Advertisements
Archive | July, 2013

Carol’s Calzones

26 Jul

Calzone 010

When calzones started to become ubiquitous in pizza parlors in California in the early 90’s, I was intrigued because they were not like the ones we had growing up. The ones that they started serving were filled with basically all of the ingredients one would get on a pizza and then baked. In essence, they’re pizza pockets, and my research shows that these indeed are popular around Italy in a variety of forms. Still, they weren’t Carol’s (my mom) or nonna’s (my grandma). This is their recipe.

As I have said many times, my Italian family hails from Naples, Italy, and recipes vary widely depending on the region. For example, in my later twenties, I tended bar at a fine dining Italian restaurant in Irvine, California, and the superb chef from Apulia, Gino Buonanoce (his name translates literally as “Gino Good Walnut”), served a panzerotti, which means “belly-buster.” This thing was a baked foot-long pillow filled with cheese, olives, capers, and other sundries; four people would have trouble finishing this beast.  From what I know, the calzones I ate growing up are street food in Naples, and when you try one, you’ll understand why they’re still popular.

A very sad time in my life occurred when Carol burned her hand pretty badly while frying calzones for us for dinner. As she was flipping one, she caught a fingernail on it and the back of her hand splashed into the hot oil. Ow. From then on, she became a bit gun shy about making them, and instead started to bake them, which is a different idea entirely in terms of flavor. My nonna also started baking them, citing that fried dough isn’t very healthy. ‘Tis true, but goddamn will it bust your nuts. So a year ago, I found the recipe and decided to make them, frying and all, health be damned. My first bite knocked me back 25 years, and while I won’t make these all of the time, tempting as it is, they are on the “special treat” menu for the years ahead.

This recipe is meant to use the leftover half of the dough from my nonna’s dough recipe (https://dinnerwithjonny.com/2012/11/12/nonnas-pizza-from-naples/). You can substitute any pizza dough, I imagine, and you’ll be fine. Also, traditionally, the only meat in here would be diced salami, but I decided to get a bit funky with it for kicks.

Carol’s Calzones

Makes 4

Ingredients:

Pizza dough for one full size pizza

1 small ball mozzarella cut into 1/4″ slices

1/2 to 3/4 cup ricotta cheese

1 cup diced salami or pepperoni slices

1/2 cup grated or shaved Romano or Parmesan cheese

Salt and cracked black pepper to taste

1/2 cup oil for frying

Makin’ ‘Em:

Roll out the pizza dough into roughly a 12″ square (if you need flour to keep it from sticking, cool). Cut this into four smaller 6″ squares. If they’re a bit oblong and awkward, no worries, as you’ll see.

Working with one small square at a time, place 1 to 2 slices of mozzarella on the dough, but a little off-center (it’s going to be like a turnover, in other words).  Place a scoop of ricotta on the mozzarella. Then, top this with 1/4 of the salami or pepperoni, and then add 1/4 of the parmesan. Sprinkle it with salt and pepper. Repeat this with the rest of the dough squares. You’ll get this:

Calzone 003

Calzone 001

(Note: I added a touch of pizza sauce to this to experiment, fyi. Also, notice the abnormal dough shapes. No big whoop.)

Now for each one, take the farthest corner and pull it over the cheese mound. Seal the edges by folding the bottom dough over the top dough and pinching it closed. You’ll get these:

Calzone 008

(Rustic ugly is a good thing for me.)

In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat. You have to wait for it to get hot before you fry each one. A good rule of thumb is that a drop of water will crack like the dickens when it touches the hot oil. But, you don’t want the oil too hot or the inside won’t melt totally.

Place one calzone in the oil at a time. Fry each one slowly, basting the top with oil as it cooks. Flip over and make sure each side is a nice golden brown. It takes me about 2 1/2 minutes for each side. Remove from the oil and drain on paper towels. Let them cool slightly and serve them.

Calzone 010

If you want to serve these with a side o’ sauce, go for it, but they are unbelievable on their own.

A glass of beer would round out the festivities for sure, but a glass o’ red wine does the trick as well.

Say it loud, and louder in conservative company:

Acqua Fresca, Vino Puro

Fica stretta, cazzo duro.

Until later, eat, drink, and peace out, yo.

©Jon Marino 2013

Advertisements

Garlic Chicken Stir Fry

24 Jul

Garlic Chicken 022

Somewhere along the line, and I am thinking Emeril had a lot to do with this, people started going crazy with the garlic. I mention Emeril because every time he would add garlic to a recipe he was preparing, people started cheering in a “you shouldn’t do that, but fuck yeah” sort of way. In other words, it seemed that adding excess garlic to a dish became the equivalent of a Jagermeister shot at last call.

About 3 hours north of us in Gilroy, California, there is a garlic festival every year which draws thousands of people who get to sample everything from garlic bread to garlic ice cream. The health benefits of garlic have made headlines throughout the years as well. In an excellent memoir called Having Our Say: The Delany Sisters’ First 100 Years, the two centenarian African-American women attest to eating a chopped raw garlic clove and cod liver oil every morning, which was one of their secrets to longevity.

The Stinking Rose is a restaurant to which I have been both in San Francisco and Beverly Hills, and they specialize in festooning almost every dish with garlic. When you arrive, a jar of spreadable garlic awaits you on the table and the saturation just mounts from there: 40 Clove Chicken, Gnocchi in a garlic cream sauce, garlic fish and chips, and the obligatory garlic ice cream which, for me, works only as a novelty. When my wife and I went there for dinner some years ago, people nosed us for days afterward and seemed to pirouette away from us when we bid them “HHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHIiiiiiii” in an”H” heavy, breathy voice. I chased them and my wife shook her head at me.

This garlic chicken recipe is garlicky, of course, but not to a level leading to the ostacization we experienced. I gleaned this from the Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook and didn’t really mess with it much because it’s solid.  In fact, a portion of this with a 1/2 cup o’ rice is a 6 on the Old Weight Watchers system (PointsPlus and 360° can fuck off interminably). This is quick-to-make, filling, light, and will give you a garlic fix should you need one.

Garlic Chicken Stir Fry

Makes 4 Servings

Old Weight Watchers Value: 6

Ingredients:

2 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves

1 cup water

3 tbsp. soy sauce

1 tbsp. rice or white wine vinegar

1 tbsp. cornstarch

2 tbsp. oil

10 green onions, sliced into 1″ pieces

1 cup sliced mushrooms

12 cloves garlic (or more), peeled and finely chopped

1/2 cup sliced water chestnuts (1/2 of a can drained)

2 cups hot cooked rice

Makin’ It:

Cut the chicken breasts into small pieces (1/2″) and put them in a resealable plastic bag. In a small bowl, stir together the water, soy sauce, and vinegar. Pour this over the chicken, seal the bag, and refrigerate it for 30 minutes or more. Drain the chicken and reserve the marinade. Whisk the cornstarch into the reserved marinade and set it aside for later.

In a large nonstick skillet or wok, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the green onions, mushrooms, and garlic and cook them for 2 minutes or so, until they’re tender. Remove these vegetables from the skillet and set them aside.

Now add the chicken to the skillet, cooking and stirring until it’s no longer pink, about 4 minutes or so. Push the chicken to the side of the skillet, give a quick stir to that reserved marinade (so the cornstarch doesn’t settle at the bottom), and pour it into the center of the skillet. Cook this until it’s thickened and bubbly (like Kim Kardashian), and then push the chicken back into the center and mix it all together. Return all of the veggies to the skillet and add the water chestnuts, too. Cook and stir this for a few minutes more and serve with rice.

Garlic Chicken 011

You can add cashews, too, but the WW points value will go up, of course. Piece of cake.

Until later, eat, drink, and peace out.

©Jon Marino 2013

Mexican Lasagna

16 Jul

Tortilla and Black Bean Casserole 008

I got this recipe out of the Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook and tweaked it a bit. The authors call this a casserole, but I heartily disagree. This is a lasagna, except that corn tortillas are substituted for lasagne and the fillers are Mexican-based frivolities. So I will call it Mexican Lasagna whether anyone likes it or not.

For the umpteenth time in the last few years, I have decided to seriously engage in the old Weight Watchers system (PointsPlus and 360° can fuck off thither).  I am excited about this because I really want to expand on the good dishes I can make…dishes that are good for you and fill you up. I thought about changing the name of this blog to “Thinner with Jonny,” but I would feel like a cock for doing that, so no.

The idea in Weight Watchers is to try to get as much bang for your buck, but in this case, bang for your POINTS. They have the “filling foods” concept, which is the list of foods with little or no caloric value but will fill you up, duh. Also, fiber is a good thing. This lasagna, for instance, has 8 grams of fiber per serving, so while it has 300 calories a serving and 8 grams of fat, the point value isn’t so high because of the fiber: it’s a 6, and this baby is a brick o’ food. I get 36 points a day, so this still leaves me with 30 points….not too shabby.

Furthermore, the leftover portions can be frozen and serve as a quick lunch or dinner. It’s quite easy to make and a crowd pleaser. If you want more protein, add a layer of shredded chicken or Mexi-meat, but it will change the points value, of course.

Mexican Lasagna

Serves 8

Ingredients:

1 tbsp. oil

2 cups chopped onion

1 bell pepper, seeded, membranes removed, and chopped

1 14.5 oz. can diced tomatoes, undrained

3/4 cup Pico Pica or taco sauce or something similar

2 tsp. ground cumin

3 cloves minced garlic (or more if you’re hardcore)

2 15 oz. can beans, drained and rinsed (kidney, black, pinto, whatever works)

12 6-inch corn tortillas

2 cups cheddar or jack cheese

Assorted toppings like lettuce, tomatoes, sliced black olives, green onions, sour cream

Makin’ It:

Preheat the oven to 350°.

In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium high heat and add the chopped onions and bell pepper. Saute this for 5 minutes until they’re soft. Next, add in the tomatoes, taco sauce, cumin, and garlic. Get this boiling, reduce the heat, and simmer it uncovered for 10 minutes. Stir in the beans.

In a 13″ x 9″ baking dish, spread 1/3 of the bean mixture on the bottom. Layer 6 tortillas on top of this, overlapping when needed. Top with 1 cup of the cheese. Add another 1/3 of the bean mixture, the remaining tortillas, and 1/2 cup of the cheese.

Bake this for 30 to 35 minutes. Remove it from the oven and sprinkle on the remaining cheese. Let it rest for 10 minutes. Slice it into 8 pieces and serve. Top it with the fixin’s if you’re hip to it.

Fusion food at it’s finest.

Until later, eat, drink, and peace out.

©Jon Marino 2013

Roasted Herbed Pork Tenderloin

3 Jul

Herbed Pork Tenderloin 7

When my wife and I moved in together after dating for a year, we got an apartment in my home town of Fountain Valley, California, right across the street from Fountain Bowl, the past host of the PBA’s Dick Weber Open and the Cheetah Open, for those keeping tabs on such trivia. The bar inside of Fountain Bowl, a place my friends and I deemed “The Lizard Lounge,” must be seen in person to appreciate its beauty; it simply is a slice of Americana every night, and whether karaoke or a tournament is happening, every walk of life makes their presence known at some point in the evening.

I bring up that first apartment because it’s where I really started learning how to cook. We weren’t allowed to have a grill on our 2nd floor patio, and I was naive to the concept of the grill pan, so I used the communal grill near the Jacuzzi and pool. This thing was gas powered and altogether an insurance company’s nightmare had they known the condition in which it was kept. I basically had to turn on the gas, light a match, and then jump four feet back to avoid the burst of flames that singed my eyebrows and goatee.  All in good fun, and my salon visits were shorter for the few years we lived there.

At this time, I discovered those pork tenderloins that Hormel or the grocery store itself packages, perhaps with a peppercorn or lemony marinade infused with glowing and tasty chemicals. Still, they taste good, so I would grill these babies up fairly often, even for company. What sucked is that, at night, there was no lighting near the grill (besides the embers still smoldering on my clothes, of course), and I had no confidence in whether the pork was truly done or not. Pork (more specifically, trichinosis) used to scare me, so I always felt that overcooking it was better than it being underdone. Once I reentered our apartment and my eyes adjusted to the artificial light, I would realize that my pork tenderloin was now the equivalent of a Chee-to colored with a black Sharpie. The taste was there, surely, but my wife and I had sore mandibles for the remainder of the night from ruminating so thoroughly on the meat.

But pork shouldn’t be this way. And it isn’t now that I know what I’m doing, and I have a little something called a meat thermometer which, amazingly, indicates the temperature at which the meat is done. Who would’ve thunk it?

This Roasted Herbed Pork Tenderloin is probably the moistest, most tender one I’ve ever made. It only needs to marinade for a few hours, and the payoff is huge. It’s cheap, too. I got a nice tenderloin from Trader Joe’s for $6. Moreover, half of a tenderloin (HALF!) is an 8 on the old Weight Watchers system (Points Plus and 360° can go fuck themselves). Add some squash and steamed green beans, as in the picture below, and you have a huge dinner for a 9. Not bad at all. It’s even based on an Ina Garten recipe, which usually means copious butter, but this one is an anomaly in that regard.

Roasted Herbed Pork Tenderloin

Serves 2 or 3

Ingredients:

the zest of one lemon

1/2 cup lemon juice

1/4 olive oil

1 tbsp. minced garlic

1 tsp. dried thyme leaves

1 tbsp. chopped, fresh rosemary leaves (or 1 tsp. dried)

2 tsp. Dijon mustard

1 tsp. salt

1 pound pork tenderloin

2 tbsp. olive oil

Salt and pepper

Makin’ It:

In a bowl, combine the lemon zest, lemon juice, oil, garlic, thyme, rosemary Dijon, and salt. Mix this well. Get a freezer bag (or something like it) and put the tenderloin in it. Pour the marinade over it, swish it around, and seal it after you get the air out of the bag. Refrigerate this for at least 3 hours up to a day.

Preheat the oven to 400°.

Get an oven-proof skillet or saute pan and add the two tablespoons of olive oil over medium-high heat. Remove the tenderloin from the bag but don’t shake it off (you want all of the good herbs and stuff clinging to it). Discard the rest of the marinade. Season the pork with a 1/2 teaspoon each of salt and pepper. Sear this until it’s nice and brown on all sides. Place the pan in the oven and roast the tenderloin for 15 minutes, or until the meat thermometer reads 140° +. It might be pink in the thick part, but that’s a good thing.

Remove the pan from the oven, transfer the tenderloin to a serving platter, and cover it tightly with foil. Let it rest for 10 to 15 minutes. Then, slice it into 1″ thick pieces and serve. Pour the juices over the portions, if you’re a rock star like that. You’ll get this:

Herbed Pork Tenderloin

Until later, eat, drink, and peace out.

©Jon Marino 2013