Tiramisu

This is probably one of the most classic Italian desserts. As a classic, there isn’t much modification that you can or need to do to it. Pretty much every recipe is the same. That said; I, of course, modified it. But barely. I added a little Kahlua in addition to the traditional rum, it really enhances the coffee flavor, and I like mine with a thin layer of whip cream on top.

Now when I make this I try to also have at least one other recipe in mind that calls for mascarpone cheese. And maybe some mashed potatoes too. Why? Because rather than going to a regular grocery store and paying around $7.00 (or more) for 8 oz (and the recipes calls for 32 oz!) I go to Smart Foodservices Warehouse (used to be called Cash & Carry). It’s sort of like Costco but smaller and definitely aimed at restaurants. There I can pick up a 5 lbs bucket for between $20-$25. Do the math, $7×4 for just 2 lbs or get the 5er. Pretty easy choice. Unfortunately they’re just on the west coast but try Costco, they sometimes have it as well. Enjoy

Tiramisu

  • 6 extra large egg yolks, at room temp
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup dark rum, divided in half
  • 1/4 cup Kahlua or other coffee flavored liquor
  • 1 1/2 cups brewed espresso, divided 1 1/4 and 1/4
  • 2 lbs mascarpone cheese, at room temp
  • 30 Italian ladyfingers, an Italian cookie
  • bittersweet chocolate, shaved or grated
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar

Directions

In a stand mixer, with the whisk attachment, beat the egg yolks and sugar until they’re very thick and light yellow (about 5 minutes). Lower the speed and add in 1/4 cup rum, Kahlua, 1/4 cup espresso and all of the mascarpone cheese. Beat until smooth and creamy.

Combine the remaining rum and espresso in a shallow bowl or pan. Dip the ladyfingers in the mixture and line the bottom of a 9″x12″ pan that’s at least 3″ to 4″ deep. You’ll want to do this quickly as these little cookie soak up moisture quickly and will turn soggy. You don’t want that. Pour half of the espresso/mascarpone mixture on top and smooth it out. Do a second layer of espresso dipped ladyfingers and add them to the top of the espresso/mascarpone layer. Pour the rest of the espresso/mascarpone mixture and smooth it out. Cover and refrigerate overnight. Take the bowl of your stand mixer and the whisk attachment and put them in the freezer for at least 30 minutes. Starting on low, beat the heavy cream until  frothy. Slowly raise the speed until it’s on high and the whip cream start to form soft peaks. Lower the speed, add in the sugar and raise the speed to med-high. Beat until firm peaks form. Smooth it out on the top of your tiramisu and dust with the grated or shaved chocolate. Chill for another 30 minutes or so and then serve.

Meat Sauce

One of the best presents I’ve ever received was a series of Italian cooking classes. You know, the kind where it’s a bunch of strangers with a local chef who walks you through preparing a bunch of dishes while you’re all drinking wine. It was a blast and I still use those recipes to this day. This is based off of one of those. I didn’t make too many changes, just add a few additional ingredients and updated it for my Instant Pot. So instead of simmering for 2 or more hours, it’s ready is about 45 minutes. Enjoy!

Meat Sauce

  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 28oz can San Marzano whole peeled tomatoes, crushed
  • 4-5 minced garlic cloves (or more if you like garlic)
  • 1/4 medium yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 lbs chuck beef
  • 1/2 cup dry red wine (Italian is best)
  • 3 Tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 Tsp garlic powder
  • 1 Tsp onion powder
  • 1 Tsp kosher salt
  • 1/2 Tsp black pepper
  • 1 1/2 Tsp Italian seasoning
  • 1/2 Tsp red pepper flakes (optional)
  • Pinch of sugar

Directions

In a heavy pot (like a Le Creuset Dutch oven) or in an Instant Pot set to sauté, heat the olive oil and brown the chuck; about 2-3 minutes per side. Remove and set aside. Add in the onion and minced garlic, sauté for about a minute or until fragrant. Add the chuck back in and the rest of the ingredients. If using a heavy pot, bring to a boil and simmer; about 2 hours or until the meat is tender and falling apart. If using an Instant pot, set the pressure cooker for 45 minutes with the valve closed.

Serve over your favorite pasta.

Chicken Cacciatore

I make this dish for my significant other more than me. It’s pretty traditional and I, being me, have taken an untraditional approach. Enjoy!

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Chicken Cacciatore

  • 2 boneless chicken thighs
  • 1 boneless chicken breast
  • 2 Tsp kosher salt
  • 1 Tsp fresh black pepper
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 3 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 red bell pepper, chopped
  • 1/2 yellow onion, chopped
  • 4 or 5 minced garlic cloves
  • 3/4 cup dry white wine
  • 1 14.5 oz can diced tomatoes (with juice)
  • 3/4 cup chicken broth
  • 3 Tbsp drained capers
  • 1 Tsp Italian herbs
  • 1 1/2 Tsp dried oregano
  • 1/2 Tsp crushed red pepper

Directions

Combine the flour, salt and pepper in a ziplock bag. Cut the chicken in about 3″x3″ cubes. Put them in the ziplock and shake to coat. In a large saute pan, I love to use my Le Creuset Braiser, heat the olive oil on medium high. Brown the chicken, about 3 minutes each side. Transfer it to a plate and set aside. Turn the heat down to medium and add the bell pepper, onion, and garlic; you may need to add a little more oil. Season with a little salt and pepper. Saute until the onion is tender, about 5 minutes. Add the wine and simmer until reduced by half, about 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes with their juice, chick broth, capers, Italian seasoning, oregano, and crushed red pepper. Add the chicken back in and bring to a simmer. Continue simmering over medium-low heat for about 15 to 20 minutes.

I like to serve with penne pasta and garlic bread.

Cheesey Bruschetta

I love Italian food and bruschetta is a standard appetizer, or antipasto as they say in Italy. It’s at its simplest, toast. But there are so many variations. I like the simple garlic, tomato and basil version. Understand that I LOVE garlic, so if you don’t you may want to tone this down a bit. And I’ve added my own twist to it with cheese. This is really best with a nice smoked cheese, fontina or Gruyère; it adds a nice depth to it. But you can use any cheese that melts good, smoked or not. Enjoy!

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Cheesey Bruschetta

  • 2 cups chopped tomatoes
  • 1 head of garlic*, finely minced
  • 1 cup julienned basil
  • Sliced cheese, enough to over each piece of bread
  • 2 Tbsp good olive oil
  • 1 Tsp fine sea salt
  • 1/2 Tsp freshly ground pepper
  • Sliced bread, baguette or french bread (1″)

Directions

In your oven on, or using a toaster oven, on broil; toast the bread on both sides until dark brown (not burnt). *So with the garlic try to get a bulb that has some large cloves. When you peel them don’t smash the large ones, just peel them and keep 3 or 4 aside. Now take those and rub the toasted bread with them (I do both sides but again I love garlic). Now put the cheese on the bread and put it back in the oven to let it melt. Watch it closely so it doesn’t burn. You might want to set the oven to bake, instead of broil.

In a medium bowl; combine the tomatoes, minced garlic, basil, olive oil, salt and pepper.

Top each piece of bread with melted cheese with the tomato topping. Eat.

Rosemary Balsamic Steak

One of the best gifts I’ve received over the years was a series of Italian cooking classes. You know, the kind where you get together with a bunch of people to make stuff over plenty of wine. So much fun, especially when the instructor is excellent. One of the recipes I took away from those classes was for this steak. No idea if what I do is the same or not, I think I probably upped the spice. I know when we made it in the class there was no crushed red chili flakes, oh well. The longer you let this marinate the better it tastes. And like a lot of Italian recipes, it’s super simple and easy. Enjoy!

Rosemary Balsamic Steak

  • 1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 good olive oil
  • 3-4 cloves of chopped garlic
  • 1 Tbsp kosher salt
  • 1 Tsp black pepper
  • 1 Tsp red chili flakes
  • 4-5 rosemary sprigs, roughly chopped.

Directions

Place all of the ingredients into a ziplock bag and allow to marinate for at least 1 hour, longer is better. Cook the steak to your desired doneness. I like to use my Anova Sous Vide Precision Cooker, that way it always turns out at a perfect medium.

Chicken Parmesan

I absolutely LOVE Italian food, it is probably my favorite cuisine. Don’t be put off by this recipe, it’s actually pretty quick to make (I think). If you can, I absolutely recommend using REAL bufalo mozzarella. I’ve been lucky enough to find it, once in a while, at Costco (I posted a picture to my Instagram – opie.seattle). There is NO comparison between this and US mozzarella. Seriously! If you are in a pinch you can use jarred marinara sauce, I do all the time. But I highly recommend 1) find one that does not have sugar (harder than you think) and 2) modify it! I add garlic, a little more italian spice and definitely crushed red chili flakes. Enjoy!

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Chicken Parmesan

  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 boneless/skinless chicken breasts
  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup Italian style bread crumbs
  • 1/2 cup finely grated parmesan cheese (try to use the real thing)
  • Mozzarella (how much depends on you)
  • 1 cup (or so) penne pasta
  • Salt and pepper

Directions

Make the pasta sauce, recipe below, first.

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees (good time to heat up some good bread while you’re at it).

In an oven proof wide pan, I like my Le Creuset Round Braiser, heat the olive oil on medium-high. Whisk the egg in a shallow pan or bowl. Put the flour in another shallow pan or bowl. Put the bread crumbs and parmesan in yet another shallow pan or bowl.

Take the chicken breasts, put them in a zip lock so they can’t get away, and pound the out so they are thin and even. Lightly salt and pepper them. Dip them 1st in the flour, then the egg and finally the bread crumbs. Cook about 3 minutes on each side, until golden brown.

Remove from the pan, add the marinara, and put them on top of it. Put the mozzarella on top of the breasts and cook in the oven for another 10 to 15 minutes, until the cheese starts to melt and ooze over the breasts.

Meanwhile heat a large pot of water over high heat with a couple of tablespoons of salt. Cook the penne until done, firm to the bite and not mushy.

When the chicken is done, plate it and then combine the sauce with the pasta and serve as well.

Easy Marinara Sauce

  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 3-4 cloves of garlic, minced (the amount depends on how much garlic you like)
  • 28 oz can whole pealed tomatoes, crushed (or you can use tomato sauce if you don’t like your marinara “chunky”)
  • 1 tsp Italian seasoning
  • 1 tsp crushed red chili flakes (less it you don’t like heat)
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

In a heavy bottom pot, I like my Le Creuset Round French Oven, heat the oil to medium and saute the garlic until fragrant (don’t burn it!). Dump the can of whole tomatoes into a bowl and crush them with your hands (or not if you’re using tomato sauce). Dump them into the pot with the garlic, add the spices and bring to a simmer. The longer you simmer the better the flavor but this can be done in as little as 10 minutes. Salt and pepper to taste.

Limoncello Tiramisu

So the inspiration for this came from an episode of Lidia Bastianich’s cooking show. She was making this tiramisu, which looked delicious! But there were a couple of things she did with hers that I was like, “why would you do that???” Needless to say I’ve modified it extensively. It is really good, especially in the summer, when you want something light and refreshing. You could, I suppose, make it without the Limoncello but why bother? It’s also a little more complicated than most of the recipes I like to make as it requires several different components. So heads up, each one has it’s own list of ingredients; so you’ll want to compile them all together before you go grocery shopping. Enjoy!

Limoncello Tiramisu

Lemon Sponge

  • 5 large eggs yokes
  • ¼ cup of sugar
  • ½ cup Limoncello

Directions

Using a double boiler (aka in my house a glass bowl on top of a medium pot of simmering water) whisk the egg yokes, sugar, and Limoncello until well blended. Bring the water to a simmer and whisk constantly, frequently scraping the whisk around the sides and bottom of the bowl. Do this for about 5 minutes until it thickens, it will kind of start to look like mayonnaise.

Let the mixture cool.

Lemon Simple Syrup

  • 2 to 3 lemons
  • 1 cup water
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 1 cup Limoncello

Directions

Take 2 to 3 lemons and using a vegetable peeler, peel the skin off (try to get as little of the white as possible). Juice the lemons after zesting until you have about 1/2 cup of juice (more doesn’t hurt but you definitely don’t want less).

In a small pan bring the lemon peel, the lemon juice, water and sugar to a boil. Stir until the sugar dissolves completely. Turn it down to a simmer and let it gently steep for about 30 minutes. Add the limoncello and allow it to cool slightly. It works better if it’s still warm when you soak the ladyfingers in it but it can be completely cool as well.

Lemon Curd:

  • ¾ cup sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • ¾ cup lemon juice
  • Zest of 2 lemons (or 3 if it takes that many to get ¾ a cup of juice)
  • 6 Tbsp unsalted butter (melted)

Directions

Whisk together the sugar & eggs in a sauce pan. Add juice, lemon zest & melted butter. Cook on Med Hi heat. Stir until thick, mixture should coat the back of a metal spoon. What does this mean? When you can dip a spoon in, run your finger down the back, turn it sideways, and it doesn’t run back down the spoon erasing your swipe. Cool on counter, whisking occasionally, for about an hour. Finish cooling in fridge.

Custard

  • 1 lbs (2 cups) Mascarpone at room temp
  • Lemon Sponge
  • Lemon Curd
  • ¼ cup Limoncello

Directions

In a large bowl, again I like my KitchenAid Stand Mixer, beat the mascarpone until soft and smooth. Add lemon sponge and lemon curd and beat until smooth. Add a ¼ cup of limoncello and beat again until smooth.

Whipped Cream

  • 2 cups heavy whipping cream
  • ½ cup powdered sugar
  • ¼ cup Limoncello

Directions

Chill a metal bowl and beaters in the freezer for at least 30 minutes.  Really this does make a difference. Whip the heavy cream until soft peaks start to form. Slowly add in powdered sugar and beat until peaks form. Add ¼ cup of limoncello and beat until stiff peaks form.

Assemble the tiramisu

  • 40 Ladyfinger cookies
  • Custard
  • Lemon simple syrup
  • Whipped Cream

Directions

Using a 9 x 13 inch pan, dip the ladyfingers into the lemon simple syrup. Don’t let them become soggy or they’ll fall apart but you want them to be somewhat moistened. Arrange them in the pan, should take about 20.

Cover the ladyfingers with ½ of the finished custard. Dip the remaining ladyfingers in the simple syrup and arrange them in a layer on top of the custard. Cover with the remaining custard. Smooth the whipped cream on the top and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.