Gnocchi – Easiest Meal Ever

Thanks to Costco
You Can Make This Meal in Under 30min

People are always asking me, “When are you going to prepare something simple, something I can make.”  They are not interested in mousse, or coq au vin, or beef wellington.  I like a challenge, I like making things I haven’t made before but have always wanted to make. Don’t get me wrong, you serve me beans and franks, I’ll eat beans and franks. I’m just not going to blog about it.

Funny Speaker Makes Gnocchi

All ingredients used, including the vodka, are from Costco

Below is a video and a recipe for, Gnocchi in a creamy roasted red pepper and tomato vodka sauce. Wait. That was the hard part. Saying all that with a straight face. Thanks to Costco this dish is incredibly easy to prepare. But it’s a dish that will impress the most discriminating palate.  I say thanks to Costco because everything that went into this recipe was stuff I had on the shelf, in large quantities.

First of all, if you’re not tying to impress anyone, you can simply heat up the soup and pour it over your favorite pasta. Bada Bing, that’s it. That’s what I did the first time, But while you’re waiting for the water to boil, you might as well play with the soup

PREPERATION:
For 2 large servings or 4 first course servings

• One pouch gnocchi
• 16 oz. Pacific Brand Roasted Red Pepper & Tomato Soup (half a carton)
• 1 can diced tomatoes drained
• 2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
• 1 small onion chopped fine
• 1.5 oz Vodka
• Grated Parmigiano

Place pot of water on the stove and bring to a boil. Put a couple of tablespoons of Olive Oil in a fry pan. Use a high quality Extra Virgin Olive Oil. What does that mean, “Extra Virgin?” You got one too many virgins? I use the Kirkland Signature brand imported extra virgin olive oil which got a very high rating in Consumer Reports.

Sautee the onions over a medium high heat until soft. The soup is sweet to begin with so you don’t need to cook the onions too long. When the onions are to your liking, add the vodka pouring at arms length. DO NOT PUT YOUR FACE OVER THE PAN. That seems obvious to me but you have to say it. If you’re cooking with gas, merely tilt the pan so the fame comes in contact with the vodka. If you are using an electric stove, use one of those long matches you use for lighting a fire, or grill. Shake the pan until the flames die down. When the flames die down, add the soup and a can of diced tomatoes, drained. Stir everything together.

The water probably has yet to boil. So pour you a glass of red wine and grate some aged Parmigiano Reggiano. If you like a cheesier sauce you can add up to 1/2 Cup of grated cheese directly to the sauce as it’s cooking.

These gnocchi from Costco is imported from Italy and comes in a box of four. It only takes 6 minutes once placed in the boiling water. Drain the gnocchi and add it to the sauce. You can put up to a ½ cup of grated cheese into the sauce if you’d like but it does make the pan harder to clean.

Plate the pasta and sprinkle a little grated cheese on top. For a classy touch add a chiffonade basil. This is the perfect time to use some fresh basil chiffonade. Chiffonade is French for “little ribbons.” You make the ribbons by stacking some large basil leaves then roll them up tightly then making thin slices against the roll. This is also the perfect use for a Santoku knife. Basil is one of those herbs that change taste and character the more you play with it. A larger knife bruises the leaf and the color turns a dark color and it doesn’t make for as nice a garnish.

NOTE: The audio pronunciation guide at Webster’s online dictionary as well as Dictionary.com pronounce Gnocchi as, “nock-ee,” but it’s pronounced like I say it in the video. The “GN” is almost like an “n” before a “y”, with the “n” almost silent. The “Oh” sound is long, n’yo-kee.

Posted by humorous motivational speaker and celebrity chef, Vinny Verelli

Roasted Leg of Lamb

My once a year recipe for roasted leg of lamb.

Funny Motivational Speaker makes lamb

Rubbed with harissa and my homemade mint jelly — Topped with lemon slices, apricots & olives

in January of 2013 I made this luscious leg of lamb based on a recipe I found in Food and Wine Magazine. The semi boneless leg of lamb is rubbed with Hirassa before roasting then   topped with apricots, lemon slices and olives to finsh. There are not too many specialty food stores in Habersham County so I ordered a jar of Harissa from Amazon. After preparing  the lamb the jar of Harissa sat in the refrigerator for 8 month. There was no way to tell if the paste was still good. You know how it is? You think it should still be good but you don’t use it in case it isn’t and you don’t throw it away incase it is. Something that doesn’t grow mold on it can stay in your refrigerator like that for years.

HarissaAs  Thanksgiving approached I needed all the space I could muster in the fridge, the Harissa was out.  In early January I found organic powered Harissa at Whole Foods. This was great. Leave the dried spice in the cupboard for a year or so mixing it with water of olive oil to make the paste when  needed.  Armed with the dry Harissa I decided to make the Leg of Lamb again.

The price of Lamb at the local market was $8/pound with the bone in. Costco had boneless leg of lamb at $5/pound. Yes, it looks better with the shank bone intact but saving $3/pound placed esthetics on the back burner. The dish is extremely easy to make and a 4.25 pound boneless leg of lamb will feed six people. Feed four people and you have some nice leftovers.

PREPARING THE LAMB: Recipe for a 4 to 6 pound boneless leg of lamb. Slice a couple of big garlic cloves very thinly. Pock holes in the lamb with a thin bladed knife and bury a sliver of garlic in each slit. Keep stuffing until you run out of garlic.

garlic

Mix the Harissa. Mix 1Tablespoon of the dried spice with 1 Tablespoon of water. The  recipe said to rub olive oil over the lamb so I decided to save a step by adding 1Tablespoon of olive oil to the Harissa mixture. I can’t think of lamb without thinking of mint jelly so I added a ¼ cup of my homemade mint jelly to the mixture. If it gets too thin, add addition Harissa to thicken. Of course if you live next to a Tunisian grocery store pick up a jar of the paste.

tie legSprinkle the lamb with some kosher salt and rub the Harissa/mint jelly paste all over the surface, front and back, remembering to force some into the garlic pockets. Since the bone has been removed the leg is butterflied. Tie the leg together so it resembles a pot roast. Place on a rack in a roasting pan and refrigerate over night.

lemon Slice

Slice a lemon very thinly. On a plate sprinkle with 1TBL of salt and 1TBL of sugar. Place the lemon slices on top of the salt and sugar and add another 1TBL of salt and 1TBL of sugar  on top of the lemon slices. Drizzle a little olive oil over the slices and cover with cling wrap and refrigerate over night. The hard work is done.

A couple of hours before you want to start roasting, take the lamb out of the refrigerator and allow to sit at room temperature.  Rinse off the lemon slices and dry on paper towels. Put two cups of water in the bottom of the roasting pan and place the lamb in a 325 degree oven for an hour and a half. Take the roast off the rack and return it to the pan.  Place the lemons along with a cup of pitted olives (kalamata or oil cured) and 10 ounces of dried apricots in the roasting pan with the pan drippings. Return the lamb to the oven and continue to roast for another 20-30 minutes or until the internal temperature of the lamb is 135-140 degrees.  If you like your lamb rare cook to 130 degrees. The roast is still bright pink at 140 degrees. Let the roast sit for at least 20 minutes before slicing.

wagners demiI like gravy with my meat so I made a gravy flavored with mint jelly and bourbon. I’ll use Wagner’s demi-glaze package mix. It’s simple and easy to create variations with the sauce. Instead of just adding a cup of water, I added 1/2 cup of water, 1/4 cup single barrel Jack Daniels and 1/4 cup of my mint jelly.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for about 5 minutes. Set aside and reheat right before you serve the lamb passing the sauce in a gravy boat.

LambSandwichThis lamb is great cold the next day and the next. I sliced up a medium onion and browned it in olive oil and butter. Then I added 1/2 cup of Trader Joe’s mango and ginger chutney.  Cook until you have a nice glaze. Place on a plate and refrigerate for a couple of hours or if you think ahead, make it the day before. Spread a little mayo on toasted rye bread, add sliced lamb, some of the onion chutney and some lettuce. Close it up and go at it. Fantastic sandwich.

Posted by Vinny Verelli
Funny Motivational Speaker and Celebrity Chef

Potato Latkes for Hanukkah

Cooking With Vinny:

Been trying to remove this reblog but can’t find a way.

Originally posted on Cooking With Vinny:

Hanukkah begins tonight and the shirt I wore 11 days ago to Ilene and Judi’s Latke Party still smells of oil and onion. My good friends have an annual potato latke party and invite everyone they know.  They start frying the traditional Hanukkah delicacy at 6:00 and don’t stop until 10:00 or the potatoes run out.

Ilene bases her recipe on one that has been handed down from her grandmother and mother. I say, “bases” as she takes liberties. Making latkes is like most things you do in the kitchen, it’s a matter of taste and your own flare.  That’s why the recipe following the video is my own variation, not Ilene’s grandmother’s recipe. And yes, my camera also smells like oil and onion.

THE RECIPE

  • 2 pounds potatoes grated
    I use russet potatoes bigger and easier to peel.
  • 1 Medium onion grated
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

View original 559 more words

One Hour Pot Roast

Thanks to Costco and Morton’s of Omaha

PotRoast Vinny_postNothing is better than a pot roast you simmer low and slow with carrots, onions and potatoes. The roast, whether it’s cook on top of the stove or in the oven has to simmer slowly so the meat gets tender and stays juicy. DO NOT BOIL THE MEAT. That dries it out and makes it tough.

“But Vinny, I don’t have 4 hours to cook a pot roast” Thanks to Costco and Morton’s of Omaha you can make a pot roast that will feed 6 hungry people in one hour. You can buy fully cooked beef pot roast  at Costco, roast some vegetables add some additional package gravy and you have a meal.

The photo on the package shows a completed pot roast with all the accoutrements. Don’t let the photo fool you, the package contains only beef with gravy. This is what they call the “Serving Suggestion.” That means they suggest using the celery onion and carrots pictured on the box, it is not included. The meat is precooked so 2 pounds of meat with gravy after heating is still 2 pounds. For six people that’s a little over 5oz per person. Add to that the vegetables and you’ve got a meal. Although this meal is ready in one hour you can continue to cook on low to soften the veggies up even more. Make sure the gravy is not evaporating.

PREPARATION:
Following the package directions put the meat (in it’s bag) in a large pot and cover with 2.5 qts of water. Bring the water to a boil and boil for 25 minutes. Once that is done preheat your oven to 350. I’m using a convection oven so I’m using 325.

Prepare the veggies: Six carrots, 4 stalks celery 2  onions and about 8 small red potatoes cut into bite size pieces. Toss all the vegetables with some olive oil and chopped rosemary. Spread them out on a baking sheet. I like to use parchment paper to make clean up easier. Sprinkle with some coarse Kosher Salt, some fresh pepper. Roast for 30 minutes till the veggies are tender.

celebrity chef funny motivational speaker

While the veggies are roasting and the meat is heating up. Make some additional gravy. I used a package mix that was way too salty and too thick and not very good. Lucky thing I started to reduce some red wine to make an additional sauce.  It turned out to be a faux beurre rouge making it up as I went along. I thinly sliced some onion and chopped fine. I added this to a pan with the red wine and continued to reduce. Next I added 1.5 tablespoons of tomato paste and added pads a butter (about a half stick) a little bit at a time to incorporate into the sauce. A real beurre rouge (red butter) sauce uses shallots and some vinegar.

After 25 minutes turn the meat off and let it sit in the pot until you’re ready to add the vegetables. Strain the meat from the gravy and return to the pot. Mix the gravy from the pot roast with any gravy you made on the side to equal 2 cups total.  When the vegetables are tender add them to the roast and pour the gravy on top.  What time is it? You should have a good 5 minutes left on the clock. Carefully mix together all the ingredients, you don’t want to break the meat.  Continue cooking over low heat to finish up the hour. If your guests are not ready to eat, just keep a very low heat under the pot roast. Stirring occasionally. Remember don’t boil.

Serve with some hot bread and butter, a side salad and your favorite red wine.

The B-52

The drink, not the bomber or the 80′s rock band.

B-52 celebrity chefI’m not usually big on sweet drinks unless it’s Ice wine or a Trockenbeerenauslese. Say that 3 times fast. From time to time I also like a Port after dinner. There was a time in the 70′s when I had a collection of liqueurs and would have tastings. When you have a lot of liqueurs you start to experiment and preparing layered drinks is only natural.

Had not thought about making a layered drink in 30 years but my sister-in-law Susan was trying to make a flaming layered drink. Her dilemma got me thinking and looking and although B-52s were not around in my cordial days it sure sounded better than ANY drink that has Creme de menthe in it. I’d rather eat Brussels sprouts. If a drink called for a Creme de menthe I would use green Chartreuse, a French liqueur made by the Monks at the Grande Chartreuse monastery since 1737. Now that’s something with a great taste.

Looking at my finished B-52 I was thinking, why not put the Baileys on the bottom? The contrast would be better for showing 3 distinct layers. I would think the Baileys would have a higher density than the Kahlua and would stay on the bottom. I’ll experiment with this later.

Has anyone made a B-52? It’s easier to make than you might think.  What other layered drinks have you made? And Creme de menthe, really?

B-52 
Layer liqueurs in this order
1/2 oz Kahlua
1/2 oz Baileys Irish Cream
1/2 oz Grand Marnier
I’ll post a video of this next week when I’m back in town. I could make another one tonight but don’t think I should drink another one tonight.

Roasted Beets with Leftovers

Had some beets in the refrigerator that weren’t getting any fresher and I had to cook them last night. Wrapping them in foil and roasting in a 375 degree oven for 1.5 hours did the trick. But now what? What else was in the fridge? Cucumbers and green beens from our garden and some spinach leftover in a bag and a couple of hard boiled eggs. And what’s that? Some cheese! It’s a meal.

Let the beets cool then peal and slice. Pour some balsamic vinegar in a pan and reduce. Drizzle thickened vinegar over the beets and a pepper ranch dressing over the egg and cucumber. Colorful, crispy and fresh.

If only there were some ice cream leftover in the freezer.
Roasted Beets_post

Lasagna ala Vinny

Warning: This lasagna has lots of cheese and a dense meat sauce with sausage and bacon.

I don’t eat lasagna often as it’s not exactly a light dish. Sure there are all sorts of varieties with vegetables, gluten free noodles and imitation cheese. And some people may be able to convince themselves that a vegan lasagna is wonderful, you just won’t convince me. You can’t eat like this every day, that would be suicidal. But it was Sunday and family and friends were coming to dinner. Hey, I can eat broccoli tomorrow.
Video Note: Some of the titles didn’t render properly and the tops and bottoms of the script were cut off. Proportions are listed below in the recipe. 

August 4 is National Lasagna Day 

The basis to any lasagna is the meat sauce and you can use any type of sauce you want. For this lasagna I made a classic bolognese sauce with the added flavor of sweet Italian sausage. Sausage is not usually used in a bolognese but is essential for a great lasagna. I also use more cheese than most recipes call for. I made fresh pasta and was able to make the noodle thinner than what you get in a box and was therefore able to put a third layer of noodles on top covered by more mozzarella on top.

Funny Motivational Speaker

The standard ingredients for a bolognese sauce

The Bolognese for Lasagna:
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 carrot, finely, chopped rough
2 medium onion, chopped rough
2 rib celery, chopped rough
1 clove garlic, sliced
1.3 pound ground beef,  I use Kirkland Organic
1 pound ground sweet Italian sausage, I use Johsonville All Natural
1/2 pound pancetta or slab bacon, chopped
1/2 tube tomato paste
1/2 cup beef stock
1 cup dry red wine (most bolognese sauces use white wine but for lasagna lets use red)
2 14 oz cans of crushed tomatoes
2 Bay leaves
4 sprigs of thyme
1 tsp dry basil
1/2 tsp dry oregano
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 cup 1/2 and 1/2 or milk

Funny Motivational Speaker

For a standard bolognese you don’t grind the soffritto

Directions
Put the onions, garlic, carrot and celery in a food processor and chop until fine and set aside. In a 6 to 8-quart, heavy-bottomed saucepan, cook the bacon until browned but not crisp. Remove the bacon and all but a table spoon of the bacon fat.  Add the onions, celery, carrot and garlic (the Sofritto) and sweat over medium heat until the vegetables are translucent and soft but not browned, about 10 to 15 minutes. If it starts to stick add some olive oil. Brown the beef and Italian sausage, pouring off any excess fat. Add to the sofritto along with the  bacon to the the vegetables.

Stir the tomato paste into the beef stock and add to the meat along with the wine, crushed tomatoes, bay leaves, thyme, dried basil and oregano.  Simmer over low heat for 2 to 2.5 hours. Every 20 minutes or so add some of the 1/2 and 1/2 until it is all incorporated. Season with salt and pepper, to taste, and remove from the heat. Remove the bay leaves and the thyme sprigs. This can be done up to two days in advance. When ready to assemble the lasagna reheat and check seasoning.

LASAGNA:
Bolognese sause
2 15 oz containers of whole milk ricotta cheese (2 pound container.)
2 eggs beaten
2 tsp salt
1 tsp white pepper
1 tsp ground nutmeg
1.5 pounds of fresh mozzarella
1.5 cups grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
1 lb cooked lasagna noodles.

ASSEMBLE THE LASAGNA
Preheat over to 375
Mix the 2 eggs with the ricotta and add salt, pepper and nutmeg. NUTMEG?
Some classic Italian lasagnas use a béchamel sauce instead of the ricotta. The béchamel sauce is a butter and flour roux with warm milk added and cooked until thick. Traditional béchamel sauce calls for nutmeg. So why not add that to the ricotta? It’s not over powering but adds a subtle taste that people won’t be able to figure out.

I brush the bottom and sides of a 9 X 13″ baking dish with olive oil.
Start with a thin layer of sauce.
Arrange a layer lasagna noodles on the bottom of the dish
Spread 1/2 the ricotta mixture over the noodles
Sprinkle 1/3 of the mozzarella over the ricotta
Spread 1/2 the remaining meat sauce over the mozzarella
Sprinkle  1/3 of the parmigiano over the meat sauce
Add another Layer lasagna noodles
Spread the other 1/2 the ricotta mixture over the noodles
Sprinkle another 1/3 of the mozzarella over the ricotta
Spread 1/2 the rest of the meat sauce over the mozzarella
Sprinkle another 1/3 of the parmigiano over the meat sauce
Add another Layer lasagna noodles
Sprinkle the remaining mozzarella over the noodles
Sprinkle the remaining parmigiano over the mozzarella
Coat one side of a sheet of aluminum foil and carefully cover the lasagna. You don’t want the top layer of cheese to stick to the foil. You can create a tent to help keep the cheese from sticking.

Place covered into the 375 degree oven for 25 minutes. Remove foil and return to the oven for another 25 minutes or until the cheese is browned on top and the sauce is bubbling.

Let the lasagna rest for 20 minutes before slicing into large pieces. Serve with a large salad and a nice Italian bread. I will sometimes make a side sauce for people to pour over the lasagna if they like a wet dish. This recipe certainly doesn’t need the sauce as it is packed with flavor.

Posted by Funny Speaker and celebrity chef Vinny Verelli
Learn more about Vinny on his website and his youtube channel.