Category Archives: Best thing I ever ate!

Basil Pesto Sauce

This is a pesto recipe I made up from a combination of many recipes I’ve seen and used in the past. This one has a key ingredient taught to me from a long time friend who is an amazing chef. Thanks Peggy! It made a big difference adding the butter at the end!

Another key to making great Pesto is to start with the best ingredients. The most important being a good quality olive oil. For this recipe I used an imported Italian olive oil from Pruneti.  Pruneti is an olive oil company straight out of Tuscany! You can find a good quality extra virgin olive oil in any grocery store.

Basil Pesto Ingredients:
1 1/2 cups fresh basil leaves
1/2 cup fresh parsley
4-6 cloves roasted garlic (see method below)
1/2 cup parmesan cheese
2/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup pine nuts (or almond slivers)
2 Tbls butter (room temp/softened)
1 Tbls salt

Note: this recipe makes about 1 cup of pesto.

Basil Pesto Method:
Although it is not required that you roast the garlic for this recipe, it really adds a deep flavor that I absolutely love. If you are short on time simply use fresh garlic, it will still be great.

Start by cutting the top off a full bulb of garlic.

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Drizzle the top with olive oil and sprinkle it with salt. Wrap in foil and bake in a 350 degree oven for 30-40 minutes. Remove and let cool. Squeeze the bulb and the roasted cloves will pop right out!

Place the basil, parsley, garlic, pine nuts, parmesan cheese and salt in a blender and pulse until incorporated.

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Slowly add the olive oil until all is incorporated. You may need to stop and scrape down the sides a few times.  Right at the end, add the softened butter and blend until incorporated.  This really adds a great touch! If you like a thinner sauce, simply add more oil, for thicker more paste-like sauce, use less olive oil.

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I used this on a pesto pizza and my daughter told me it was the best pizza she has ever eaten!

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Visit http://www.sundaywithachanceofmeatballs.com for more great recipes!

Ciao, Mike.

Weekend Trip to Charleston, SC – A Culinary Adventure

My wife and I recently took a weekend trip to Charleston, SC. Charleston is one of our favorite cities to visit.  It’s rich in culture and has an amazing food scene.  It seems like we ate our way through the entire city!! This was only a two-day trip but we packed it with great food and sight-seeing! We managed to get a quick trip to the beach and some time by the pool as well!

We started out our weekend with trip to the farmers market. The Spoletto Festival was going on so the market was particularly active. There were many art and craft booths set up as well.  We headed straight to the Roti Roll food truck/tent.  This has become a favorite stop for my wife! I got the Thurman Murman (braised pork, creole mac n cheese and kimchi) and my wife got the Mother Clucker (grilled chicken, cheddar cheese, salsa and candied onions)! A great way to start our amazing food adventure!

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Check out their site at http://www.eatrotirolls.com/

After walking around the city for most of the day we met up with friends Lucia and Henry for dinner at a restaurant called The Grocery.  The atmosphere was casual, but elegant at the same time.  I was tempted to order one of everything on the menu but I settled on the Swordfish.  It was great!!

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My wife had the Ramp Carbonara and a we shared a side of roasted broccoli, both were equally good! The Tagliatelle was fresh made pasta which is something I really love in a restaurant. If they take the time to make their own pasta, the food is usually fantastic.

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Although we thoroughly enjoyed our meals, the star of the show was the whole black bass that our friend “Hank” ordered!

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Based on the look of his plate after dinner, I’d say he enjoyed it!!

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We gave this place 4 thumbs up and recommend it!! Check out their complete menu at http://www.thegrocerycharleston.com/

After dinner we took a walk around the city and ended up stopping for an after dinner cocktail at the famous Charleston Grill at the Belmond Charleston Place. This place has a great atmosphere, Jazz music and fantastic service.   Henry and I ordered a cheese plate that paired very well with our Lagavulin Single Malt Scotch!! A great way to end the night!

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http://www.charlestongrill.com/web/ochg/charleston_grill.jsp

The next day we started our day off with a hearty breakfast at the Hominy Grill in the historic district of Charleston.

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We’ve heard about this place and were told to get their early as there is usually a line out the door waiting to get in.  We only waited about 5 minutes, but this is what we saw on our way out the door after enjoying a fantastic breakfast.

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My wife had an amazing vegetable omelet and I had the most popular dish on the menu, the Charleston Nasty Biscuit,  and now I know why it’s their most popular!! It’s a fried chicken biscuit smothered in sausage gravy! Yum!

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http://hominygrill.com/menus/

A little later in the day we drove over to Sullivan’s Island to catch some time at the beach.   While walking towards the beach I pulled up Yelp to find out if there were any great restaurants on the island. It just so happened that less than two blocks away was The Obstinate Daughter! Both my wife and I had heard about this restaurant and although we weren’t hungry! We went in and ate!! In my family we have a saying, “Hunger is not a pre-requisite for eating!”.  We just couldn’t pass up the chance to try this place and we don’t regret it!

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Our waitress Anne was fantastic and obviously loved her job. She was proud of the farm to table approach and the care the chef takes in selecting the best local ingredients. We started out with a plate of peel-n-eat shrimp and were both surprised by the delicious dipping sauce that came with it. It was a green tomato aioli. We loved it so much, Anne agreed to send us the recipe.  Look for this in a future blog post!! I will be making it soon!

We split a bowl of the Frogmore Chowder. This chowder is so amazing it was recently featured in the Washington post!!

http://www.washingtonpost.com/pb/recipes/frogmore-chowder/14623/

We noticed the wood fired oven and could  not pass up the chance to try their pizza! Both my wife and I have been limiting our bread consumption so this was truly a treat for both of us.  All of the pizza’s on the menu looked delicious but we settled on The Rutledge – ricotta, Italian sausage, red onion, local greens, mozzarella, provolone picante.  It was delicious!

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This is another place we’ll put on our must visit list while in Charleston!! http://www.theobstinatedaughter.com/

The next morning we decided to find a breakfast restaurant downtown and eat before heading back home (of course!!).  We found a place called Eli’s Table on Yelp that had great reviews.  It is a casual setting with a courtyard that creates a great atmosphere.

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My wife had the Eli’s Breakfast which consisted of two scrambled eggs, bacon, breakfast potatoes and a biscuit.   I have to say that after all the amazing food we had eaten this weekend, I especially enjoyed the Crab and Eggs at Eli’s Table. It is two southern fried crab cakes, two poached eggs, remoulade, arugula and breakfast potatoes.    I can’t really say it’s the best thing I ate all weekend because they were all fantastic but it was one of the best breakfasts I’ve ever had!

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The service at Eli’s Table started out a little rocky as we sat for a while before being served.  It turns out we were seated without a waitress being assigned and once she was assigned the service was fantastic. An honest mistake and after they realized they had us wait they made up for it by giving us complimentary Beignet with an amazing raspberry dipping sauce! A great way to top off the weekend with a little decadence!

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We both agreed that we would recommend this place and visit again sometime!! http://elistable.com/

This trip to Charleston was a last-minute decision. I love ad-hoc trips that have no agenda.  We made some great memories and had fun eating our way through Charleston!!

Ciao, Mike.

Visit http://www.sundaywithachanceofmeatballs.com for some great recipes and stories!

Shrimp Fra Diavolo

I have eaten Fra Diavolo sauce in restaurants and love the spiciness of the sauce. I’ve had it in many varieties including: over rigatoni, angel hair, with penne pasta and asparagus and of course the lobster Fra Diavolo that many of you may have tried.   Fra Diavolo literally means “Brother Devil” in Italian. I have no idea why the sauce got its name and I know it’s linked somehow to Michele Pezza (Michele is Italian for Michael!! -my name by the way!!), an Italian Guerilla leader from the 1700’s, but  that’s really all I know!   I’m sure I could find out why but just haven’t spent the time.   All I know is it’s delicious!! and versatile! If you chopped the ingredients in small pieces it could be the best salsa you have ever eaten!! You can eat this as a Shrimp appetizer as I’ve written, over any kind of pasta, or use your imagination! Maybe even as an omelet topping!!

Shrimp Fra Diavolo Ingredients:

1 pound large shrimp, peeled, deveined
2 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper flakes
2 tsp Morton’s season salt (if you don’t have this use equal parts, salt, pepper, onion powder, garlic powder)
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, sliced
1 (14 1/2-ounce) can diced fire roasted tomatoes
1 cup dry white wine
3 garlic cloves, minced
dash of dried oregano leaves
3 tablespoon chopped fresh Italian parsley
1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil leaves

Shrimp Fra Diavolo Method:

Toss the shrimp in a medium bowl with 2 teaspoon of Morton’s season salt and 2 teaspoons of red pepper flakes. (this will make is spicy 4 on a 10 scale – add more for additional heat!)

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Heat the 3 tablespoons oil in a heavy large skillet over medium-high heat and add the shrimp.

Sauté for about a minute and continue cooking until they turn pink, about 1 to 2 minutes. Transfer the shrimp to a plate and set aside.

Add the onion to the same skillet, add a teaspoon of olive oil to the pan and sauté until soft (don’t over cook, they will continue to cook).

Add the fire roasted tomatoes, wine, garlic, and oregano.  Simmer the sauce for about 10 minutes or until thickened.  

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Add the shrimp, and cook for about a minute. Stir in the parsley and basil. Season with salt and pepper to taste, and serve as an appetizer or over any pasta you prefer!

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Check out http://www.sundaywithachanceofmeatballs.com for more great recipes!!

Ciao, Mike!

Potstickers

I got this recipe from my friend Jane years ago and these quickly became my favorite.  It’s hard to stop eating them! They are usually the first appetizer to be gone!

Potsticker Ingredients:
1 12oz. Fresh bunch of spinach
or ½ pk frozen chopped spinach
1 egg
1 tsp cornstarch
2 green onions
1 TBSP soy sauce
1 lb. Ground pork
1 TBSP sesame oil
2 tsp. Minced fresh ginger
1 pk wonton skins

Potsticker Dipping Sauce
½ cup soy sauce
2 TBSP sugar
1/8 cup water
dash sesame oil
1/8 cup vinegar

Potsticker Method:
Blanch spinach in boiling water, drain, rinse and squeeze out water.
Combine eggs, spinach, onion, ginger, cornstarch, soy and oil. Add pork, mix thoroughly.  Fill wrappers with 1 tsp mixture.

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Seal edges with water. Fold into a triangle and then fold the edges in as seen below:

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Fry in oil until golden brown on both sides.

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Serve with the dipping sauce! Enjoy!

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Ciao! Mike.

Chicken Fettuccine Alfredo

This dish is one of my personal favorites. I think it’s best when I use homemade fettuccine noodles but it’s pretty good using store-bought noodles as well. Alfredo is a very quick sauce to make and is versatile enough to use in many dishes such as Alfredo lasagna, macaroni and cheese or ravioli. I am adding chicken to my sauce but this can be made without chicken or using vegetables like broccoli, asparagus or peas. This recipe feeds 6-8 people. I hope you enjoy!

Chicken Fettuccine Alfredo Ingredients:

3 grilled chicken breasts chopped in bite sized pieces
1 lb fresh fettuccine noodles (see homemade pasta recipe on this website https://sundaywithachanceofmeatballs.com/2014/03/22/homemade-pasta/)
1 TBSP extra virgin olive oil
1 Shallot, diced
3-5 garlic cloves minced
3 cups heavy cream
4 oz salted butter
1 tsp Salt
1 tsp white pepper
1 tsp onion powder
1 tsp garlic powder
1 handful of chopped parsley
1 1/2 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese (Parmesan will do fine)

Chicken Fettuccine Alfredo Method:

Heat a large skillet on medium heat and add olive oil, shallot and garlic to the pan. The amount of garlic you use is based on personal preference. I use 5 cloves and my sauce has a pretty strong garlic flavor, which I personally love, but you can adjust this based on your preference. Heat for about a minute or until the shallot begins to turn opaque.

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Add the butter. I like to use the European style Plugra because of the consistency, but any butter will do.

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Once butter is melted add the heavy cream, salt, white pepper and onion powder.

Turn the heat to low and allow the sauce to reduce for about 15 minutes.

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Add 1 cup of the Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese and heat until the cheese is melted and incorporated into the sauce. Add the chicken and cook for 5 minutes. The sauce should be thick enough to coat the back of a spoon.

If you are substituting store-bought pasta, simply follow the directions. If using fresh pasta, cook the pasta in boiling water for about 4-6 minutes. Once the fresh pasta floats to the top is should be done. Taste a piece to see if it’s to your preference. Drain the pasta and put it in a large serving dish.

Top the pasta with the chicken Alfredo sauce and add the remainder of the Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese and a handful of chopped parsley.

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Ciao! Mike.

Chicken and Vegetable Soup

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When there is so much bad weather across the country there is only one thing to do….make soup!! And vegetable soup is my favorite. This posting is a real challenge for me because, although I’ve made vegetable soup many times, I’ve never used a recipe. So this time I made it and took notes and this is what I ended up with. I don’t think you can mess up vegetable soup if you keep things basic, but with a few easy techniques, it can be an amazing meal.  I only served this recipe to three people and two of them told me it was the best vegetable soup they have ever eaten! I was the third and I agree! Enjoy!

Chicken and Vegetable Soup Ingredients:
2 Chicken Breasts
48 oz chicken broth (low sodium)
2 cloves Garlic(minced)
1 Celery stock (chopped)
2 carrots (chopped)
1 medium onion (diced)
1 can whole tomatoes (14.5 oz can) – (chopped)
1 cup frozen peas, corn and green beans
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tbls crushed red pepper
salt and pepper
Optional, but important: 1 tbls Morton’s Season Salt

Chicken and Vegetable Soup Method:

I am making the short version of this soup by using chicken broth. If you want to be adventurous, simmer a small chicken in a pot of water for 2 hours, pull the chicken out of the pot and let cool. Strain the broth and reserve the liquid and cool the chicken and pull the meat and replace for the chicken breast in this recipe. I did a poach on 2 chicken breast because it’s much quicker and does not compromise the taste.

Poach the chicken breast in a pot or pan by covering it and simmering for about 30 minutes or until the breast is 165 internal temp.

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While the chicken is cooking cut up the  vegetables. I like traditional vegetable soup ingredients so I use celery, carrots, and onion. (Use what you like!)

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I start by heating a dutch oven to medium/high head and adding the garlic for about 30 seconds, then adding the celery, carrots and onion. I sweat the vegetables on medium heat until the onions are clear. This is key to this dish: add the crushed red pepper and cook for 1-2 minutes. Then add the chicken broth. Cook for 20 minutes on medium heat.

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When the chicken is cooked through, remove it and let cool for a few minutes and chop into similar size as the vegetables and add all of the remaining ingredients including all frozen vegetables.  Cook for 15-20 minutes, add Morton’s salt and pepper. If you like a more creamy soup you can run an immersion blender through the soup for a minute , but I like it chunky with a bite!

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Ciao! Mike.

Chicken Tortilla Soup!

This recipe was taken from food.com and I didn’t alter it a bit. It is fantastic just the way it is!

Chicken Tortilla Soup Ingredients:

1 cup carrot, diced
1 cup celery
1 cup onion, diced
1⁄2 teaspoon garlic powder or 1 fresh diced garlic clove
1⁄8 teaspoon salt
1⁄4 teaspoon pepper
1 tablespoon corn oil
4 (15 ounce) cans chicken broth
1 (15 ounce) can tomatoes, diced (optional)
1 (10 ounce) can Rotel tomatoes & chilies, diced
1 (1 1/4-1 1/2 ounce) packet taco seasoning, I use McCormicks
10 (8 inch) corn tortillas (cut into small pieces, about 1-inchx1-inch)
12 ounces chicken meat, poached, diced
1 cup milk or 1 cup sour cream
12 ounces monterey jack cheese or 12 ounces Mexican blend cheese, shredded
corn tortilla chips, broken into small pieces for garnish

Chicken Tortilla Soup Method:

Poach the  Chicken by adding it to a deep pan and covering it with water. Add a half of a small sliced onion,  5 garlic cloves, a few pepper corns, and a bay leaf. Bring to boil, then turn heat down and simmer on Medium/low heat for approximately  30 minutes or until internal temperature is 165 degrees.

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Saute carrots, onions, celery in corn oil, garlic, salt and pepper until tender.

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Add chicken broth and bring to boil.

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Add tomatoes, Rotel, taco seasoning.
Cut Tortillas into small pieces and chop the chicken into cubes and add to broth mixture.

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Let boil for 20 minutes or until tortillas are thoroughly incorporated into soup stirring occasionally to keep from sticking.

Reduce heat and add 8 oz. cheese. Simmer for additional 10 minutes.

Add milk and simmer for additional 10 minutes.
If thicker soup is desired, add more diced tortillas and let incorporate into soup.
Garnish with shredded cheese and broken tortilla chips.

Substitutions: 1 cup Masa Harina (Masa Flour) for 1 10 ct. package of corn tortillas. Gradually add masa flour mixing into broth, mixing thoroughly into broth. If thicker soup is desired, add more masa flour.
You can also use grilled chicken fajita meat for poached diced chicken.

I added my personal touch by slicing several flour tortillas into strips and frying them and added them to the top of the soup as a garnish at the end instead of broken tortilla’s from a bag!

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This soup is one of the best things I’ve ever eaten!

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Ciao! Mike.