Bologna to Bolognese: Adventures With Food

Food is necessary. Food is fun. Food is an adventure!

My name is Shannon and this is my adventure, my love affair with food.

I hope you'll come along for the ride.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Eggs Three Ways

Egg consumption in the United States is huge, approximated at 256 eggs per person, per year. With a population of 310 million that is 79,360,000,000 eggs each year. While the numbers are staggering it's really no surprise as eggs are an incredible versatile food by themselves not to mention their supporting role in various cakes, puddings, casseroles and yes, even meatloaf.

Today, as many of us consider how best to use the pile of brightly dyed eggs that fill our Easter baskets and decorate the holiday table, it is the perfect time to let this delicious ovoid bask in it's own glory as the star of the show. 

There are so many ways too prepare an egg. I chose these three basics for my favorite characteristic which they all share. A deliciously runny yolk perfect for dipping. Also, when showcasing such a classic ingredient I feel it really is best to start with the basics.

Soft Boiled Egg

On the stove bring a pan of water to a low boil. Immerse your egg and boil for 4-5 minutes. This should be just enough time to solidify the white of the egg but keep the yolk soft and creamy. Conveniently it is also just enough time to make the perfect toast soldiers ready for dipping!

Poached Egg

I remember the first time I had a poached egg and I was sure I would hate it. Surprisingly it was not only delicious but also easy to make.

I find it's easier to get a prettier poached egg by using an egg ring. In a pot on the stove, bring a pot of water (just enough to come to the top of the egg ring) to a low boil. Add a dash of vinegar (this helps the egg to hold together) and gently crack the egg into the ring. Next add some more hot water to the pot (this will reduce the activity to more of a simmer) and allow the egg to cook gently for about 3 minutes. Remove the egg gently and allow to drain briefly before serving. Poached eggs are best served right away. You can serve poached eggs with just about anything from soup and salads to toast or meat. For a hearty Easter brunch I whipped up a zesty potato and chorizo stew.

Potato Chorizo Stew


2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 tsp garlic powder
1 large onion, chopped
2 ribs celery, chopped
3 medium size potatoes, diced
2 tsp thyme
Salt and pepper  
1/2 package chorizo sausage
1 (28-ounce) can diced tomatoes
beef broth  as needed
1 lemon and zest
2 tablespoons of your favorite vinegar (eyeball it)
Combine the first seven ingredients in a heavy bottom pan and saute until onions are translucent. Add some beef broth cover and cook on medium heat until potatoes are soft, about 20 minutes) Make a well in the middle of the potatoes and add the chorizo. This is a soft sausage and it must be cooked before eating. It will "melt" in the pan. after cooking it down for a few minutes stir it in with the potatoes. Add the lemon juice and zest as well as the tomatoes. Heat through and serve. Place your poached egg on top and garnish with a few zests of lemon.

Eggs In a Basket

This is a childhood favorite of mine and a perfect dish for anyone who is a child at heart. Cut a hole in the center of a slice of your favorite bread. In a frying pan melt a pat of butter and add the bread. Gently break an egg into the center hole and fry on medium heat until the white is solid on the underside. Flip the bread, being careful not to break the yolk, and finish cooking on the second side to desired consistency.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Tea Time

I find there is something about the ritual of brewing a pot of tea that calms me, but no traditional tea is complete without a selection of tea snacks and goodies. These can range anywhere from sardines on toast to delectable cream pastries and finger sandwiches.

As I prepare for an upcoming party I found I needed to test some of my most recent recipes, so today we will explore the wonderful world of tea sandwiches.

You will find any number of recipes on the net and the most common are of course, Cucumber, Watercress, egg salad, chicken salad and various cold meats. While I find all of these enjoyable I want to add a bit of panache to my sandwiches so we will focus on Four that made the top of my list.

The first is my own recipe based on a delightful dish I enjoyed at an Indian restaurant we used to frequent in England. 

Royal Curried Chicken

12 oz diced Chicken
1 tsp Curry Powder
2 tsp Apricot Jam
Pumpernickel Bread (I use Pepperidge Farms)
Ground Cardamom
Fresh Cilantro

Shred the chicken with a fork and add the curry powder and apricot jam. Mix well. Spread two slices of bread with a thin layer of butter and sprinkle with ground cardamom on one slice of bread arrange a layer of cilantro leaves and add the chicken salad. Top with the second slice of bread and cut as desired. Decorate with a sprig of Cilantro and serve.

My second choice is a very basic tea sandwich with a modern twist. The watercress sandwich.

Watercress Tea Sandwich

Whole wheat bread
Cream Cheese (room temperature)
1 bag of your favorite flavored black tea (something mild and sweet is advised)
salt and pepper to taste

Empty the contents of one tea bag into a mortar and crush to a fine dust with a pestle (I used Lipton Vanilla Caramel tea). Add the ground tea to 1 oz of softened cream cheese and blend well. (it gets better if it has time to rest) Spread a thin layer of cream cheese mixture on two slices of bread. On one slice of bread add a generous amount of watercress. Add a dash of salt and ground black pepper and top with second slice of bread. Garnish with a leaf of cress, cut and serve.

Another time tested favorite given a flavor filled boost, this is not your grandmother's Cucumber sandwich.

Cucumber Mint Finger Sandwiches

Thinly sliced English Cucumber
Mint (thinly sliced)
Whole Wheat Bread
Salt and pepper to taste

Spread a thin layer of butter on two pieces of bread. layer with thinly sliced cucumber. Add the minced mint and salt and pepper to taste then top with the second slice of bread cut and serve. Garnish with a single mint leaf and a twist of cucumber.

My final choice is another veggie delight but this time the main satr is a fruit, the tomato!

Tomato goat cheese sandwiches

thinly sliced tomato
goat cheese
basil pesto
thinly sliced leeks
salt and pepper to taste

Mix some of the basil pesto with the room temperature goat cheese and blend well. Spread the goat cheese on whole wheat bread. add slices of tomato to one piece of bread and leeks to the other. Salt and pepper to taste then close the sandwich, cut and serve. Garnish with fresh shredded basil and leeks.

Some of the other combinations pictured here are a ham, cream cheese and jam sandwich on pumpernickel, a ham and leek with cheese on pumpernickel, radish, leek and butter on wheat and carrot and cucumber wrapped in wheat bread with wasabi cream cheese.

The options for fillings are limited only by your imagination so play around and get creative. Some of the sanwiches I made for this installment are still a work in progress but with a little thought and creativity almost anything you have on hand can become the next star of your afternoon tea.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Brilliant Braciole

Weekends are my haven, a time to relax and recharge. A favorite part of that for me is Saturday Mornings when I sleep in and then laze about in bed watching the Food Network. It's a guilty pleasure I indulge in weekly and usually I enjoy it but I am not spurred to action by anything I see. Recently however I watched an episode of "Secrets of a Restaurant Chef" and I was moved by this simple and delicious recipe for Braciole.

My husband is often confounded when I talk about "Tasting" food in my head, but once you grow familiar with different ingredients and their distinct qualities I find it is easy to imagine how they will taste together just by reading the recipe. So when I heard the ingredients of this dish I couldn't wait to try it, and luckily I just happened to have almost everything on hand! While it takes some time to cook it's worth every minute, in fact the sauce alone is worth the effort.



Beef Rolls:

Extra-virgin olive oil
2 ribs celery finely diced
1 large onion, finely diced
Kosher salt
Pinch crushed red pepper flakes
2 cups day old Italian bread, cut into chunks
1/2 can of beef broth
2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce 
2 cloves garlic, smashed and finely chopped
1/2 pound baby portabello mushrooms, sliced
1/2 pound spinach or I prefer an herb salad mix (arugula, spinach, chard, frisee, radicchio, etc...)
1/2 cup grated provolone
1/2 cup grated Parmesan
2 pounds top round, cut into 1/2-inch thick slices (about 12)

Extra-virgin olive oil
1 large onion, finely diced
2 ribs celery finely diced
1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes (you can use less, season to taste)
Kosher salt
2 cloves garlic, smashed and finely chopped
6 oz tomato paste (1 small can - I use this to measure the water)
1 cup wine (red preferably but whatever is on hand will do)
3 fresh ripe tomatoes diced (including the pulp)
12 oz water
1/2 cup Port wine
2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce 
1tbsp balsamic vinegar
Grated Parmesan cheese, for garnish
Chopped parsley leaves, for garnish
(Special equipment: toothpicks )

For the beef rolls:

Coat a large heavy bottomed pot with olive oil, then add the onions celery and crushed red pepper. Season with salt, to taste. Cook the onions until they are soft and very aromatic, about 7 to 8 minutes.

While the onions are cooking, in a large bowl, combine the bread and the stock. Toss to combine and let sit until the bread has absorbed the stock and is very soft. Reserve.

Add the garlic to the pan with the onion and celery and saute for 2 to 3 minutes. Add the mushrooms, season with salt, to taste, and saute until the mushrooms are soft and have let off their moisture, about 4 to 5 minutes. Remove the mixture from the heat and stir in the greens.

Add the onion/mushroom mixture to the reserved bread and stir to combine. Add the provolone and Parmesan, and stir to combine. Taste and adjust seasoning if needed. Set aside.

Lay the beef slices between 2 pieces of plastic wrap and gently pound with a meat mallet to flatten and even out the slices. Put about 1/4 cup of filling on 1 end of each of the pounded beef slices and roll up. Secure the rolls with toothpicks. Repeat this process with the remaining beef and filling.

In the pot you used to cook the filling brown the beef rolls on all sides. When the beef rolls are brown on all sides, remove them from the pan and reserve. Make the sauce in the same pot.


Add a light coating of fresh olive oil, if needed, and add the onions celery, and crushed red pepper. Season with salt, to taste, and put the pot over medium heat. Sweat the veggies until they are translucent and very aromatic, about 7 to 8 minutes. Add the garlic and saute for another 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in the tomato paste and red wine, and cook for 6 to 8 minutes. Add the tomatoes, port and the water and season with salt, to taste. Return the beef rolls to the pan and tuck them into the sauce. Bring the sauce to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer until the beef is very tender and flavorful, about 2 to 2 1/2 hours. Remove the toothpicks before serving. To serve, arrange 2 or 3 braciole on each serving plate. Halve 1 or 2 rolls to expose the stuffing. Spoon on some of the sauce and garnish with grated Parmesan cheese and chopped parsley.

As I usually do, I adjusted this recipe based on my personal style and what i had on hand. If you want Chef Ann Burrell's original from the show you can find it here: