Tag Archives: Eating Good.

Italian Style Meatball Soup

I’ve been neglecting my food related posts, so here’s an Emeril Lagasse recipe (with a few modifications that I made during a recent bout of cold weather).

Rather than just re-do the whole recipe here, I’ll provide a link to the original page:

https://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/meatball-soup-3646042

Emeril is one of my favorite chefs. Almost every recipe of his that I’ve tried has turned out great. This one was no exception.

I didn’t even burn myself this time! LOL

I will add a couple of notes here however:

Emeril’s 2 can’s of low sodium beef broth, 29 ozs or 8/10 of a liter, are not near enough liquid to make this soup. With the amount of meat and vegetables that go into this, it’s almost too thick to be a stew with that amount of liquid. Even more true if you use dry pasta in the recipe.

Bottom line; plan on having about twice that much to get the soup at the consistency in the picture above, or at least be ready to add water.

You also might want to make a little more meatballs than the recipe calls for. This made a crock put full, as you all can see. That’s about 8 decent sized bowls of soup. There were only a couple of pieces of meatball left by the time we got to the last two bowls.

OH… and if you’re using a crock pot and dry pasta… The pasta will NOT be cooked in 15 minutes like Emeril says… More like somewhere around an hour and a half. I *did* add that in late also. Past experience has taught me that slow cooker soups tend to dissolve pasta if it’s added in right at the get go.

End Result:

I almost forgot…

A bowl of the soup finished, and topped with freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano, and served with some garlic Parmigiano Reggiano toasted bread on the side. ๐Ÿ™‚

Pesto al Attilio!

I’m playing ketchup (lol) with posts today as we get ready to put the house back on the market. Ergo, “Wildcard Wednesday” is “Meals Monday” for this post. ๐Ÿ™‚

A while back, I promised my readers a post with my pesto recipe. I’m here to deliver! This is a traditional Genovese basil-based Pesto sauce. My step father brought it over from Italy (he was born there) so it’s authentic. Also named after him here. His original Italian first name was Attilio.

Just a quick note before I get started: This recipe is going to make a large amount of pesto. A cup is usually plenty to do pasta for four people. Pesto keeps fairly well in the fridge (not indefinitely however), and it can be frozen with minimal loss of flavor. It defrosts fairly quick also.

Note this is also all U.S. measurements. Converting them to Metric equivalent can be done at this site or similar sites:

https://www.metric-conversions.org/volume/us-cups-to-metric-cups.htm

The Recipe:

3 Cups of Fresh Basil

3/4 Cup of Extra Virgin Olive Oil

1/4 Cup of Pine Nuts

3 cloves of garlic

1 teaspoon of salt

1/2 Cup of Parmigiano-Reggiano (Parm) cheese

3 Tablespoons of Romano, Pecorino, or more Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese.

Preparation:

All you need is a Cuisinart or similar food processor. Add everything in and blend well. The basil should be broken down to small, crumb sized pieces.

Alternatively, if you’re a fan of pine nuts, you can blend everything except the pine nuts, then add them to the food processor and give it 3 quick presses of the button to chop them up without breaking them down to tiny pieces. This gives the pesto a little more texture and makes the pine nut flavor a little more noticeable.

On the flip side, if you hate pine nuts, you can leave them out or substitute another nut for them. Walnuts are a common option in other recipes I’ve seen.

Final Notes:

The most important thing I can add here is that pesto is a sauce that you add to food AFTER it’s cooked. If you cook it with the pasta, etc… you’ll lose much of the flavor. I can tell you first hand that it looses all visual appeal if you try to add it to vegetables while they’re grilling. WAIT UNTIL AFTER THE FOOD IS COOKED, then put it on top or mix it in.

Also, pasta with pesto added is how at least most Americans see this used. I can tell you that it goes well on top of grilled chicken and fresh steamed or grilled vegetables as well. I have no idea how traditional those uses are, BUT pesto is a fairly versatile sauce. Give yourself permission to experiment with it a little. I imagine it could go well over a milder flavored fish for example.

When my family makes the above recipe, we put the excess into seal-able containers that are about 1 cup in size, and store them in the freezer. When we’re ready to use more, we pull it out and set it on the counter. It will defrost in an hour and a half to two hours in my experience. DO NOT defrost using a microwave! It’ll do nasty things to the oil and cheese.

The recipe doubles nicely also if you want to store a large amount for future use.

LASTLY: As with ALL cooking, the quality of the ingredients makes a HUGE difference. Find the freshest basil you can find, make sure the olive oil IS Extra Virgin, not Walmart trash, there is a massive difference between authentic Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese and Kraft Parm, etc…

Thanksgiving Delayed

Yes, I’m still alive, lol. It’s just been one of those weeks.

I didn’t want to ruin others’ Thanksgiving complaining about how mine went though. After that, sleep and health issues caught up with me for a few days. I’m largely functional now however. ๐Ÿ˜€

Thanksgiving… As I mentioned before, we were originally scheduled to have at least 12 people. I went out and brought a 23 pound (10.5 kg) turkey so as to have plenty for all. Most canceled with other plans at that last minute, my mom got sick and chased off the rest. Apparently my brother and I were still supposed to brave snow and ice along with her cold or flu though.

I finally had enough of the lack of cooperation on last Wednesday and stopped asking. I told everyone we were postponing Thanksgiving until Saturday or we were canceling altogether. Mom and my brother agreed. Big surprise; the weather and my mom were both better, along with travel conditions. I nagged about re-inviting others, but that didn’t happen. At least I managed to take some control of the insanity though. That was a victory in itself.

When I returned to California after my divorce, I sensed that part of it was a need to resolve things with my dysfunctional family. I think Thanksgiving was the final step there. I realized I may not be able to completely change their insanity, but I can still assert enough control to minimize it’s impact on me. So, I may not have been able to make my mom re-invite people or get the ideal final Thanksgiving in California that I wanted, BUT I was able to refuse to drive in a snow storm to a sick person’s house for a holiday that nobody was attending. There’s balance in that, and finding balance is what life is all about.

The cooking was split up. I did the turkey, dressing and gravy. Mom handled the rest. I slow smoked the turkey and the result speaks for itself:

Now for new followers (welcome BTW. ๐Ÿ™‚ ), who are not familiar with slow cooking via a wood smoker, that pink color is not a sign of raw meat. It’s a result of the smoke flavoring penetrating the meat. With poultry though, it’s always important to verify the meat is done via a thermometer when smoking.

My only disappointment was that since I only low smoked, the skin on the turkey never got crispy and cooked with a kind of rubbery texture. Last year, I did a half slow smoke and half normal 350 degree F (or 177 C) cook. Not as much smoke flavor, but the skin was golden and crispy.

Fun fact: That meat fork and the platter belonged to my great grandmother originally. ๐Ÿ™‚

It’s a toss up which route I’ll go next year. The smoke flavor on the turkey this year is amazing. The drawback is the same issue with briskets; an insanely long cook time. The standard formula is 1/2 an hour per pound of turkey. So for this bird, that meant a 12 hour, all night cook. That after brining it for a day. Something I should do another article on. ๐Ÿ™‚

As it was, the turkey finished at 11 hours. Wrapping it in foil and keeping it in a insulated “cooler” kept it warm till meal time though. That’s an old Southern trick for keeping a brisket warm and fresh till meal time

This is the actual cooler we own too ๐Ÿ™‚

Now, since there were only four of us and we ate at the smaller kitchen table (as opposed to the dining room), the food stayed on the counter for space reasons. Here’s the final spread though:

Working clockwise from the top, we have green beans, sweet potatoes, chickpea (garbanzo bean) salad, cheesy mashed potatoes, stuffing and gravy, and the turkey of course, lol.

There Was So Much at Steak…

Nope, not a misspelling of steak. It’s time for my also promised nearly 3 pound (1.3 kg) tomahawk cut ribeye steak cook. ๐Ÿ˜€

As the picture hints at, the cut got it’s name from the bone being left in and the size of the cut. It bears a passing similarity to tomahawk.

As usual, it was salt, pepper and garlic for the seasoning, and then onto the smoker:

Notice I did go lighter than with the ribs yesterday also. A good steak should be seasoned lightly to let it’s own flavor shine through. Those ribs were a bit over seasoned also to be honest.

Since a good steak should also have a nice sear or grill marks on it also, I do something fairly unique here. Pellet grills and other smokers almost never put good grill marks on meat. So what I do id cook the meat to an internal temperature of about 95 degrees (35 degrees C).

Cooked slow and low, by the time it reaches that internal temperature, the meat has a nice,moderate level of smoke flavor. From there, it goes onto the Weber charcoal grill.

One thing I should mention here… If you’re going to BBQ with charcoal on a kettle like this… You ideally want the charcoal on two sides and a clear space in the middle where you can place your food. This prevents flare ups of the fire and the food getting burnt or cooked unevenly. I got in a hurry here and was sloppy with the charcoal.

Getting back to the actual cook, it stays there long enough to get to a nice 135 degree (57 degrees C) internal temperature. That’s just long enough to get it a perfect medium rare and put a nice surface sear on it for extra flavor:

This particular steak is a good example of learning to trust your instincts also. My thermometer lied and said it was still raw. When I pulled it though, here’s what we got:

That’s right on the high side of “medium” in terms of how cooked it is, which means it had an internal temperature of 140 to 145 degrees (62 degrees C). Still very edible, but not quite as tender as it could have been.

Cultivating that instinct takes work. You have to regularly make a mental note of how long items cook each time you do them, and their appearance as well.

Here’s a finished dinner plate, with the green beans and bacon now mixed with the Marsala sauteed mushrooms, some biscuits, and the raspberry yogurt fruit salad from Friday.

Slow Smoked St Louis Style BBQ Pork Ribs

It’s FINALLY time! Yep, the pictures are downloaded and I finally have time to tell the tale. Easily offended vegetarians, vegans, kosher and halal eaters may want to leave now. ๐Ÿ˜€

That said, here’s the run down on the BBQ a couple of days ago. St Louis style BBQ ribs were the main course.

For anyone who doesn’t know the difference, St Louis style spare ribs (keeping it simple) are from the thicker belly ribs on the pig. Baby Baby back ribs (a.k.a. loin ribs, back ribs, or Canadian back ribs) are taken from the top of the rib cage between the spine and the spare ribs, below the loin muscle. St Louis ribs are flatter, have a slightly higher fat content (which can make for good flavor), and brown more evenly. Baby Backs do come from adult pigs, and some people think they’re more tender. It’s more about how either is cooked though.

The same can be said with the meat content for either rib. St. Louis style come from the belly, so the thicker the meat on the ribs, the less bacon and pork belly you get from the pig. It all depends upon how both pieces of meat are cut and trimmed. I look for packages with nice thick ribs. ๐Ÿ™‚

THAT is the bone side of the ribs. You want to cook the ribs with that side facing the heat to avoid drying out the meat. That layer of white across 2/3 of it is called silver skin (at least it is in cooking circles here). It’s a connective membrane that helps keep meat together and connect fatty tissue to meat. Now if the silver skin is thin, you can ignore it and let the cooking weaken it. THIS is really borderline, and I probably should have skinned it off. If it’s thicker or especially if you’re doing a competition, you want all silver skin gone. It can not only be tough, but it also blocks flavor from smoke or seasoning from getting through.

Now this is the other side. Almost all the meat on St Louis ribs are on this side or between the ribs. This side rarely has any silver skin, BUT…

That’s a perfect example of way too thick silver skin. I had to get my trusty Cutco fileting knife and cut that out. It would have been like having a piece of rubber in the ribs otherwise.

There was a little left further under that fold of fat and meat to the right but it was thinner and I didn’t want to cut away half the meat to chase, so I left it.

After that, it was time for the rub:

There’s BBQ folks that put 20 different seasonings in secret combinations to create a fancy rub. Almost all of them have brown or white sugar also. I believe in keeping it simple. Just like with my last few food posts, it was salt, pepper and garlic, then some of Costco’s mesquite flavoring.

With my family’s roots in Texas, I’m not big on sugar in cooking (baking is another story, hehe). Never mind it’s unhealthy, and hidden in everything we eat too. Even my BBQ sauce recipe (four generations old at this point) is only tomato, water, Worcestershire sauce, garlic, onion, salt, pepper, lemon juice and a little Tabasco. Tangy and savory without being sickeningly sweet like the bottled stuff at the grocery stores.

Once all three racks of ribs were done, into the smoker they went:

Yep, it’s a big smoker, but we wanted one that would let us entertain.

Now in competition, the big thing with smoking ribs anymore is the “3-2-1” method. You start out low and slow for 3 hours, misting the ribs as you go, then at the 3 hour mark, you pull them, put them in a ‘boat’ of aluminum foil, add some apple cider, seal it up and throw the ribs back on for 2 hours. This lets them steam in the apple cider. Pork and apple are a good pairing, so if you want to do sweet, that’s a good option. This also supposedly keeps the ribs from drying out due to the prolonged cook. Then the last hour, you pull them back out of the foil and cook them “naked” again to finish cooking and hopefully put a little bark on the ribs.

Me… I have to be different, LOL

Here’s what I don’t like about the 3-2-1 method. First, the few times I tried it, I tasted more apple than pork. No bueno. Secondly, the time spent steaming in the apple cider tended to make the ribs a little mushy. Yes, I went fairly light on the cider too. ๐Ÿ™‚ The mushiness wasn’t horrible, but you just couldn’t get a good looking bark or crust to the ribs. Lastly, the method is really intended for an old fashioned ‘stick burner’ smoker. Those are designed to operate around 250 degrees F (121degrees C) or so. Using a pellet grill, I am able to keep a very constant heat as low as 180 degrees. I just do a straight cook through, spraying the ribs every half hour or so to keep them moist. When they’re within 30 or 40 degrees of done, I turn up the temperature on the pellet grill and finish them off, putting a nice bark on them:

Do those look dry at all? LOL Because I go low and slow, I’m able to get smoke flavor and coloring all through the ribs also. I had one guest as me if they were done because of that even pink color. ๐Ÿ˜€

One thing I didn’t cover was the “spritz” AKA what I spray them with while cooking. Apple cider is again a common choice. Too sweet though, especially if you’re doing the 3-2-1 method also. What I use on either beef or pork is a mixture of broth, water and pepsi or coke. 1 part Pepsi to two parts water to 4 parts broth. Using broth as a primary ingredient keeps the flavor pure. Just use beef broth for beef and pork broth for pork. The water keeps the broth weak enough that the meat doesn’t taste like soup, and helps with moisture. The soda pop helps the spritz stick, adds a little browning and just a touch of sweet without overpowering the meat’s flavor.

One last note: Ribs are properly done when they have an internal meat (not bone or fat) temperature of 185 to 200 degrees. At that point, the meat should stay on bone, but still come away easily with a light tug of the fingers or teeth. If it’s tough, it’s undercooked. If it falls apart, it’s been cooked to death. My own personal experience vs conventional wisdom is that 185 to 190 is about the ideal temperature.

And that’s it for Silk’s scrumptious Southern style BBQ ribs. ๐Ÿ™‚

We also had leftover Brisket and chicken, along with that homemade BBQ sauce I mentioned, green beans and bacon, smoked portabella mushrooms sauteed in marsala and garlic, biscuits, a green salad and raspberry and yogurt fruit salad sort of thing I found on Pinterest.

All of that would take an entire second post however, lol.