Monthly Archives: January 2012

Colorful Rice with Asian Chicken or Salmon (serves 8)

 I have been luxuriating in Ireland for the past six days, and what a glorious few days it has been. I have left the Crappy Kitchen to embark on a trip that has taken me back home to Ireland, then on to Italy to work, before winding up the adventure back in Ireland in May.

I have been in the best company ever; my sisters! Each day we take mini trips to town for lunch, or to some historical site (to satisfy the children), and in the evening, wine is opened, and the cooking begins.

Colorful Rice with Asian Chicken (option 1!)

It is not surprising that on the second day of my visit, I was whisked away to town to buy an apron (also, I didn’t want to get any olive oil on my new clothes and boots!).

I have been enjoying my time in a kitchen that is quite the opposite of “crappy”, and staying up way too late basking in the company of my favorite people in the world.

This dinner was concocted amidst loud talk and laughter.

More please.


You will need: 1 onion, small dice, 1 large carrot, small dice, 2 celery ribs, small dice, 1 red pepper, small dice, 1/2 lb streaky bacon, chopped, (* omit pepper and bacon if blood type A devotee), 8 to 10 cups cooked basmati rice, 1 1/2 cups chicken stock (or, 1 good quality bouillon cube & 1 1/2 cups water), 4 chicken fillets, 4 salmon fillets, 1/2 cup soy sauce, 1/2 cup mirin, 1 tsp fine sugar, 2 tbs finely grated ginger (peeled).

1 – To cook rice for eight people you will need about 3 cups of rice or 4 cups of rice if you are making rice in a rice cooker, and using a rice-cooker measure. Cook according to instructions, and set aside to use later in the recipe.

2 – Prep all veggies before you start cooking. Put big saute pan on medium heat and cook bacon for about 10 minutes. Add the oil and allow to warm., Add all of the vegetables (except the ginger), and saute for about 15 minutes. Stir occasionally.

saute veggies and bacon

3 – While vegetables are cooking, mix the mirin, soy, sugar and 1 tbs of ginger in a bowl. Place the chicken and salmon in shallow bowls and divide marinade between the two dishes.

marinate chicken

Allow to marinate for about a 1/2 hour.

marinate salmon

4 – Add the thyme to the veggies after about 15 minutes. Turn heat up to high and add the stock.

add herbs

5 – When it comes to a boil,  turn down, cover and simmer for 5 minutes. Add the cooked, rice and stir all of the ingredients together. Turn off heat (or keep warm while frying fish and chicken).

add stock, then rice

6 – Put two pans on stove top on medium/high heat (or 1 pan at a time, if that is what is available to you). Add 2 tbs of oil to each and when it is hot, add the chicken and/or fish to each pan. Cook chicken for about 7 minutes, turning halfway through cooking.

Cook fish for about 3 1/2 minutes per side.

Colorful Rice Salmon, (option 2)

Serve rice with either a piece of fish or a portion of chicken.

Italian Trifle (serves 8)

I was in search of something different for dessert, something I had not attempted before. As I perused my many cookbooks for inspiration, I was attracted to this Italian Trifle by Mario Batali.

Zuppa Inglese; my new favorite dessert.

Trifle was not something alien to me. It is the dessert I had every year on Christmas day growing up, and have made many times since. The thing that drew me to this one, was the same reason Mr. Batali created it in the first place. One of the layers was a pastry cream instead of the traditional layer of custard, which, more often than not, turns out lumpy, or God forbid;  congealed.

The perfect Trifle Bowl

This pastry cream is the usual filling for cannolis, and he made his trifle with the basic pastry cream, and a chocolate variation. I love cannolis, and adore chocolate, so was sure it would be a winner. Thank you Mario!

I changed the recipe a little in that I did not want to use the liqueur called for, to dip the broken ends of the ladyfingers. Instead I soaked them a little more aggressively in prosecco. I wanted a lighter taste, and it did the job perfectly. I also used a little more milk, and covered my trifle in a cloud of freshly whipped cream, which I felt gave the pastry cream a lighter aire.

I made this dessert for the pomp and ceremony it brought to the occasion, but will keep making it because of the to-die-for results it produced.


You will Need: 3 1/2 cups milk (whole or low-fat work fine), zest of 1 lemon, 1 vanilla bean, split, 7 large egg yolks, 1/2 cup all-purpose flour, 1 cup sugar, 5 tbs unsweetened cocoa powder, 2 oz bittersweet chocolate, 24 small ladyfingers ( I used Savoiardi Brand, which you can find in the Italian section of good quality supermarkets), 1 cup prosecco, (or champagne), 3 cups heavy whipping cream, 1 tbs confectioner’s sugar (icing sugar).

1 – Put pot on low/medium heat and add the milk and zest. With sa knife, scrape each half of the vanilla bean seeds into the milk. Bring to a simmer (do not let boil). Remove from heat.

heat milk with zest and vanilla bean

2 – While milk is simmering whisk egg yolks, flour and sugar in a bowl until pale yellow in color. Pour half of the milk into the mixture, whisking constantly. Pour this mixture back into the pot with the remaining milk and cook on low/medium heat, stirring continually until the mixture thickens (coats the back of a wooden spoon).

3 – Take off of heat. Pour half of the mixture into a bowl and set in an ice bath (I used a sink full of ice). Add the cocoa powder and chocolate to the rest of the mixture and stir until the chocolate has melted. Scrape into a bowl and set in the ice bath. Let mixtures cool, stirring each occasionally.

cool pastry cream in an ice bath

4 – Take a glass bowl, or trifle bowl (if you have it) and start to assemble the dessert. Put prosecco in a bowl and snap each ladyfinger in half. Soak each finger in the prosecco for a second (just hold in the liquid) and place a single layer in the bowl. Add some of the plain pastry cream and add another layer of soaked ladyfingers, followed by the chocolate cream. Continue adding layers until everything is gone. Place in fridge to set (at least 2 hours).

assemble in layers

5 – Whip fresh cream in bowl with the icing sugar until thick. Just before serving, cover top of trifle with cream, a couple of reserved ladyfingers, and a grating of chocolate.

whip cream

Serve in dessert bowls with grand ceremony.

top with cream and a couple of ladyfingers and a grating of chocolate

Pork Scallopini with Prosciutto & Sage (serve lots as appetizer or 6 as part of main course)

 How is it possible that a little pork with prosciutto and sage, cooked in butter and oil, can taste like you are committing at least four of the seven deadly sins all at once?

Italian Dinner Table

This dish is most definitely fiddlely…from the annoying job of trying to separate the paper-thin prosciutto slices, to the pounding of each piece of pork until it resembles a piece of gauzy material. The thing is, and this is a very important announcement; it is worth it!

Pork Scallopini - Yum

This was part and parcel of a very elaborate dinner I prepared before myself and the whole family left for Italy, and I wanted to celebrate in a big way (read the blog titled Italian Dinner to read more on the subject). 

It was the dish that I had to hide from my son so as everyone would get a piece or two. It was so very good, and I encourage you to make it if you want to spend a lazy day with your kids, pounding meat with a mallet, and blanketing it in sage and Italian cured meat!

Makes for fun family time, and you get the reward of a great dinner.


You will need: 2 lbs pork tenderloin (buy 1 lb tenderloin), thickly sliced, big bunch of sage leaves (about 50), 1/2 lb prosciutto, 2 tbs unsalted butter, 4 to 6 tbs extra-virgin olive oil. Roll of wax paper cut into 4 x 4 ” squares (no need to be exact), wooden toothpicks.

1 – Lay a piece of wax paper on a chopping board and put a slice of tenderloin in the center. Cover with another piece of wax paper.

Cut pork tenderloin into slices

2 – Take the smooth side of a wooden mallet and pound the pork until it is very thin. Transfer it to a plate (in the wax paper), and continue until all the meat is pounded, and piled high on the plate.

place between wax paper and flatten with a wooden mallet

3 – Time to assemble; take a piece of pork from the wax paper and lay a sage leaf in the middle, followed by a piece prosciutto smaller than the piece of pork. Fold in half so as the prosciutto is on the outside, and close pieces together with a toothpick (like you are stitching a piece of material). Set on a plate, and continue until the whole pile is done.

Assemble pork

4 –  Put saute pan on medium/high heat and add 2 tbs of oil and 1 tbs of butter. When it is hot, add an evenly spaced, single layer of the pork on the pan, and cook on both sides for about 2 minutes each.

Fry scallopini

5 – Continue to cook until all the meat is done, adding more oil and butter as needed.

Ready to serve

I served this dish with a larger meal (type Italian Dinner in search box), but, this would go with rice, pasta, salad, or stand on its own as a knockout appetizer.

Spaghetti alla Carbonara (serves 6)

If you have read my post about the Italian dinner I made just before taking off for my adventure to Italy, you have probably been waiting on this recipe!

Spaghetti alla Carbonara

There could be nothing simpler than Spaghetti alla Carbonara, but there is no way in the world I would have thought of making this dish.

It is so simple in fact, it can be overlooked. Not by the Italians however. This dish is a mainstay in this country’s cuisine, and if you can master it, you have begun to scratch the surface of why Italian cooking is so superb.

I make the Carbonara with egg yolks only. It is not the typical method (the whole egg is used), and I’m probably breaking all sorts of rules, but, I love the results. I find the sauce glossy and smooth.

We ate our spaghetti from shallow bowls but I would have been just as happy to stand by the stove with a fork and eat from the pan; Yes, it was that good.


You will need: 4 tbs extra-virgin olive oil, 1/2 lb Italian Pancetta (bacon will do in a pinch), 1 1/2 cup grate Parmigiano Romano cheese, 6 egg yolks, beaten slightly, 1 lb spaghetti (I used Barilla brand), sea-salt and freshly cracked black pepper to taste.

1 – Prep everything that needs to be on hand (separate eggs, grated cheese, chop pancetta).

Put water on for pasta and cook according to instructions. Scoop out about a 1/2 cup of pasta water right before you drain the cooked pasta, and reserve. *It is important to time the pasta to be ready right before you are ready to eat. Gauge about 5 minutes for the water to come to a boil, and about 8 or so minutes for the spaghetti to be cooked*

cook spaghetti

2 – Put big saute pan on low/medium heat and add the oil. When it has warmed, add the pancetta, and cook until beginning to crisp. Take pan off of heat and set aside.

Cook pancetta

3 – When spaghetti is cooked, add the reserved pasta water and spaghetti immediately to the pancetta. Add the egg yolks and cheese and toss quickly (with tongs or two wooden spoons). Add some cracked black pepper and sea-salt to taste.


Serve immediately in warmed shallow bowls.

Melanzane alla Ricotta Affumicata (Baked Eggplant with Smoked Mozzarella & Ricotta Salata – 4 as Main, 8 as Appetizer)

 Here is another installment from my Italian Dinner (type Italian dinner in search box to read the entire post).

My Italian Dinner

This eggplant dish was a giant hit and I was super impressed with myself (I know, self praise is no praise…moving on). I am not overly fond of eggplant. I have had too many “spongy” experiences in restaurants (as well as some bombs I have made myself!), but this dish converted my fond feeling to more of a “love” feeling.

Eggplant, smoked mozzarella and Ricotta salata; a winning combination

The star of the dish was however not the eggplant, but the smoked mozzarella that accompanied it. This porous purple vegetable sucked up the smokey flavor and turned it into something unctuous. 

The other cheese I used was a hard ricotta called ricotta Salata. If you have never tried this, now is the time. It is a crumbly ricotta with heavenly salty overtones. It was the other ingredient in this dish that won me over.

This is certainly a dish that will be featured in my Crappy Kitchen Cookbook!


Tomato sauce; You will need; (*This makes enough to use in another dish, or freeze a batch. I like to make more than I need just in case, and because it’s not twice the work*): 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, 1 medium onion, small dice, 4 cloves garlic, finely chopped, 4 sprigs thyme, 1 celery rib, small dice, 2 28 oz cans whole peeled plum tomatoes with sauce, roughly chopped, 1 tsp sea-salt, freshly cracked black pepper.

Eggplant dish; You will need: 2 large eggplants, sliced into 3/4 ” pieces (approx), 4 tbs extra-virgin olive oil, 1/2 lb smoked mozzarella cheese, sliced into rounds, 1 1/2 cups grated ricotta salata (hard ricotta, found in good supermarkets and specialty shops), 1 cup bread crumbs, or panko crumbs.

1 – First, make the sauce. Put medium pot on medium, low heat and add the oil. Saute the onions, celery, garlic, and thyme for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

saute base veggies

2 – Add the tomatoes and their juice, salt, and several grinds of black pepper. Bring to a boil. Turn down, and simmer for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally. Set aside until ready to assemble dish. *This sauce can be made ahead of time and stored in the fridge in an airtight container*

cook for 45 minutes

3 – While sauce is cooking Preheat oven to 450*

Place eggplant in large bowl and add about 4 tbs of extra-virgin olive oil. Toss well. Place in single layer on large baking sheet and place in preheated oven for 10 minutes. Transfer onto a plate to cool off.

roast eggplant

Preheat (or turn oven down) to 350*

4 – Assemble dish. Spoon a thin layer of tomato sauce into bottom of casserole dish and top with a layer of eggplant.

start with sauce, add eggplant

Spoon a little sauce on top of each eggplant slice.

dollop of sauce over each eggplant

Place a slice of mozzarella on each eggplant, followed by a sprinkle of grated ricotta salata.

add mozzarella, then grated ricotta

Add another layer of eggplant, sauce, and cheeses

top with more sauce

Top last layer of cheese with breadcrumbs, (there will be about 2 eggplant layers total).

top with cheese, then bread crumbs

Place in preheated oven for 25 minutes. Take out and let dish come to room temperature.

Baked Eggplant with Smoked Mozzarella & Ricotta Salata

Serve this dish at room temperature with other dishes, or with a fresh mixed green salad.

Proscciutto con Melone

As I promised, here is the first of the Italian Dinner recipes (type “Italian Dinner” in search box).

The view from the Italian Crappy Kitchen

This was the simplest thing in the world, but it produced most spectacular results.

One of the friendliest appetizers ever.

I was so surprised at how this combination of semi-sweet and salty meat (not to mention the textures), were so complimentary to each other, not to mention how it seemed to go with everything else on the table.

I would love you to try this dish, and let me know if you agree.


You will need: 1 melon (I found a Tuscan Melon by chance, but a cantaloupe is a good choice), 1/4 lb good quality prosciutto.

1 – slice melon into thin wedges (not paper-thin, just thin-ish?). Separate flesh from skin with a knife until almost two pieces. When cutting stop short before you reach the end, (this way you can pick the wedge up to eat it, but it won’t fall apart)

Laboriously task (or cathartic, depending on how you look at it!), of pulling paper-thin prosciutto apart.

2 – Now comes the fun part; separate each piece of prosciutto and drap a section over each wedge of melon (as shown).

Prosciutto con Melone

I am going to make this every time I am stuck for a refreshing accompaniment.

Crappy Kitchen Goes To Italy Dinner Party!

Where to begin…by the time you read this post my family and I will have started our grand adventure. The big news (that I have been bursting to write about for months) is that the whole clan are moving to Italy until May! I scheduled the post to coincide with the time of our departure (literally).

View from the Window of the Italian Crappy Kitchen

My man Dave and I will be teaching the metals part of an art program for American students abroad in the idyllic setting of the Etruscan city of Cortona, in Tuscany. 

I am so excited, giddy almost, at the thought of leaving my hum-drum life for the experience of a lifetime. I have visited Italy before, but this time it is different. I will not be a tourist, I will have an apartment and a job, and be immersed in a different kind of hum-drum.

This will of course include lots of cooking, and I plan on sharing each and every evening meal with you. I may not cook everything I write about, but I will fill you in on the Who, What and How of every dish. This should be fun!

My Italian Dinner

Of course there is no way I could go to Italy without having a little Bon Voyage party to celebrate , as well as to say goodbye to some friends. 

I did a very corn-ball thing and had a theme for my little gathering. One night I watched the movie Eat, Pray, Love with my daughter in the kitchen while making dinner. It is a true story about a woman who travels to 3 different places in the hopes of “finding herself”

Menu I put together from a scene in the movie Eat, Pray, Love

The first place she visits is Rome. It is beautifully shot, and filled full of wonderful glimpses of daily life, like taking you down the higgledy-piggledy streets, into rustic apartments, as well bustling cafes and restaurants. The thing that stayed with me was a scene set in some leafy courtyard garden restaurant where she, and her party of new friends sat chatting, laughing, but most of all; eating. After months of being there she confidently beckoned the waiter to her side and proceeded to order dinner in italian, impressing her table (and me) to no end.

Carciofi alla Giudia

She spouted off a long list of amazingly sounding foods, and I was mesmerized. I played it back and told my daughter (while scribbling down as best I could what she said) that this was the feast I was going to prepare before we departed. And that is what I did!

Proscciutta con Melone

I had to first try to figure out exactly what was served, then find out how everything was spelled, and what each dish entailed. Then I had the task of finding the right ingredients, and finally plan on how I could possibly swing cooking and serving such a variety of dishes in one evening.

Melanzane alla Ricotta Affunicato (eggplant with smoked ricotta)

Somehow it all came together with seeming effortlessness. My friend Tom volunteered to make the apparelled with Rabbit, and, when my friend Lisa requested a dish, I gave her the daunting task of cooking Linguine with Clams, making the sauce entirely from scratch!

Spaghetti alla Carbonara

I bravely took on the rest of the menu. No one really knew what was being served, save from knowing that it was all in the movie. Tom happened to swing by the day before when I was not around and he saw the menu. He immediately wanted to know if he could make something else, and if I were possibly out of my mind to take this on.

Pappardelle al Ragu di Coniglio (Rabbit Ragu). Made by Tom

I was determined, and planned every dish down to the last detail. I knew I could prep most of it the day before, and the morning of, but some things (like the spaghetti alla Carbonara) would have to be made when the whole dinner was in swing. Carbonara has to be served right when it is made, so I made sure to have everything else ready, or very well prepped.

Trippa alla romana (tripe; roman style)

My friend Bird was coming in from New York City and she hurled herself headlong into all manner of tasks. She kept asking, “what can I do next” and so, I entrusted her with all sorts of fiddle-y things…like pulling each thin sheet of prosciutto apart, draping some of it on Tuscan melon, and the rest of it to be wrapped on my freshly hammered scallopini.

Bird Tackling the prosciutto

My daughter was also on hand feeling like the foreman on the job. She told me what jobs were done, and what needed to be done next. When she heard that I needed a mallet to pound my pork into scallopini she begged for the job, and who could blame her? There is nothing more satisfying than wielding a hammer in the kitchen!

Pounding meat between wax paper. It was so loud in the kitchen my friend left until the incessant banging ceased!

The tripe dish was another issue. Not one person was excited about the prospect, from my husband saying “gross!” to Lisa emailing to say she would “try everything, but the tripe”.  I was hesitant myself as I had never tasted it before, let alone cooked it, but it had to be made. It was on my menu, and that was that! I read all sorts of cookbooks on tripe and liked Mario Batali casual excitement on the subject the best. The ideal tripe to buy he said, was the honeycombed variety which came from a calf’s 2nd (or was it the 3rd?) stomach.

block of calf tripe

Try as I might, the only tripe I could find came in a big grey block! I called all around, but in vain. I sent my man Dave and our friend Bird to the local  Farmer’s/Flea Market and they called and described what this block of gel looked like. They tried to put me off with words like “dead grey color” but I made them buy it anyway, especially since I knew they had bumped into our other friend Tom, who assured then that this was the real deal!

I got the job of wrapping a sage leaf and prosciutto around all 30 scallopini. After completing the task I remembered why I would never open a restaurant!

The prosciutto with melon was another little mystery. I knew the melon in the movie was yellow, and I laughed out loud when as my daughter and I scoured the fruit section, discovered two types of melons for sale, one being “Tuscan Melon”   Having become obsessed with procuring all things Italian for this dinner, I felt the stars were aligned to keep me from getting stressed out.

one of my favorite new things

The mystery surrounding this dish was how it was served? Myself, my daughter and friend decided the only way to find out, was to play the scene in the movie and stop to investigate. Julia Roberts (the actor playing the role of the writer Liz Gilbert), seemed to be able to bite into a piece of melon effortlessly. Upon close inspection (which involved the two of us yelling excitedly at my daughter were to pause!), we discovered the melon section was cut away from the skin, save for the last bit; how clever. The diner didn’t have to bite into it like corn on the cob. It was easy to pull away since the knife had already done the job for you!

It was simple; the melon was sliced to perfection, and then shrouded in prosciutto. It turned out to be one of my very favorite things. It was a dynamite accompaniment to just about every other dish on the table.

Satimbocca alla Romana (I cheated on this one, as I used pork tenderloin instead of veal). This was another dish that disappeared quickly.

While re-watching that scene I also noticed big glasses of bread sticks on the table; off to the market yet again!

It was a miracle, but food was made and the table set with 15 minutes to spare. I even had a chance to take a shower!

It was truly a night to remember. Friends arrived armed with bottle of Italian wine, and we settled into the business of eating. I did not serve anyone. Plates were on the table, food was in the kitchen and everyone ate in whatever order that struck them.

Tom amused me the most. He kept referring to the menu I had printed out, and then asking me where that dish was. I would tell him and carry on. When he inquired as to the whereabouts of  the carbonara, I told him I had to make it yet, upon which he replied he would wait for it. “Why?”, I asked. It tuned out he wanted to eat progressively from the top of the menu to the bottom; so much more sophisticated than the rest us hedons!

I raced into the kitchen and it was made in no time at all. I always worry that my eggs will cook into a grainy mess, but the sauce turned out creamy, glossy and heavenly (more of the stars being aligned theory!)

Zuppa Inglese (Italian Trifle)

There was no dessert served in the movie but this feast needed something celebratory to finish. I made Maria Batali’s Zuppa Inglese (with a couple of minor changes), and everyone who had declared themselves ready to burst had a nice big bowl; yum!

It was a lively and loud with people who hadn’t seen each other in ages tried to catch up, to a new friend at the table who was thrown in at the deep end with a bunch of strangers but managed to hold her own.

The food was amazing, even if the tripe was eaten out of politeness (the actual “tripe lovers” loved it!), the smoked ricotta was actually smoked mozzarella, and my veal was pork.

I can't wait to look out of my window

I will miss my friends (although they have all vowed to visit!), but eagerly look forward to living, working, eating and cooking in a fresh new place.

I am especially exited to be going home (Ireland) on each end of my trip, and cannot wait to cook with my sisters. I just though of three great “F” words; Family, Friends, Food.

*I will be posting most of the recipes cooked above over the next few weeks, so you can look forward to perhaps trying your hand at making a couple of them. The one regret I have about this post is I somehow never got a picture of Lisa’s Linguine with Clams dish! Maybe that is a blessing in disguise as she is now going to have to make it for me again to get some pictures; ha ha!*