Pork Spice Rub

You may never use another rub again, it’s that good.

2 Tbsp. paprika
1 Tbsp. kosher salt
1 Tbsp. ground black pepper
1 Tbsp. cumin
1 Tbsp. chili powder
1 Tbsp. brown sugar (dark brown is better)
1/2 Tbsp. cayenne pepper

1-2 Tbsp. extra virgin or regular olive oil

Take out the meat you will be using and place in a pan. Combine all the spices together in a small bowl and set aside. Spread the olive oil all over the meat, then sprinkle the spices over and rub in an all over the meat, using all of the spices. Cover pan and place in fridge several hours or overnight. Prepare meat either on grill, rotisserie or oven – whatever you wish. Enjoy.

Deep-Dish Pizza

Homemade is always better, so why not try your hand at pizza? A delicious weekend meal.  Make your own crust or buy the frozen dough and follow their directions.

The Crust:
4 cups all-purpose flour
3 Tbs. cornmeal
1 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1 pkg. (2 3/4 tsp.) yeast
2 Tbs. extra virgin olive oil
4 Tbs. melted butter (1/2 stick)
1 cup, plus 2 Tbs. lukewarm water

The Filling:
1 lb. mozzarella cheese, sliced into 9-12 pieces
1 lb. Italian sausages, sliced & cooked (sweet, hot, mixed – your choice)
28 oz. can peeled, plum tomatoes
Heaping Tbsp. minced garlic (from the jar is good)
1 Tbsp. sugar (to offset the acid from the tomatoes)
1 tsp. Italian seasoning
1 cup grated Pecorino Romano or Parmesan cheese
Approximately1-2 Tbsp. more of the extra virgin olive oil

Making the Crust:  Add all dough ingredients to a large bowl and knead until smooth – takes about 5 minutes.  Place in a lightly oiled/buttered bowl, cover, and let rise for about one hour.  While it is rising, lightly oil or spray a pan (if you have a deep dish pizza pan, that’s great, but not everyone does, so make do with what you have) – it needs to have sides at least 2″ high.

Stretch the dough and lay it in the pan, it may shrink back somewhat but stretch to cover bottom and up sides – if you see the oil seeping/oozing out, don’t worry, just ignore it and keep going; cover and let it rest for 10 – 15 minutes.  While it’s resting preheat your oven to 425 degrees, and start making the sauce.  Bake crust for 15 minutes, or until its very lightly browned, remove from oven and set aside.

Making the sauce:  Drain the tomatoes, place in a large bowl, and with your hands carefully squish them – keep hands in the bowl or you’ll be wearing the sauce!  Add the herbs, garlic, and sugar.

Place all the slices of mozzarella on the bottom crust, add the slices of sausages, then add the tomato sauce.  Sprinkle on the grated cheese then drizzle a little bit (like about 1- 2 Tbs.) olive oil onto top.

Bake for about 25-35 minutes, or until filling is bubbly and top is golden brown.  Let rest about 20 minutes.

Scented Ornaments (NOT Edible)

Here’s something you don’t find everyday. They’re fun to make and smell good too! Use any shape cookie cutters you want. A trip to your local wholesale club for bulk spices is a good idea.

1 cup applesauce
1 Tbsp. nutmeg
1 Tbsp. allspice
2 Tbsp. ground cloves
3/4 cup cinnamon

Line a cookie sheet with waxed paper or parchment paper.
In a large bowl mix all the ingredients; work the dough well. If it seems too moist then add more cinnamon. Roll the dough out onto the paper-lined cookie sheet.
Use cookie cutters (or whatever) to cut the dough into shapes. Use toothpicks or straws to pierce a whole through the ornament. Clear away the extra dough and make small balls with it (wrap these in mesh & tie with a ribbon for great potpourri) or toss out. Leave shapes on tray and air dry these for 5 days.

Polish Pierogi

img_0029.jpgAnother recipe to share from my Polish friends Marta & Marek. These are really good but they do take time to prepare. It goes faster with 2 people; 1 to roll and 1 to stuff. Make sure you cook plenty because you’ll just keep popping them in your mouth! Delicious!

8 cups flour
4 eggs
8 oz. container sour cream
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
Warm water
1 recipe filling – (follows)

In a large bowl, beat together eggs, caron sour cream and salt. Stir in flour and only enough warm water till dough feels like velvet. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured counter and knead until smooth. Roll out thin – 1/8 – 1/4″ thickness. Cut out 3 1/2 inch circles with something like a biscuit cutter or you can use a cleaned out tuna can. Cover with waxed paper to prevent drying out.

Place a spoonful of the filling (see below) slightly below the center of a circle of dough. Fold the dough over and seal edges with fingertips or a fork. Use enough filling so that you have to stretch the dough over it, but not so much that it squeezes out when sealed. Repeat until filling is all used.

Either boil them by bringing a large pot of water to a boil and dropping them in a few at a time then cook for about 3 minutes after they float to the service. OR you can put about 1 inch of vegetable oil in a large dutch oven and fry on each side for a bout 5-7 minutes – until hot and crispy.

img_0028.jpgSauerkraut Filling:

2 Tbsp. vegetable oil
1 cup chopped onion
1 cup chopped mushrooms
14 oz. sauerkraut – drained, rinsed and minced
1/4 tsp. kosher salt
1/4 tsp. ground black pepper
2 Tbsp. sour cream

In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium heat; add onions and mushrooms, and cook until tender but not brown. Stir in sauerkraut, salt & pepper. Cook for 5-10 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in 2 Tbsp. sour cream. Let this cool before using as filling.

Potato & Cheese Filling:

4 cups mashed potatoes
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese or 1 cup cottage cheese
Kosher salt & ground black pepper to taste
(Marta & Marek also add bacon bits/chunks and sauteed onions)

In a large bowl, mix everything together.

Sweet Potato Salad with Mustard

img_0164.jpgSadly, some folks only eat these potatoes during the holiday season. They’re sure missing out, but you don’t have to. Try this salad and surprise yourself and family!

2 large sweet potatoes
1 Tbsp. Dijon mustard
4 tsp. white or unseasoned rice vinegar
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1/4 cup olive oil (extra virgin is best)
4 scallions, sliced thin

Peel the potatoes and cut in half lengthwise, then into wedges, then cut the wedges into pieces about 1 inch thick – basically you wanna cut these potatoes into little chunks. In a large pot over boiling water, place the potatoes in a steamer, covered, for about 12 minutes – until just tender.

While potatoes are steaming, whisk together the mustard, vinegar, salt & pepper the add the oil in a slow stream whisking it well until it is emulsified.

Add the hot potatoes to the dressing and toss gently, but well to combine. Cool for about 15 minutes, add the scallions and more salt & pepper to taste and toss again gently.


Eggplant Salad

eggplant.jpgQuite an unusual salad but will be a delicious hit at a party or your dinner table. Adjust your time, as this needs a room temperature sit for a few hours – but oh so worth the wait! I served this alongside egg noodles, with a good, fresh loaf of Italian or French bread.

2 Eggplants – medium sized, peeled & cut into small chunks
Kosher salt or coarse (sea) salt
2 celery stalks – diced
Olive oil, extra virgin is best
2 onions – peeled & sliced
4 oz. tomato paste
1/2 cup good quality marinated black olives, drained & chopped
1/4 cup capers, drained & chopped
1/4 cup sugar
1/3 cup seasoned rice vinegar

Place prepared eggplants in a colander in the sink, sprinkle kosher or sea salt on and let sit for 1 hour to weep. Lightly rinse and pat dry; set aside.

Meanwhile, add 3/4 cup water to a small pot, bring to a boil then add the chopped celery and boil for 5 minutes; drain and save both the celery and the water. Set aside.

Heat about 1/2 cup olive oil in large pan and in 2 batches fry the eggplant chunks for 15 minutes each batch; drain on cookie sheets lined with brown paper or paper towels. Add the onions to the olive oil and cook for 10 minutes; add the paste, celery water, olives, capers, sugar and vinegar then simmer for 5 minutes. Add the eggplant and the celery and simmer for 10 minutes.

Empty ingredients onto a large platter or a large shallow-type dish and leave at room temp for at few hours. You can cover this as best you can with a big pot lid or something comparable.

Serve over/alongside egg noodles.

Oven Eggs

img_0215.jpgA truly great meal. Serve with good, thick toast, obviously the bacon, or perhaps heat up some sausage – improvise and eat! My mother likes fried bologna – whatever you like. This recipe is very forgiving and very versatile. Throw in the leftovers in your fridge – it’ll work!

1 lb. bacon or less – try to use at least 4 pieces
1 medium diced onion
1/2 diced green pepper or red pepper or a bit of both
1 med-small bunch fresh broccoli
1 heaping tsp. minced garlic
About 8 eggs – can go up to 10 or 12

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

Using an oven proof pan – such as a cast iron – cook the bacon till the fat has rendered and it’s crispy. Drain the bacon and either chop to use in this dish, or keep for alongside. If you don’t have enough grease in the pan to saute the veggies, then add about 2 Tbsp. butter.

Add the veggies you are using, sprinkle with salt & pepper and saute for about 5 minutes; add the garlic for 1 minute longer. Crack open the eggs over the pan and plop around in a decorative pattern, or just in a circle.

Place in the oven for about 5+ minutes – until eggs are set. Then dig in!

Spanish Rice & Beans – II

This recipe is a gift from my sister Sandy. She’s been making this in some form for years. Sometimes she adds 2-3 cut-up hot dogs. It’s so good that I make it about 3 times a month. Plus, it goes as a side with just about any kind of meat. Kids love it. There’s another version with the ingredients all mixed together and cooked in 1 pot – Orange Rice. Try that one too.

2-3 Tbsp. Olive Oil
1 Heaping tsp. minced garlic
1 Packet Goya Sazon
3 Heaping Tbsp. Goya Sofrito
1 Can (8 oz.) tomato sauce
1 Can (14 oz.) Goya beans – Pinto, Kidney, Red, Roman- you pick
2 Cans (14.5 oz) beef broth
1/2 Cup green olives with juice – (this is optional, but tasty)
2- 3 medium sized potatoes, peeled & cut into chunks
Goya Rice

In a medium sized pot, pour in the olive oil; when it’s hot, add the minced garlic and sizzle for a minute.
Empty in packet of Sazon, then Sofrito and stir until sizzling. Add in everything else and stir to combine.Cook on med-high heat until potatoes are done – about 30 minutes. Do not cover. Stir occasionally. This will thicken up because of the potato. However, sometimes it’s just not thickened enough. In that case get your box of cornstarch out and read the side for instructions on thickening. I follow those instructions and slowly stir mixture into the sauce at the end of cooking time, then cook for 1 minute.

Meanwhile, make your white rice on the side, the ratio being 6 cups water to 3 cups rice. Check out my White Rice Recipe under Categories. When both sauce & rice are done, place rice in individual bowls and ladle sauce on top.

Marinated Eggplant

In elementary school I had a classmate whose mother would send her with pickled eggplant for lunch. To an 11-year old they looked kinda gross at first but then I tasted them. They were so exotic and tart, I was in awe; we never had this kind of stuff at our house! Though I never actually got the recipe, what kid ever asks, I found one that I fiddled a bit with and works for me. If you have one that’s better, please let me know.

4 med eggplants, peeled, trimmed, cut lengthwise into 1/4-inch slices
4 tsp. coarse sea salt
3 cups white vinegar or red wine
4 cloves of garlic – 2 peeled, 2 unpeeled
10 black peppercorns
10-15 sprigs fresh thyme, rinsed and patted dry
3 bay leaves
1-1/2 cups good quality olive oil

Place the eggplant slices in a colander, sprinkle them with the salt, and let drain for 1-1/2 hours over a bowl. Rinse and gently pat dry.

Put the eggplant in a large pot and add the vinegar, unpeeled garlic cloves, 5 of the peppercorns, a handful of the thyme leaves and 2 of the bay leaves. Bring this to a boil over medium-hight heat. Reduce this to a simmer for 25 minutes. Drain and set aside to cool off.

When it’s cool, put it in a jar or container with tight fitting lid large enough to hold it all comfortably. Add the rest of the thyme, peeled garlic cloves, the last bay leaf and the rest of the peppercorns. Gently push the ingredients down into the eggplant. Slowly and carefully pour in the olive oil so it gets everywhere in the container.

Cover this and refrigerate for 3 weeks. You’ll need to check this occasionally to be sure there is a very thin layer of oil on top – add more oil if you need to.

Happy Thanksgiving!

May your stuffing be tasty,
May your turkey be  plump,
May your potatoes and gravy,
Have nary a lump.
May your yams be delicious,
And your pies take the prize,
May your Thanksgiving dinner,
Stay off of your thighs!