs
1/2 Cup Grated Parmigiana Reggiano
1/4lb Pancetta
1/2 Diced Small White Onion
5 Minced Garlic Cloves
Fresh Ground Black Pepper
Sea Salt

At this point, your lady should already be so impressed that if your dish turns out halfway decent, she will likely still be sticking around.

In addition to my carbonara, I added a simple green salad with some oil/vinegar dressing, pecans, and shaved parmigiana.

Oh baby! What's cookin'??

As the Koulermos family continues to make more posts, it should come as no surprise that more carbonara recipes will be added. Why, you might ask? Why on earth do you keep posting about this dish you crazy Koulermi!!?? Simple: in the world of pastas, carbonara is king.

Enjoy your dish with some Legend...
John Legend - Each Day Gets Better

Focaccia [Zack]

Focaccia: the name of my favorite bread and Matt's least favorite song. When we were little kids driving to go out to eat Italian food, Nick and I would sing the word "FoOOoocaaAAaaaccia!!!!" as loud as we could in a falsetto voice to Matt (mind you Nick and I still hadn't hit puberty so I guess everything we sang was falsetto, but you know what I mean). This really pissed him off, which unsurprisingly made it a lot of fun for Nick and me.

Besides laughing whenever I hear the name, I've always wanted to make focaccia because it's ideal for sandwiches.  The luxurious amounts of olive oil and fun ingredients on top always compliment whatever you want to put in a sandwich.  I took this method from Jamie Oliver’s awesome cooking show, The Naked Chef.  Boy I hope this website gets a lot of hits because I just typed naked.

A quick note on this recipe and pictures: Sometimes things don’t go quite as planned. I was very excited to use sun dried tomatoes on top of the baked focaccia, but I didn't re-hydrate them first. They burnt because they had no water in them and I had to pick them off to make the pictures look good.  I replaced the tomatoes with rosemary in the recipe because that version will work much better.  Lesson learned!

Shout out to Ma Patel - I know I have owed you this recipe for a long time, but here it is!


Start by making fancy flavored oil. Dice some garlic and add some bruised rosemary (or re-hydrated sun dried tomatoes) to a bowl. Hit the rosemary with something blunt to bruise the leaves and release the natural oils.  Add to a bowl and glug a bunch of good olive oil on top and let it stand while you prepare your bread.

In a cup combine a packet of yeast with ¼ a cup of warmish water (110 F). Add in a heaping tablespoon of honey so the yeast can feed and get happy. Let stand for 10 minutes so it bubbles and fizzes.

In a large metal bowl, combine the flour and salt and mix. Make a cavity in the center and add in the activated yeast.

Start mixing with one hand and slowly pouring the remaining 1 cup of water in with the other. Knead the flour mixture until it doesn't stick to your hands. Continue to knead slowly for 5 minutes or until it’s silky smooth.

Place onto a cutting board with an overturned bowl covering it so it doesn't dry out. Let the bread rise for 30 minutes or until the dough has doubled in size.

Punch down the bread to get all of the air bubbles out and roll it out to the shape of your baking dish. You can use anything, even a bottle of wine....


Lightly flour the bottom of your baking dish and fit the dough into the container, making sure that the thickness is even all around. Then, take about 1/3 cup of your flavored oil and pour it over the top of the bread making sure to include the rosemary and garlic. Take the tips of your fingers and make a bunch of indentations in the bread (not all the way through to the bottom) so the oil can get in there and flavor the bread while it's baking.

Let the bread rise a second time for 30 minutes or so. Sprinkle the top with sea salt just before baking.

Bake at 200C/400F for 15 minutes until the top is nicely browned.

1 lb flour
1 and 1/4 cups water
1 packet of yeast
1 heaping T of honey
1/3 cup olive oil
4 garlic cloves (or more if you can handle it)
5 sprigs of rosemary

The water and flour combination is approximate - use your judgement when you are mixing it together with your hands and slowly add the water until the dough doesn't stick to your fingers and is balling up nicely.  You can always add a touch more flour or water if needed.

Try making a sandwich using roasted eggplant, sun-dried tomatoes, parsley, and ricotta – it’s sublime!

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Fried Habanero Pickles [Matt]

i'll be making these for our july 4th party, but wanted to do a dry run this weekend! it turned out way better than i thought it would.

use 20 - 30 pickle spears. i used my homemade habanero dill pickles. take the pickles out of the jar so the extra juice can drip away.

make an egg wash in a mixing bowl with 1 large egg and 2/3 cups whole milk.

then make a 50/50 mixture of panko and bread crumbs on a large plate.

take a pickle, dip it in the egg wash, then in the breading until coated (you may need to repeat). place the breaded pickles on a baking sheet with wax paper. once all the pickles have been coated with batter, place the baking sheet into the fridge for 30 minutes. this will help the batter stick to the pickles when frying.

heat up your frying oil of choice (i used canola). once oil is to temp, ease 4 - 8 pickles into the oil at a time, depending on the size of the pot you are frying them in. they take about 3 minutes to fry up. once the pickle is golden brown, place on a drying rack.

give the finished pickles 10+ minutes to cool, then serve with whatever crazy dipping sauce you can think of.

((((cook track)))) Erik Sumo - Left My Heart in the Saloon

Handmade Pasta [Zack]

Making pasta at home is one of my favorite things to do in the kitchen because it's continues to be amazing to transform 3 simple ingredients into great pasta. Dinner guests always seem impressed, and most of the time they want to get their hands dirty (well, flour-y). Plus, people seem to think the food tastes better when they helped make it!

This method is relatively new to me. Before, I used to combine all of the ingredients in the work bowl of a food processor, add the eggs, and then add water and turn it on until the dough balled up. Then I’d take it out and knead it. This worked well, but after discovering this new method, I realized that the old one had too much water. You will get more al dente snap in this pasta and is MUCH easier to put through the pasta machine because it doesn't really stick to the rollers.

And because it doesn't stick, it's a much easier 1-man job if you don’t have a hot date around…


Start by adding the flour and salt to the food processor. Give it a quick whir to mix it. Then drop the eggs* in and close the lid.

*Note– peoples’ preferences vary on whether to use whole eggs or the yolks. I’ve done it both ways and have had great results with each. If you use the yolks, just save the whites for your omelet the next morning.

Mix the ingredients and open the lid and take a look. It should start to look like bread crumbs.

Add a less than 1 tsp of water and pulse if the dough hasn't made it to this stage below. Make sure to stop once the bread crumbs start to lump together, but before it turns into a big ball of dough. This will result in silky but firm dough.

Dump the crumbs out onto a lightly floured surface and knead into a ball until it feels smooth and elastic.

This should take 5 minutes and it will feel very firm for at least the first 3 minutes. Cover in plastic wrap and place in the fridge for 30 minutes to rest. The wet ingredients will hydrate and distribute throughout the dough.

Twenty minutes before you want to roll out the pasta, take the dough out of the fridge and let it come to room temperature. Section into slightly larger-than-golf ball chunks and put the plastic wrap over the other pieces all that are not in use.

Start with the largest setting on your roller and put the dough through to flatten it out. It may not come out perfectly smooth the first time and will probably have some rips and holes in it. This is okay – we need to give it a little more exercise. Just fold it in half and put it back through the largest setting. After it comes out smoothly, you are ready for the next thinnest setting. Keep repeating and lightly dust with flour (if you think it’s going to stick) until you get to your desired thickness.

Now you can do a variety of things. You can make ravioli, you can roll it up like a cigar and cut it into very wide noodles for a strong meat sauce, use the spaghetti or fettuccine cutter, or make lasagna! You can even flavor the dough by adding roasted garlic or herbs and you can color it by adding spinach or tomato paste. Whatever you decide, chances are it will be great!

2 cups AP flour
3 eggs
1 tsp salt
possibly a touch of water

*You will have to experiment on the quantities a bit and use the pictures above as a guide. Egg sizes vary and your flour may be compacted differently, so it's better to learn to do this by sight.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Caramel Cake--New and Improved! [Rhonda]

Caramel Cake

Degree of difficulty: medium (two tricky things: exact cook time for cake, and how much powdered sugar to use to get a spreadable consistency without getting it too sweet)

Time: 15 minutes to make cake once the ingredients are room temp, 25 minutes or so to cook the cake, half hour to cool it, 25 minutes to make icing (there’s a cooling process involved) and decorate cake

Verdict: Totally worth it

Serves: 10 – 12

Sometimes the cake gods are just with you.

But it didn’t start out that way last Thursday. I was preparing food to take to my mom’s in SC, an 83rd birthday celebration for her. Short on time, long on ambition. Typical Rhonda.

Her perennial favorite for the last ten years has been caramel cake. It’s also made appearances at the Kaisers’ lake cottage in Michigan for many Fourth of Julys—once melting on the way up in Zack’s no-AC car (we dubbed it “slide cake” and ate it with a spoon).

With recent attempts, however, I wasn’t happy with the cake part (too floury-tasting). That’s why I flipped to the 1-2-3-4 Yellow Cake recipe in Joy of Cooking. Sounded easy enough.

Yeah well. When I set the layers on the racks to cool, they looked just like those little tan sea sponges you buy in the souvenir shops in Tarpon Springs, Fla. Not the light and fluffy exhibit I was hoping for.


I quickly zeroed in on the cookbook’s Buttermilk Layer Cake recipe. I think it’s the cake flour and the cup of buttermilk that make this a keeper. Without question, the lightest, tastiest cake I’ve ever—ever!—made.

The icing was a homerun too. Because I was squeezed for time, once the butter/brown sugar/milk mixture had reached the boiling point, I set it in an ice water bath and kept stirring to cool it off. Plus I used much less powdered sugar than normal, so the butter/brown sugar taste really came through.

When all was said and done down South, there was one measly piece left to take home to Michael. Despite traveling on its side in a plastic container for the full 7 ½ hours and getting knocked around a bit, it became the single-slice food shot you see here.

Click. And Michael scarfed it down.

Buttermilk Layer Cake

(All ingredients should be room temp)

Sift together:

2 1/3 cups sifted cake flour
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt

In a large bowl, beat until creamy, about 30 seconds:

1 ½ sticks unsalted butter

Gradually add and beat on high speed until lightened in color and texture, 2 to 4 minutes:

1 1/3 cups sugar

Whisk together, then gradually beat in, taking about 2 minutes:

3 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla

Add the flour mixture in 3 parts, alternating with, in 2 parts:

1 cup buttermilk

Beat on low speed until smooth. Divide batter into two greased and floured 9 x 2 inch pans (I line the bottom with a circle of waxed paper). Bake in preheated 350 F oven for 25 to 27 minutes. Let cool in pans on a rack for 10 minutes. Slide a thin knife around the cake to detach it from the pans. Invert the cake and peel off the waxed paper. Let cool right side up on the rack.

Caramel Icing


2 sticks butter
2 cups brown sugar, firmly packed
½ cup whole milk
2 cups to 3 ½ cups powdered sugar

Melt the butter in a saucepan. Add brown sugar and cook over low heat 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Add milk and continue cooking, stirring constantly until mixture comes to a boil, about 5 minutes (I use a candy thermometer and get it to 212 F). Remove from heat. Cool. (Setting the saucepan into an ice water bath cools it quickly but you have to keep stirring or it will harden too much.)

Place cooled mixture in large mixing bowl and begin adding powdered sugar while beating the icing with an electric mixer. Add powdered sugar until spreadable consistency is took about 2 cups for me. (A few minutes in the fridge will thicken the icing too.)

Spread on cake. No need to refrigerate once it’s done, unless you’re riding around with it in Zack’s old Volvo.

Suggested soundtrack: Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D Minor. One kick-ass piece of music, also from the gods

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

"Spinach Salad Gourmet" [Tom & June]

This recipe dates back to the early 70's. I was a bartender at the Hazard Powder Company located on 2nd Ave. between 82nd & 83rd. This was a "shout & holler" bar. No food - only alcohol! There were no tables or chairs. Everyone sat on the rug floor. The juke box blasted - The Who - Stones and all the sounds of the times. One night, in walks this guy wearing a starched shirt, pressed pants and a Hollywood haircut. After he orders a drink, we talk and I learn he just ended a tour. I introduced him to the owner.

Steve had just finished a tour with Steve Lawrence & Eydie Gorme. He was their personal chef. Steve had also done the same with one of the with Rowan & Martin guys as well as other celebs.

So, 5 days later, Steve Kenney is behind the bar with me and so it begins. We did 2 separate stints together at the Hazard. We had the place rocking. We installed 2 turntables, huge speakers, bought 50 records and hired hot ladies to spin the sounds while customer stared at their bouncing butts. The only time the owner came in was during the day to do the books. He loved that we increased his sales by 200% but did not want to know how! Each night we worked, it was a SHOW! We danced, tossed the shakers in the air and flipped bottles back & forth. (this was long before Tom's Cruise's Cocktail)

We took jobs in Sugarbush, Vermont at the Phoenix Restaurant. Steve was the head chef & I was was his sous chef. Steve taught me much about food and we had as much fun cooking as we did bartending. Steve stayed in Vermont and became a local celebrity. He was known as "Sky Chef" and spent years on a local cooking show. He was way ahead of his time.

Steve created this salad for Eydie while he was on tour with them. Steve told me Eydie wanted light, healthy and non-fattening meals.

So it was named -"Spinach Salad Gourmet"
The salad has a warm vinegar dressing - serves 2.

One bag fresh spinach
6 slices of thick bacon - cut into small pieces prior to cooking (DO NOT discard renderings)
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
2-3 cloves minced garlic
2 Grated hard boiled eggs
5 tsp red wine vinegar
1 tsp honey
Salt & pepper
Croutons (optional)
For additional substance I added a sliced grilled chicken breast that was marinated in Italian dressing.

You'll also need -
Big stainless steel bowl
Pair of tongs
Big frying pan

Fry the bacon pieces until crispy, remove to paper towel with a slotted spoon. Save renderings to be used for the dressing.

Place washed, dried spinach in stainless bowl.
Add minced garlic to the - let's call it what it is - bacon fat. Saute for 2 minutes on low.

Add mustard, Worcestershire sauce, honey, S & P, vinegar and simmer. This just needs to be warm - not hot!

Slowly pour the dressing around the bowl then put the frying pan (cooking side down) to clamp the bowl pan together for one minute. This will semi-steam the spinach.

Uncover bowl and with tongs, gently toss spinach to coat with dressing. Place on plates. Top with bacon bits, chicken, grated egg and croutons.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Blue Ridge Mountain Bleu Burgers [Tom & June]

We're currently in the Blue Ridge Mountains in Georgia in a quaint log cabin. We have an incredible view of the mountains which has layer upon layer of various mountain landscapes with the high point being the Blue Ridge.

So how does this translate to food? Well, if you know the "K" family - EVERYTHING translates to food! But here, the Blue Ridge Mountains brings to mind Bleu Cheese Burgers - lots of blue - lots of layers. So here's our Blue Ridge Bleu Burger. We know these probably aren't unique and everyone knows how to make them, but if you haven't tried them with the "extras", you're really missing out. This is "vacation food" - calories and fat content are not being considered!! Simple, incredible flavor, somewhat decadent.....
[Tom & June]
Ingredients to build 4 Blue Ridge Mountain Bleu Cheese Burgers -

First, always start with the freshest, finest ingredients ~
1 lb ground beef (extra lean is better for you but 75% has much better flavor)
1 - 5-7 oz package crumbled bleu cheese (we like Treasure Cave) - add more if you really love bleu cheese
1 medium onion (when in Georgia a Vidalia is a must)
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp onion powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
1 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1 Avocado
4 Slices thick bacon
4 French (deli-style) buns

Saute onion until translucent and let cool. Mix ground beef, bleu cheese, onion, garlic powder, onion powder, salt & pepper & Worcestershire. Make into 4 burgers. Better if made ahead and allowed to blend.

Grill to desired doneness.

While grilling the burgers, cook bacon until crispy. You can grill the bacon if you like - on aluminum pan or foil or just grill if you're feeling brave.

Toast the buns for a little crunch.

Build your Mountain Burger - Toasted Bun, Burger, Bacon, Avocado, Top of the Mountain Bun.

Extra condiments are up to you but this has great flavors on it's own! YUM!

We served this with grilled sweet potatoes. Just added a little butter/brown sugar glaze and grilled.

Friday, June 17, 2011

That Famous Salad Dressing [Rhonda]

Degree of difficulty: super-easy
Time: 5 minutes
Serves: 8 to 10 salads

There are a handful of recipes you clip and save, come across at a friend’s home, or hammer out through years of evolution and experimentation that are prized above all others. They get raves every single time. This is one of those.

It will change your life. Seriously.

And for those of you still buying bottled salad dressing, once you whisk together a dressing like this, you won’t ever consume supermarket dreck again.

Picture one of the most beautiful Ralph Lauren runway models of the eighties—Bonnie Pfeifer—long, chestnut hair flecked with blonde, mile-long legs, perfect smile, in the kitchen with her then-boyfriend, cleaning out the remnants of the Dijon mustard jar with a swish of vinegar. They chopped garlic with no thought or measure, sloshed these simple elements into a dressing that rivaled the one at New York’s chicest French bistro—La Goulue—at 65th St. and Madison.

In the beginning, I measured and fretted over every detail. I had to have tamari or I couldn’t attempt it. Exactly how much mustard is in a nearly-empty mustard jar? One tablespoon? Three?

Over the years, things have shifted a bit. I use less oil now, different vinegars or stout grainy mustard when inspiration strikes, usually no cream, and give it a quick whirl in the blender to emulsify.

Make a lot at once and keep it on hand—it’s nice over roasted vegetables, and certainly elevates the simple salad to something special. Forever thank you, Bonnie!

½ c. apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1-2 cloves finely minced garlic
2-3 tablespoons tamari or soy sauce
1 ¼ c. olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper
1-2 tablespoons heavy cream, optional

Combine vinegar, mustard, garlic, tamari, and pepper in bowl. Add olive oil slowly, whisking. If you want a creamy dressing, add a small amount of heavy cream. Mix well before using.

Suggested soundtrack: channel 1980 with Smokey Robinson’s Cruisin’, one of the biggest Top 40 hits of that year

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Dill Pickles [Matt]

- pickling cucumbers (20 to 30)
- whole heads of fresh dill
- whole garlic cloves (large)
- whole small hot peppers
- 2 qt. water
- 1 qt. white or cider vinegar
- 1 c. canning salt
(ingredient recipe via

start by boiling water in a large pot to sterilize jars. let jars sit in the water for at least a minute before carefully removing.

in the meantime, quarter the cucumbers longways.

mix the water, vinegar, and salt in a pot. bring to a boil.

shove the cucumbers, dill, peppers, and garlic into the jars. cram 'em in good. pour the hot mixture (aka the brine) into the stuffed jars. make sure everything is completely covered by the brine. close the jars. make sure they are sealed air-tight.

place in fridge. wait a few weeks.

((((cook track)))) Athletic Mic League - Feel It!

Fast Post: Quick Scrambled Eggs [Zack]

Here is my process on how to quickly make a pan of scrambled eggs with minimal cleanup.  No, this may not be the way Mr. Thomas Keller would recommend, but as long as you aren't doing this for your next Iron Chef competition, I think you will be okay.


Start by chopping all of the vegetables you would like to use.  I like using a large amount of vegetables in my scrambled eggs because it is a good trick to get a jump on my daily required intake.  Add the vegetables in order of how long they will take to cook.  Onions take the longest, so add them first and let them saute on medium heat for 5 minutes.  Add the mushrooms and sundried tomatoes and let them cook another 5 minutes.  Then add the green onions and garlic and lightly salt all of them to taste.

Once all of your veggies are ready to go turn down the heat to low.  Make a crater in the center and crack a few eggs in the center.  Start stirring slowly and cook until the eggs are done (about 3-5 minutes). 

Serve and enjoy!


1 medium onion, diced or sliced
1/4 cup diced sundried tomatoes
8-10 baby bella mushrooms (or other), sliced
1-2 cloves garlic
2 green onions
3 eggs

Creativity Options:
My Mom's Rosemary Potatoes. pepperoni, and American cheese
Steak and blue cheese omelet
Smoked salmon and cream cheese
Steak and pesto
Asparagus, spinach, parmesan regg

Monday, June 13, 2011

Red Sauce [Matt]

this recipe is based off a bolognese sauce that a couple of my roommates in parma taught me while i worked there for a summer. it has a several more ingredients than they put it (and also subtracted the meat), but it still follows the old italian cooking philosophy of 'use what you have around to cook with'... i just happened to have a lot around.

take a large sauce pot and heat just below medium.
- 1/3 cup olive oil (enough to coat the bottom)
- add pinch of salt
as the ingredients below are finished being chopped toss them into the sauce pot to start cooking...
- 1 large onion, dice and add to pot
- 1 1/2 carrots (or 7 baby carrots), mince then add.
remember to stir. no need to start this sauce off burnt.
- 2 stalks celery fine diced. add to sauce pot.
- (optional) 2 habanero peppers, fine dice and add to pot.
- 7- 8 cloves of garlic. mince and add to pot. begin opening the canned tomatoes (be sure to get the kind without spice or other flavors added).
- 2 large cans of tomatoes (i prefer diced, unseasoned) and small can of sauce. after a minute and a half of the garlic cooking, add the canned tomatoes. this will slow of all the veggies you've added from cooking too much.
- add oregano and thyme, preferably fresh chopped.
- add paprika and nutmeg. nutmeg is better if fresh ground on a microplane.
- 1/2 cups of wine. if you plan to add meat later, use red wine. if you're looking for a lighter sauce add white wine.
- 1/3 cup rough chopped basil.
let sauce simmer for another 20 minutes. be sure to continue to stir.

((((cook track)))) Mystikal - Bouncin' Back

Friday, June 10, 2011

First Place Lasagna [Mike]

Rhonda and I were one of 12 couples in the South Salem dinner club. Each month, one couple would host a themed dinner party. The host couple was responsible for the main course. The 11 other couples would bring an appetizer, salad, or dessert. Tex-Mex night, Southern cooking, BBQ, etc. The one I liked best was a lasagna cook-off. Each couple had to bring their own favorite lasagna dish. Each dish would be sampled and a vote would be taken to determine whose lasagna tasted the best. Since Italian food was my thing, I would do our entry. My main competition: Wayne Coluccini. This guy could cook. For several days before the big night, Wayne and I talked garbage. “My lasagna will destroy yours…” Well, I had a plan up my sleeve. I would make my mom’s traditional lasagna recipe, but add a special blended ingredient that would take it over the top.
• 2 cans of Progresso whole Italian tomatoes
• 1 can of Contadina tomato paste
• 1 lb of Italian sausage, hot or sweet
• 1 lb of ground beef
• 2 slices of Italian bread
• 1 egg
• Garlic cloves
• Italian virgin olive oil
• 1 box of Ronzoni lasagna pasta
• 2 cups fresh basil leaves
• ½ cup each olive oil, Parmesan cheese, freshly grated
• 2 tablespoons each pine nuts, Romano pecorino cheese, freshly grated
• 2 cloves crushed garlic
• 1 teaspoon salt
• 3 tablespoons softened butter
Mix basil, oil, pine nuts, garlic and salt in blender at high speed. When evenly blended, pour into bowl and beat in grated cheeses by hand. Then beat in softened butter. Freezes well.
When the lasagna has finished baking, add spoonfuls of pesto on the top layer. I was voted best in show. Yay me!

Grandma's la zuppa [Mike]

I remember going on vacations to my grandmother’s farmhouse in Johnstown, Rhode Island, almost every summer growing up. My fondest memory was waking up in the morning to the smell of fresh roasted coffee. I’d rush downstairs and there was my mom and grandmother sitting at the kitchen table chatting and sipping coffee. My grandmother would always ask me if I wanted some. I always said yes. She would make me a cup of what I called “coffee milk.” Half coffee and half milk with a tablespoon of sugar. Every once in awhile she’d take out a box of Ritz crackers and ask if I wanted la zuppa. Grandma knew it was one of my favorite meals growing up. She’d pour into a soup plate a couple dozen Ritz crackers, then pour the coffee milk over them. Next she’d sprinkle some more sugar on top of the Ritz. The salty flavor of the crackers, mixed with the sweet taste of sugar and coffee flavor, with both the soggy and crisp crackers... gotta stop, my mouth is watering.
• 1 stack of Ritz crackers
• 1/2 cup each of coffee and milk
• 1 tablespoon of sugar

Mom's ice box cake [Mike]

Many moons ago… John and Mary Emmerling invited Rhonda and me to a dinner party at their apartment on 57th St. and Sutton Place. For those of you who’ve never heard of Sutton Place, this is one of New York City’s most exclusive places to live. Mary (editor at House & Garden magazine) said there would be 40 people or so and asked us if we could bring a dessert. John, an ad exec at Y & R, also invited Steve Gordon, a friend of mine who wrote the screenplay for the movie Arthur. Steve (who couldn’t boil water) called and asked if he could chip in for the dessert Rhonda and I were planning to bring. Of course we said yes. This happened before Rhonda turned into an incredible cook, so I was the one who would be responsible for the dessert. I thought about possibilities for the type of dessert we could bring. Let’s see, 40 people, needs to be big. Why not make my mom’s ice box cake? Simple, easy, and won’t cost a fortune to make. What to put it in? Rhonda and I went to a Woolworth’s in our neighborhood and that’s when I spotted a large Rubbermaid tub, big enough to wash a baby in.
• 2 boxes of chocolate pudding
• 2 boxes of butterscotch pudding
• 1 box of honey graham crackers
• 1 quart of whole milk
We arrived at the party… we’d never seen so many elegant people in one place before. Men in suits, double-breasted sport jackets, with button-down shirts and rep ties. (There was even a guy in an ascot). The women, all of them straight out of the pages of Vogue Magazine. Fashion-forward trendsetters. We asked Mary our hostess, where should we put our dessert. She looked at our rather large covered Rubbermaid tub and suggested we put it along side all the other desserts. “Oh my gosh!” Rhonda exclaims… “Look at all those incredible desserts.” Petit fours, mini key lime pies, vanilla mousse, strawberry cheesecake, cannolis, tiramisu. And we have to put our washtub next to them. Man, did I screw up! Our friend Steve arrived and he started with the jokes… “I had nothing to do with this!” he exclaimed. After the dinner buffet, it was time for dessert. Steve was the first person to try our icebox cake. He started raving about how good it was. “This is incredible!” The next thing we knew, everyone was digging in. There wasn’t a drop left. The society crowd loved it!

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Spaghetti Carbonara [Rhonda]

Degree of Difficulty: Easy to medium
Time: 20-25 minutes total
Serves: 2 (starving) to 4 (normal) people

To Zack, Matt and Nick: when I first arrived in Manhattan and, shortly after, met your dad, the discovery of fine Italian food (we’re not talking Luigi’s of Rock Hill, SC, or the local Pizza Hut, my only prior exposure) is one of my fondest memories of that time. On what has turned into a lifetime of dates and dining out, Michael and I have savored the best parmigianas (chicken, veal), fettuccine alfredos (still sublime when executed correctly), and a particular favorite from Bruno Restaurant on 58th Street, spaghetti carbonara.

It became a quest: in other Italian restaurants all over New York, in Italy the year after we were married, and on business trips (San Francisco, Washington, wherever) to find the ultimate, the best possible version, with Bruno’s as my standard.

Many attempts at home—combining recipes clipped from all sorts of places, adding cream, subtracting an egg—has resulted in this current rendition. No heavy cream. And, sadly, no Bruno Restaurant to return to—it was shuttered several years ago.

1 pkg bacon (I use a 12 oz. pkg of center cut for less fat)
2 cups (or more ha!) grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese (go for primo)
4 cloves garlic, minced
½ to 1 small onion, minced
3 eggs, whisked
12 oz. thin spaghetti or angel hair pasta, or less if you want more sauce
Salt and black pepper to taste

1. Cut bacon into small pieces and cook over medium heat until done but NOT crispy. Remove from skillet and pour off most of the bacon grease. Add diced onion and minced garlic, cook 1 to 2 minutes low heat. Remove from skillet.
2. Boil water for pasta. While that’s heating up, in mixing bowl whisk the grated parmesan cheese into the eggs.
3. Add pasta noodles to boiling water and cook al dente. Drain, reserving 1 to 2 tablespoons of pasta water in noodles (trickiest part of the whole recipe…too much and it spoils your sauce, too little and your mixture is gummy). Return pot to stove and add the bacon, onion/garlic mixture, and egg/cheese mixture. Stir continuously. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Note to cheese freaks: (You know who you are, Koulermos boys!) there can be a thing as too much cheese. And when that happens, your pasta goes dry on you. So…just beware.

Suggested soundtrack: “Almost Like Being in Love,” by Frank Sinatra

Shark Teriyaki Marinade [Rhonda]

Degree of Difficulty: Super-easy
Time: 10 minutes for assembly, 1-3 hours to marinate, 10-15 minutes to grill
Serves: 2-3

This recipe was clipped from Runner’s World years ago, and I think the Canadian 10,000-meter record holder who shared this with readers was going for shock value with “shark.” Really, who puts shark teriyaki into their weekly menu rotation?

This is a versatile little marinade that works nicely for chicken (as we've done here) or halibut or pork, with clean, powerful flavors. (For halibut, let it linger in the marinade no more than 15 minutes, or the fish will get mushy.)

¼ cup soy sauce
¼ cup orange juice
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
½ teaspoon black pepper
½ teaspoon paprika
1 tablespoon chopped dried parsley

Combine all ingredients in mixing bowl, add meat, stir to cover all meat surfaces entirely, let marinate in refrigerator for desired time. Grill and serve.

Suggested soundtrack: score from the movie Jaws

Monday, June 6, 2011

Chicken, Broccoli & Pasta [Tom & June]

This is a perfect meal after a long hard day at work, for casual entertaining or even to impress a "special someone" and show them you can cook! It's easy to make, relatively healthy, great flavor and looks great.

Ingredients ~

  • 8 Cloves of garlic, minced (this might seem like a lot but as it simmers it becomes infused in the oil & chicken broth creating the sauce)
  • 1/2 Cup EVOO (extra virgin olive oil)
  • 7 oz. Canned chicken broth
  • 4 Handfuls of whole wheat penne pasta
  • 1 Large skinless, boneless chicken breast - grilled, broiled or leftover
  • 2 Cups Broccoli florets
  • Lots of Parmesan Cheese
  • Salt & Pepper

Prep time - 25 minutes - Cook time - 15 minutes

Grill, broil or saute chicken - we prefer grilled. Cut chicken into 1/2" cubes and set aside. You can make this ahead of time.

The first step is to saute garlic in olive oil. Garlic cooking in oil has to be one of the most incredible smells that you can create in the kitchen! If you're a garlic lover, feel free to increase the amount of garlic!

Saute the garlic SLOWLY over low heat for 10 minutes....make sure you don't burn it!

In the meantime, put your water on to boil for the pasta.

Steam, microwave or boil broccoli just until slightly tender.

Cook pasta according to package dirrections - approximately 10 minutes.

When the garlic is translucent, add the chicken broth and continue to simmer. Add cubed chicken to sauce.

Drain pasta and toss with broccoli and sauce.

Season with black pepper (fresh ground is best) and grated parmesan cheese.

Serve with Garlic Bread. We can't get enough garlic!

Basically, this is healthy, hearty, tasty and easy to make. Makes great leftovers too.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Lamb Carnitas Greek Style [Zack]

One of my favorite things to do is cruise the internet looking for interesting recipe ideas.  One of my favorite people to read is Kenji Lopez-Alt because he approaches cooking very scientifically.  This recipe took the traditional way of making Carnitas and gives a practical approach for the home cook.  I adapted his recipe for Pork Carnitas by using lamb and taking it in my own direction.

This dish is a great heavy appetizer at a dinner party or goes great with a fresh Greek Salad.  It's great to prepare the day before a party since all you have to do is heat and assemble it.  Plus the flavors get to know each other better ;)


Find a nice large lamb shoulder (preferably de-boned, but if not, you can easily figure out where it is and where to cut by feeling around) and dice it into 1 inch cubes.

Start a large frying pan on medium heat and let it get hot for 10 minutes while you continue to dice.  Once the pan is properly heated, add 3 T of olive oil and then brown the meat.  Do this in batches!  Don't over-crowd the pan - there should be even spacing between the chunks of lamb or else you will just steam it :(

Transfer the browned lamb to your cooking vessel (I used a large casserole dish) and then pour the excess oil and juices into the same dish if you are worried about it browning too much on the bottom of the pan.  Finish carmelizing the outside of the lamb with the remaning batches and adding it to the casserole dish.

Add the dried peppers, sliced onions, and oil to cover the lamb pieces.

Add in the powdered spices, juice from the orange, and cumin seeds (toast in the leftover oil in the pan if you are feeling fancy.) 

Give everything a good mix, and transfer it to your pre-heated oven at 275 F / 135 C and let it slowly cook for 3-4 hours.  During cooking, the onions will slowly and deeply carmelize, the peppers will rehydrate and release their heat, and the spices will give the lamb nice zing.

Check the lamb after 3 hours by seeing if it will easily pull apart with a knife or 2 forks.  If not, put it back in the oven for another 30 minutes and check again. 

If you cooking in advance, you can place the tray covered in the fridge for at least a week.  When you are ready to serve, take the lamb and pour it into a mesh strainer set up over a bowl to let the juices and oil drain.  Shred the lamb with 2 forks and add back a few T of the oil/juice mixture to moisten.  Place under a broiler and stir every few minutes to make sure it crisps and browns evenly.

Save the oil for round 2 in a jar in your freezer.  This recipe is one of my favorites and I'm sure you will want a second batch within a few weeks....

Greek Yogurt Sauce:
Combine the yogurt, diced feta, diced cilantro, the lemon juice and salt & pepper to taste. 

To Assemble:
Toast the sliced bread (make your own!) with some olive oil or garlic butter.  Top with the browned pulled lamb, then the Greek Yogurt Sauce, then the minced shallots.  Enjoy!

Pulled Lamb:
1 lamb shoulder cut into 1 inch cubes (4-6 lbs or 2kg)
3-4 cups of olive oil (depending on the size of your cooking vessel)
1 large onion, sliced into moons
2 T cumin seeds (or 1.5 T of cumin powder)
5-10 dried chile peppers
1 T of salt (can add more at the end)
2 T corriander powder
Juice of one orange

Greek Yogurt sauce:
1 cup greek or natural unflavored yogurt (no sugar!)
1/3 cup diced feta cheese
1 bunch diced cilantro
juice of 1/2 of a lemon
salt and pepper to taste

Diced shallots
toasted, sliced bread