White Chocolate Grill Couscous Copycat Recipe

If you’ve ever been to White Chocolate Grill and had their Couscous salad, you have probably been looking for the recipe ever since. The closest you will find is this teaser of a recipe from the WCGCooks.com blog. It’s not quite the one you want, but it’s a good start. I used that recipe as a base, tried to remember what all was in the deliciousness of what I had at the restaurant, and came up with my own. It’s probably not exactly like the one they serve, but it’s pretty yummy, and you can always play around with ingredients to see what you like the best. Here is the base recipe (from WCGCooks.com): Lemon Apricot Couscous with Toasted Almonds
Yield 1 Quart

  • 2 cups Water
  • 2 Tbs Honey
  • 1 Tbs Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 1 Tbs Fresh Lemon Juice
  • ¼ tsp Kosher Salt
  • 1 cup Instant Moroccan Couscous
  • ½ cup Minced Dried Apricots
  • ½ cup Toasted Almond Slivers
  • 1 Tbsp Chopped Parsley

Method:  1.Bring the water, honey, olive oil and salt to a rolling boil. 2.Take off the heat and stir in the couscous and apricots, cover and allow to stand for
approx. 5 minutes until the seasoned water has absorbed into the couscous.
3.Fluff with a fork before serving. 4.Place warm couscous on a platter and top with the toasted slivered almonds and chopped
parsley. I change this up depending on what I have on hand. white chocolate grill cous cous   This time, I made the couscous, and added (about a handful of each, chopped):

  • Parsley
  • Fresh Mint
  • Basil
  • Green Onion
  • Yellow Pepper
  • Dried Cranberries
  • Dried Apricots
  • Toasted Almonds
  • Roasted Pistachios
  • Grape Tomatoes (not pictured – I forgot, and added them later!)
  • and Feta Cheese

Instead of serving the couscous warm, I rinsed it with cool water, dressed it with olive oil, & lemon juice & a little bit of honey. A splash of balsamic vinegar, and Kosher salt to taste. It’s sooo good, and a perfect lighter side dish, goes great with grilled salmon, burgers, or all by itself. white chocolate grill, cous cous, recipe, And if you are looking for a great recipe for Grilled Salmon, here is my favorite. I comes out great, every time! (Just make sure your grill is well oiled.) From Taku Glacier Lodge in Alaska: Taku Lodge Basted Grilled Salmon (From myrecipes.com)

  • 1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • About 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • About 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 8 pieces (about 6 oz. each; max. 1 1/4 in. thick) boned, skinned wild salmon fillet
  • 1/4 cup (1/8 lb.) butter
  • Lemon wedges

Preparation 1. In a large, wide bowl or 9- by 13-inch baking dish, stir brown sugar, wine, lemon juice, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper until sugar is dissolved. 2. Rinse fish and pat dry. Add to marinade and turn to coat. Cover and chill for 1 to 2 hours. 3. Lift salmon from marinade and transfer to a 12- by 17-inch baking pan. Pour marinade into a 1 1/2- to 2-quart pan over medium-high heat; add butter and stir until butter is melted and mixture is simmering, 4 to 5 minutes. 4. Lay salmon, skinned side down, on a generously oiled grill over a solid bed of medium-hot coals or medium-high heat on a gas grill (you can hold your hand at grill level only 3 to 4 seconds). Brush fish generously with the baste; close lid if using a gas grill. Cook until salmon pieces are well browned on the bottom, 3 1/2 to 4 minutes (keep a spray bottle filled with clean water on hand to spritz any flare-ups). With a wide spatula, carefully turn pieces; brush tops with baste and continue to cook, basting often, until the salmon is just opaque but still moist-looking in the center of the thickest part (cut to test), about 5 to 6 minutes longer. Discard any remaining baste. 5. Transfer salmon to a warm platter or plates and garnish with lemon wedges. Add more salt and pepper to taste. I always use wild caught salmon, and just do a whole fillet at once. (pictured with a wasabi-crusted tuna steak). taku lodge grilled salmon recipe Enjoy!

Easy, yummy BBQ Chicken

If you know me, you know that I do a lot of cooking. I don’t really have much choice. Feeding the monkeys is a full time job in and of itself, especially monkey #1, who, if there isn’t a homemade meal readily available, will alternate between the fridge and pantry, and proclaim,

There’s no FOOD around here!

Even though there is food; it’s just not prepared. God forbid they feed themselves. Just kidding – they’re getting better – it’s all a learning process, right? When I was 19, all I knew how to cook was Macaroni ‘n’ Cheese and cold cereal.  Besides I’m happy that they’d rather have my cooking.

So why don’t I do more cooking posts? Good question. Mostly the reason is, when I’m cooking, I’m rocking & rolling, and don’t think to take pictures until after everything is finished. Plus, I don’t have a very photogenic kitchen and a super-duper camera like some people. I use my iPhone in my grungy old kitchen with the fluorescent lights from hell. (You know, one bulb is always flickering, and they do that weird humming noise until you bang on the ceiling?)

So, if you, my viewing public, don’t mind some yellow-ish photos, I will be happy to share more recipes. My cooking style is mostly homemade, using as few packaged products as possible. Usually I have a long version, and a shortcut version of what I’m making, depending on how much time I have, what I have on hand, and the status of the growling coming from the Monkeys. I use sugar, I use butter, I use gluten (whatever the FUCK that is anyway), I use meat, so if you are looking for some specialty diet, this ain’t  the place for you. BUT I do try to make everything as fresh and (relatively) healthy as possible; i.e., while I do use butter, I use olive oil more.

If you like it, great if not, too bad. Around here,

You get what you get, and you don’t throw a fit.

BBQ Chicken

BBQ Chicken:

Heat oven to 350°

  • 1 ½ – 2  Roasting chickens, cut into pieces or halves
  • Kosher salt
  • ½ Onion, sliced lengthwise
  • 1-2 whole cloves garlic, no need to peel
  • olive oil
  • squeeze of lemon
  • water

(optional side dishes – baked sweet potato, and sautéed broccoli rabe; see below)

Sprinkle salt on chicken, and place on a rack in a baking pan (I used a cooling rack on a cookie sheet – see picture). Spread pieces of onion and cloves of garlic all around the pieces of chicken. No need for perfection – you just want to get some flavor in there. Then drizzle olive oil over the top, and squeeze a wedge or two of lemon over everything. You can just leave the lemon wedges in the pan, as the flavor and aroma will mix in while everything is cooking. If you want to, and you have it available, you can add fresh herbs like rosemary or thyme too, but I didn’t do that this time. This was just a quick n’ dirty throw-it-in-the-oven type of dinner.

When your chicken is seasoned, add about ¾ cup of water to the pan, cover the whole thing tightly with foil, and stick in the oven. Leave it for about an hour and a half, more or less. (The longer it cooks, the more tender your chicken will be, but too long and it will fall apart. Really too long and it will turn to charcoal and your house will burn down. So think about and hour – hour and a half.)

(Super secret tip! This is also how I make melt-in-your-mouth BBQ ribs! Only you cook those for about 3 hours.)

After I got the chicken in the oven, I scrubbed & dried some sweet potatoes, schmeared them with olive oil & sprinkled with Kosher salt. I placed these on a piece of foil (because they drip when cooking) right on the bottom rack of the oven.

Do some laundry, sweep the front patio or go on Pinterest for awhile.

Wash & trim your broccoli rabe. I didn’t take this picture, but it looks like this (click for source):

broccoli rabe/rapini
rabe is pronounced “rob,” and it is also called rapini

Now you might be saying to yourself, “Ew, it’s all green, and leafy; I’m not going to eat that!”

Oh yes, you will eat it, mister, and you will like it!

This stuff is loaded with vitamins, and even though it looks gross to you non-veggie eaters out there, it is really quite delicious, especially when prepared right. AND it’s the perfect compliment to your BBQ so quit yer bitchin and make it already! It cooks pretty fast, and it tastes best when eaten right away, so you can wait until your chicken is almost done to start it.

Sautéed Broccoli Rabe

Put a large pot of water on to boil. When boiling, add a generous amount of salt (a handful). Throw in the broccoli rabe and let cook for about 4-5 minutes, or until the stalks are just tender enough when pierced with a fork or knife.

While the broccoli rabe is cooking, chop 2 cloves of garlic.

Drain broccoli rabe in colander and dump out the water. Put the pot back on the stove and heat up 2 Tbsp olive oil. Sautée the garlic just until translucent (about a minute or two on medium-high heat. Not too long or too hot, or it will burn. Hint: if you do burn garlic, toss it and start over. It won’t taste good). Then add the broccoli rabe back to the pan, and heat through. It will only take a couple of minutes. Squeeze lemon over the top, and you’re done! Super easy & good for you!

Now, back to your chicken.

Before removing the chicken from the oven, go outside and heat up your grill to about 400°. (If you don’t have one, I’m sure a grill pan or an indoor grill will work.) Make sure to spray the grill with non-stick spray or oil the grill racks with olive oil.

Remove the chicken from the oven and carefully drain the water from the pan. Get some BBQ sauce and a cold beer and take everything out to the grill.

no not that grill, idiot
no not that grill, idiot
there you go
there you go

Throw your chicken on the grill, then close the grill. Flip the chicken over back and forth, every 3-4 minutes or so. Spread the BBQ sauce on with a basting brush every time you move the chicken. Do this a few times, just until you have gotten a nice glaze of sauce and some nice crispy grill marks, to your taste. I like mine just a teeny bit burnt around the edges. But I’m weird. At any rate, you should only have the chicken on the grill for about 15 minutes (give or take) altogether. Otherwise it will get dried out.

Be sure to sip the cold beer while you are grilling. Don’t ask why. Just do it.

Then when you get the pan in the house, you want to test a chicken wing, just to check and see how it came out. And before you knew it you ate two chicken wings and forgot to take a picture.

holy shit that was the best BBQ chicken ever

Then you say to yourself:

holy shit that was the best BBQ chicken ever

and decide to post it on instagram. (Making sure to #tweet it as well.) Then you decide you’d better take a pretty picture of it before you maul the rest of it.

BBQ Chicken

Now go eat.

xo heidi

Really Good Pizza

This is my Grandma G, circa 1970-something. You can tell it was 1970-something because of the way she’s rocking that paisley dress, and by my Uncle Tom’s sideburns in the background. Check out his sweater vest.

My cousins and my kids call her Nonna, her name is Lena (short for Angelena), but my brother and I have always known her as Grandma G. She was born in Chicago to immigrant parents, and didn’t speak a word of English when she got to school. She said all the kids made fun of her and called her stupid and dirty and that’s why, when my dad, aunt & uncle were little, she only allowed them to speak English. And that’s why I don’t know Italian. So don’t make fun of people just because they don’t speak the same language as you. It’s mean and ignorant.

Now, anyone who knows my grandma also knows that she used to make the best pizza on the planet. It’s a fact. It’s also a fact that no one is able to duplicate it. She has taught me so much about cooking over the years, and has even tried to teach me how to make pizza. And I tried. I really did. But I have come to this place in my life where I am accepting my limitations, one of them being I will never be able to make Grandma G’s pizza. At least not like she does.

And, believe me, it’s not because she had some recipe hold-out. You know these cooks. There are some who will simply not share a recipe, or, if they do they leave out some secret ingredient or step, so that no one will be able to make whatever-it-is as good as they can. Grandma isn’t like that, and neither am I. We like to share. We’re nice people that way.

Grandma G’s pizza is made in a pan. You spread olive oil in the pan, stretch the dough out and add your ingredients—in a decorative and properly spaced fashion, so that each bite will get you something yummy. Here is a pretty good attempt, but still not quite the same:

This is a recipe I found online. The woman does a video tutorial and is just so…grandma-ish. You’ll love her. Here’s a link: MaryAhearn.com; John’s favorite pizza.

My grandma used to do this thing where, when the pizza was almost done, she would slide the whole thing out of the pan, right onto the oven rack, to make the crust crispy. I tried to do that once. It was a disaster. Don’t ask.

I think part of the problem, and this was Grandma’s idea, is that the water here in the desert is different than it is in the Midwest. That and the whole humidity thing. Back in Chicago, you can make your dough early, let it rise, punch it down and let it rise again, form it into whatever bread or pizza you are making and then let it rise AGAIN before baking. Here, the triple-rise kills the dough. Or at least it does when I do it. I’m not a professional by any means, but I’ve been playing around with this whole dough situation for going on 20 years now.

way back when my training was in its novice phase

So I kind of gave up on trying to make Grandma’s pizza, and went about how to make Heidi pizza. My inspiration came from the 2nd-best pizza on the planet: Red’s Tavern in Harvard, Illinois. Bonnie (Red’s wife) makes her pizza sooooo thin, it’s like a crispy cracker. And its just soooooo yummy. I tried many, many times to make a crispy-cracker-thin pizza that was still yummy, and…I failed, many times. Until…

UNTIL…I found this magazine:

go ahead and subscribe, it’s worth it. No, I don’t get a cut. But I should.

Forget the pie. If you find this issue in a yard sale or library bin, GRAB IT! It has the best pizza recipe EVER, and it’s EASY! Better yet, here’s the link: Fine Cooking Create Your Own Pizza Oh my gosh, you are going to love it, you are going to Thank me, so I will just say you’re welcome now: You’re Welcome.

Their recipe is a “Create Your Own.” They give you options, based on your personal tastes, and you make the pizza however you want. Here’s the skinny on the crispy-thin crust, from my experience.

The dough:

  • 1 ¾ Cup warm, not hot water (100℉)
  • 1 Tbsp. Olive Oil (yes, EXTRA VIRGIN*) he he that olive oil is inexperienced.
  • 2 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1 ½ tsp. yeast (I just use a whole packet, which is 2 tsp., works fine.)
  • 1 ½ tsp. sugar
  • 4 ½ C. all-purpose flour (OK, here’s where the dry air makes a diff. I had to cut this down to 4 cups)

Stir the salt, sugar and olive oil into the water, then sprinkle in the yeast, then—and this is the fun part—you can just dump all the flour in at once, and stir it up with a wooden spoon. Look gooey? Good. It’s supposed to. Now cover loosely with plastic wrap (you can spray it with non-stick stuff so it doesn’t stick to the dough later but no biggie). Let rise for 2 hours. OMG are you in a hurry? yeah, no sweat, this will work even if it doesn’t rise that long. I’ve even made it right before I started cooking and it was fine. Doesn’t get as bubbly and stuff, but it’s still pizza. Get over it.

The dough will rise and fall on its own, no need to punch it down. Then you can refrigerate before using, but again, you don’t have to. (Do you get the feeling that I’m a make-it-at-the-last-minute kind of gal?) The dough keeps well in the fridge and, truth be told, it’s even a little better after a day or two.

The Sauce:

  • 1 28 oz. can of peeled tomatoes in juice (San Marzano style if you can get ’em, if not, just get the store brand)

Pulse tomatoes in a food processor—or right in the can, using a stick blender—and the dump in a saucepan and bring to a simmer. Reduce heat and maintain simmer, stirring occasionally for about 40 minutes til tomatoes are reduced, and super yummy. You can use the tomatoes that have the basil with them, it comes out pretty yummy.

“But Heidi, why do I have to use whole tomatoes and then dirty up my food processor? Can’t I just buy puréed tomatoes and call it a day?”

Yeah, if you’re a total wuss, and you don’t like good pizza. I mean, why do you have a food processor to begin with? To make f*cking better food, that’s why. Just man up and do it the right way.

The stuff:

You can put Whatever You Want on your pizza!! YAY!!

YAY!

Really, you can put whatever you want on your pizza. I like good ol’ cheese and sausage, some onions, maybe mushrooms. Just remember, with a thin crust you can’t load it up too heavy or the dough will get weighed down, and won’t slide off your pizza peel. Which leads me to…

The Technique:

  • flour
  • rolling pin
  • corn meal
  • pizza peel (the wooden paddle)
  • pizza stone

First, place your pizza stone in the oven and heat to 450°. You don’t need an expensive stone. I got mine at Big Lots for 10 bucks. First time you use it, you have to heat it gradually—start the oven at 350, then work in increments until you can heat it to 450° for half an hour or so, the hotter the better. (Read the directions that come with your stone.)

Ok, so you have your gooey dough. Grab a handful, about the size of a peach. Place it on your floured counter, and you will probably have to pat it down into a little circle, just like when you were a kid and played with your play-doh. Sprinkle more flour as needed, then roll out the dough with your rolling pin. Keep rolling and flipping your dough over, until it is super thin. You want to make sure to flip it over and move it around, adding flour as needed or it will stick to the counter.

When your dough is about ⅛ inch thick or less, transfer it to your pizza peel which you have GENEROUSLY dusted with cornmeal. The cornmeal acts as a slider for the dough so it won’t stick to the peel. Then you put your toppings on. Sauce, cheese, and whatever else. Don’t put your toppings on before you have your crust on the peel!! You will have to just throw it all in the garbage.

make sure the bits of sausage are small so they cook all the way through.

This is what happens when you don’t have enough cornmeal, or part of the peel gets a little olive oil on it:

the pizza goes all sideways

But we cooked it anyway, and even though it looked goofy, it still tasted good!

kinda blurry, but you get the idea.

The pizza will take about 12-15 minutes to get nice & crispy. I will say, it’s still not as thin and cracker-y as Bonnie’s, or my brother’s favorite (and possibly a contender for best pizza ever): Pizza Bella in Palatine, Il., but, for a home cook who’s still trying to figure things out, it’s pretty damn good. And you know what? We never have leftovers.

I’ll be going to visit Grandma G. next week. She just turned 92! Here is a picture of her in her wedding dress:

And me in the same dress, 50 years later:

drama queen

She’s an awesome lady. If you have access to a grandma, I highly recommend giving her a hug and thanking her for everything she did. Because I’m sure you don’t even know the half of it.

If I get my act together and can do it on a day when I don’t look like shit, I will have my kids video me making this so you can see the whole process. Until then, if you have any questions, leave them in the comments and I will be happy to be your pizza Dear Abby.

Here’s some more pizzas. I hope your turns out good!  Hint: Open a bottle of red wine when you start cooking. Have a glass or two. Practice. By your third or fourth pizza, everything will all be just fine.

*about olive oil: don’t call it E.V.O.O. Rachael Ray has some good recipes, and seems like a cool person but she bugs the shit out of me. And if you ever say YUMMO around me, I will slap you.

all I said was yumm—OW!

Comment! Comment! Comment!

Basketball, Swedish Meatballs and swearing with your father

This weekend one of my projects, besides the continent of laundry that has piled up, is assembling a new portable, adjustable-height basketball hoop. As I unpacked the box and saw all of the little parts, big parts, and list of tools I would need, I thought of my dad.

Now, a do-it-yourself type of task around the house, i.e., replacing a kitchen faucet, hooking up the stereo or any kind of “adult assembly required” product which looks so good in the store displayed (fully assembled) under bright lights with a sale sticker, comes packaged in a very large box, its many components neatly styro-foamed, twist-tied and plastic-baggied; well, these projects — as anyone with a practical, do-it-yourselfer, Italian-American father knows — require A LOT OF SWEARING. The kind of swearing you usually have to pray about in church the next day.

This basketball hoop was going to need some swearing before it got done. And it’s more fun when you have someone to help you swear about it. You know, one of you reads the 300 pages of poorly written instructions, the other one misinterprets what you say, you argue about which thingamajiggy goes where, swear some more, at some point the manual gets thrown across the room, that little vein pops out in your dad’s forehead (this also applies to Irish fathers), and three hours later you have something which almost resembles the picture on the box, shrug your shoulders, say, “Well, at least it’s done,” and go have a beer.

And in this time your mom/stepmom got all the laundry done, made a whole batch of cookies and cleaned up the kitchen. She’s just thankful you kept him out of her hair for the day.

Unfortunately, my dad lives a thousand miles away. So in this case, I call him, tell him I need him to help me with the tools and the swearing, and we have a good laugh. Then comes the inevitable question:
“What’re you having for dinner?”

There’s something about moving away from home. Yeah, you miss your family, friends and different places. You talk about the weather. But it always comes back to food.

I said, “That’s the other reason I was calling about.” Midwesterners tend to end sentences with prepositions. We know it’s wrong. We’re rebels without causes.

“I’ve got two pounds of ground beef thawed out, and I have no idea what to make,”
I mentioned that I was thinking of meatballs, but not spaghetti-and-meatballs, something different. My stepmom suggested Swedish meatballs, and proceeded to read me the recipe from the Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook. Meatballs fried in butter with a cream gravy. What’s not to like?

I looked up the recipe in my Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook, which just happens to be my Grandma’s copy, from the late ’50’s. Funny how they stick that “New” title on every year. So you’ll see a twenty year old version at a garage sale, and somehow think it’s New? But my “New” cookbook didn’t have the same version as my stepmom’s “New” cookbook, so I did the next best thing: Google.

Thank you, Alton Brown. The meatballs were delicious!

http://common.scrippsnetworks.com/common/snap/snap-2.2.2-embed.swf?channelurl=http://www.foodnetwork.com/food/channel/xml/0,,67904-VIDEO,00.xml&channel=67904

What food do you miss from back home, and does your family swear as much as mine? (In my dad’s defense, his language isn’t half as bad as mine!)

Finally, as Jon Stewart says, here is your moment of Zen:
By the time we got the #@%* basketball hoop up, the moon had come out.

Spaghetti-Ah Sauce-Ah

This weekend, I am running away. My wonderful husband gave me an awesome Christmas gift this year – I’m going to Vegas to see CHER!! And no boys allowed, either! Just me and my amazing friend Jeanette. We always have a good time together, and we’re both ready for a little reprieve. No laundry, no cooking, no cleaning, no running to Wal-Mart. So while we are rocking out to “Gypsies, Tramps and Thieves,” you can make something yummy for your tummy. 

The name for this recipe comes from the way my great-grandmother, Nonna Ida (ee-dah), pronounced things – Spaghetti-ah Sauce-ah. She was the quintessential Italian grandmother. Made everything from scratch, gave the most bosom-squishy hugs, loved all of us, and didn’t take any crap from anyone. She even did that thing where they throw their slipper at you because they can’t get to you fast enough to give you a smack. (She never did that to me, I was of course a little angel who never did anything wrong. Or maybe I was just the right amount of scared of her. I think it was one of my cousins or uncles who got the shoe. If I had to guess, my cousin Michael or Uncle Marc.)

This may not seem like a quick recipe, but it has saved me more time over and over again. And by now, it’s easy for me to make since I’ve done it so often. Once you get everything in the pot, all you have to do is boil some pasta, and that’s it. And I make enough to have leftovers the next day – cook once, eat twice! It’s my family’s favorite.
This recipe has been handed down in my family for generations. We all put our own spin on it, and here’s how I make mine:

(I have to apologize in advance for my food photography. Haven’t quite figured that one out yet. Besides, I have yucky fluorescent lighting in my kitchen. If you have any photo tips, I’d love to hear them.)

Ingredients:

Olive Oil – Extra virgin, baby.
1 large onion, chopped
3-5 cloves of garlic, peeled, smashed, and chopped
1 carrot, shredded
1 stalk of celery, chopped fine

2 lbs. lean ground beef (you can do half beef and half sausage for richer flavor, or ground turkey or chicken to keep it on the light side. It’s all good.)
1+ Tbsp Italian seasoning
about 1-2 tsp kosher salt (start with 1, then add to taste after all ingredients are together)
fresh ground black pepper
a small dash of cinnamon
1 can tomato paste (I use Contadina or Progresso)
¼ – ½ Cup of red wine
Fresh Basil leaves, if you have them (julienne and throw on top before serving)


2 large cans whole peeled tomatoes, in juice.  This is the secret!  You have to use the whole peeled tomatoes – before adding them to the sauce, chop them (not too chunky, not too thin) in the blender, food processor, or right in the can if you have a stick blender. If using a blender or processor, drain the tomatoes first, but save the juice.  The whole tomatoes make the sauce taste FRESH.  Make sure the canned tomatoes are packed in juice, not in tomato puree; puree will make it thicker, but the taste is not as fresh.  

So, get a good, heavy pot and heat it over med-high heat, just a couple of minutes.  Add Olive oil.  (If it smokes, the pan is too hot and you will burn the garlic.  We do not want to burn the garlic!  Take the pan off the heat so it will cool)  Throw in your onion, carrot, and celery, and saute for a few minutes, then add the garlic.  You can add a pinch of the salt here to loosen up the veggies.  When they are translucent, add the meat, and let it brown.  When the meat is almost done, add the spices.  Rub the dry Italian seasoning together in your palms as you add it; this will bring out the aroma.  The cinnamon should just be a tiny shake. Half a pinch, at most.  It flavors the meat, but you don’t want it to taste like cinnamon, got it?  Okay, when the meat is brown, turn down the heat just a notch, and add the tomato paste.  


Stir it into the meat, and mix it all up.  After a couple of minutes, it will go from a reddish color to a brownish color.  This is when you add the wine.  Ahhhh! It smells so good!  Stir it up (little darling), and scrape the bottom of the pan.  It will deglaze the pan, and cut the acid of the tomatoes.  Then add the tomatoes with their juices.  Let it simmer about 20-30 minutes.  You can leave it on low while dinner is being served, in case anyone wants seconds.  Make sure you pour a glass of wine for yourself, to taste while the sauce is simmering.  This is very important. ;)


If you have a rind of Parmeggiano-Reggiano in the fridge that’s all used up, you can throw that in the pot while it’s simmering.  Also, at the very end, if you have any fresh basil, tear that up and throw that in, too, if you like it, or, simply, on each serving.  If you like mushrooms, save a bit of the onion, and saute the mushrooms with the onion in a separate pan, and add to the sauce with the tomatoes.  Otherwise they will get all broken up when you are stirring the meat. 
This is my basic sauce for everything from spaghetti to lasagne.  I always use Barilla pasta.  Cheap stuff gets too starchy and gummy.  Make sure you put plenty of salt in the pasta water, otherwise the pasta is too bland.  Stir the pasta right after you put in in the water, so it won’t stick together when cooking.

We always put butter on the hot pasta after it’s done. 
This, like I said, is a family recipe, but it’s taken me 19 years to perfect it.  I’m sure it will get changed many many times more on its journey, and I hope the hungry souls trying it out along the way will rub their bellies in warm satisfaction.  Let me know how your family likes it!


Mangia!
(Eat-Ah!)

PS For a yummy garlic bread, get a fresh crusty loaf, and cut it in half lengthwise.  Take half a stick of soft butter, and mix in some fresh garlic, smashed as much as you can, and chopped.  (smashing it releases the juices)  Spread this on the open faces of the cut loaf, sprinkle with a bit of parmesan cheese & chopped parsley.  Put in 400oven about 10-15 min til it starts to brown around the edges.  Yum! 

Cher loves Spaghetti.



I was born in the wagon of a travelin’ show
My mama used to danceCOOK SPAGHETTI for the money they’d throw
Papa would do whatever he could
Preach a little gospel
Sell a couple bottles of Doctor GoodSPAGHETTI SAUCE

Gypsies, tramps and thieves
We’d hear it from the people of the town
They’d call us gypsies, tramps and thieves
But every night all the men would come around
And lay their money downEAT OUR SPAGHETTI

Picked up a boy just south of Mobile
Gave him a ride, filled him with a hot meal OF SPAGHETTI
I was sixteen, he was twenty-one
Rode with us to Memphis
And papa woulda shot him if he knew what he’d done (HE ATE ALL THE SPAGHETTI!!)

Have a good weekend!
With love,
Heidi

P.S. for Cher fans: check out my movie review of Burlesque.