Tomato Risotto

Tomato Risotto

I have been making risotto for years. And years.

It's one of those dishes I just make - the basics are always the same, the flavors can change depending upon what's in the 'fridge. It's really an easy dish to pull off - and pretty much impossible to screw up. It takes about 30 minutes - and it's worth the minimal effort.

Tonight's version started off as a way to use up tomatoes. We're getting to the last of them, but... there are still quite a few. I used small yellow tomatoes for this, but any would work.

Tomato Risotto

  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 cup arborio, carnaroli, or other risotto rice
  • 1 cup white wine
  • 4 cups hot chicken broth
  • 1 chicken breast, cut in chunks
  • 6 tomatoes, quartered
  • 1 - 2 oz grated parmesan cheese
  • salt and pepper, to taste

Saute onion and garlic in a bit of olive oil and butter.  Add chicken and cook about half-way. Add rice and cook until translucent, stirring continually.  Add the tomato paste and blend well.

Add wine and cook until almost fully absorbed.

Begin to add broth by the ladle, stirring continually.  Continue adding ladles of broth as the last one is absorbed. Midway through, stir in tomatoes.

Continue stirring and adding broth until rice is just tender.

Stir in cheese.

Taste for seasoning and add salt and pepper, as desired.


Tomato Risotto

20/20 hindsight being what it is, I probably could have held back a few tomatoes and stirred them in at the end for a bit more texture, but, as it was, they melted in and made for a rich, flavorful sauce.




Eggplant and Eggs

Eggplant, Ravioli, and a Seven Minute Egg

I always know when Victor asks if I have planned anything for dinner that he has a plan for dinner. And I ain't no fool - I let him go for it!

His plan, tonight, was based on a soft-cooked egg he had seen on Milk Street - steamed for exactly 7 minutes.

Dinner based upon a simple egg?!? You betcha!

Of course, one needs something to put that egg upon - and he did not disappoint!

First, he made ravioli. Perfect little pillows stuffed with ricotta, sun-dried tomatoes, garlic, egg, and parmigiano.

Our eggplant did not produce as it has in past years, but we were able to make some cutlets and freeze them. A couple of them came out and went into the oven with his sauce and the same ricotta filling in between them.

When they were ready, the ravioli went into the sauce and the eggs went into the steamer basket. And then everything went onto the plate.

Eggplant and Eggs

Absolute perfection!

It was one of those texture sensations - the silkiness of the ravioli, the crunch of the eggplant breading, and that perfectly cooked egg.

It was heaven on the end of my fork.



Russian Black Bread

Russian Black Bread

This is an interesting recipe...

99.999% of the breads I make are pretty basic combinations of flour, water, salt, and yeast. It's rather amazing that how you play with those four ingredients can create such a variety of different breads.

This bread, on the other hand, reads like a science experiment! There are a score of ingredients - and ingredients you don't often see in a savory bread - like cocoa powder and espresso powder. And every one of them work to create a decidedly delicious loaf!

The basic recipe comes from King Arthur Flour... I don't know how authentic it may be, but it's a damned good loaf!

Russian Black Bread

  • 1 1/8 cups (255g) lukewarm water
  • 2 tablespoons (28g) apple cider vinegar
  • 1 cup (106g) pumpernickel or rye flour, plus more for dusting
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons salt
  • 2 tablespoons (28g) unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons (43g) dark corn syrup or molasses
  • 1 tablespoon (14g) brown sugar
  • 3 tablespoons (18g) black cocoa
  • 1 teaspoon espresso powder or instant coffee powder
  • 1 teaspoon fennel seeds, to taste
  • 1 teaspoon rye berries
  • 1 3/4 teaspoons instant yeast
  • 2 1/2 cups (298g) bread flour, divided

Place all of the ingredients in a large bowl, reserving 1 cup (4 1/4 ounces, 121g) of the bread flour.

Mix to make a thick batter-like dough.

Mix in the remaining cup of flour and knead for 7 minutes, or until the dough becomes soft and elastic, but may still be somewhat sticky to the touch. Cover the bowl and let the dough rise until doubled, 45 minutes to 1 hour.

Russian Black Bread

After the first rise, shape the dough into an oblong loaf.

Russian Black Bread

Place in a greased standard loaf tin, cover with greased plastic, and let rise until almost doubled, about 60 to 90 minutes.

While the dough is rising, preheat the oven to 375°F. When the dough has almost doubled, brush or spray the top with water, dust with pumpernickel or rye flour, and score (slash) the top.

Bake the bread for about 35 minutes, until it sounds hollow when you thump the bottom.

Remove the loaf from the oven and cool it on a rack before slicing.

Russian Black Bread


It's one of those loaves that's pretty much perfect in every way. It has a great crust, a soft crumb, and it's just loaded with flavor.

I didn't have black cocoa so I used Scharffen Berger Dark Cocoa Powder. Any good cocoa powder will work, but Dutch Process is probably better...

I also added some rye berries for a bit of crunch - just a teaspoon. The fennel seeds added a really nice surprise. Again, just a teaspoon.

This is definitely a keeper recipe!

Russian Black Bread




Another Batch of Pasta Sauce

It appears that I'm going to be forever banned from posting my recipe site on Facebook... Yeah... it says they're 'reviewing my content' but... I'm not hopeful. One message says I've spammed. I guess three or four recipe posts a week is an awful lot... I mean, it's not quite like Russian bot postings or phony accounts trying to undermine our entire political process...

Oh. Wait. Those are happening as I type this... But that doesn't seem to violate their terms of service.

When I try to share a post from my blog I get a message that states I can't post because people have reported the recipe site as being abusive.


I guess advocating for healthy food is pretty abusive. In a kafkaesque sort of way... Sorta... Abusive spammer.

That's me.

The only thing that pisses me off about it is I have no recourse. There is no one to call, no one to email, no one to speak with or contact in any way, shape, or form. They control it all. The ban extends to Instagram, too.

There, it states: "It looks like your profile contains a link that is not allowed. We restrict certain content and actions to protect our community. Tell us if you think we made a mistake." I have pressed the "report" button a bazillion times to no avail.

An abusive spammer their "community" needs protecting from. Yeah, that pretty much describes me.

Oh, well...

In the meantime, the recipe site is alive and well - just not accessible through Zuckerberg Enterprises. I'll survive.

We're still cooking up a storm, and just made another huge batch of pasta sauce. It will definitely get us through until the next crop of tomatoes.

16 quarts of sauce. That's a lot, even for us. It's Victor's basic recipe... He used 4 #10 cans of San Marzano tomatoes and a couple pounds of fresh San Marzano tomatoes from the garden.

Victor's Pasta Sauce

  • 2 – 28oz cans of crushed tomatoes
  • 1 – Sm can tomato paste
  • 1-2 cloves of garlic (or to taste if you like more) chopped fine
  • Olive oil
  • Dried Italian seasonings
  • Hot red pepper flakes (a tsp or more or less to taste)
  • Salt and Pepper to taste
  • Red wine (always cook with a decent wine, never “cooking” wine) about a cup or cup and a half
  • Meat – such as Italian sausage or some nice beef or pork ribs or pork chops

Ok…I ALWAYS make my sauce with meat, so start with a deep, heavy pot and add about 3-4 TBS of olive oil. On high heat, once the oil is hot, start frying the sausage or pork, Let the meat get good and caramelized although you don’t have to cook it all the way through because you’ll add it back to the sauce to finish. Once the meat is browned take it out of the pot, put it on a plate and set aside.

Lower the heat to medium and sauté the tomato paste for a couple of minutes until it begins to “melt”. Add the chopped garlic and sauté with the tomato paste for just a minute (no longer or it will burn). Then add about a cup of the red wine and deglaze the pan with it, scrapping up all the good bits that stuck to the bottom when cooking the meat.

When the wine reduces by about ½ start adding the canned tomatoes.  Add one can of hot water for every can of tomatoes you use.

Now start adding the dried Italian seasonings.  I eyeball it but I would guess a good 2 TBS is fine.  Add about another ½ cup of red wine, with red pepper flakes, salt and pepper. Stir everything into the sauce. It will be very thin at this point.

Add back the cooked meat. Now this is important….at the bottom of the plate you let the meat rest on will be some of the oil and juices that seeped out. Pour that back into the pot. It has a lot of flavor in it.

Bring the sauce back to a boil then turn the heat down low and let it simmer for at least 1 and a half hours, stirring every 15 to 20 minutes to keep it from burning. It should reduce by about a third or a little less and get thicker. The meat will absorb the sauce and get very tender.

When I make meatballs, I don’t fry them, I bake them on a sheet pan. When I do, I add them to the simmering sauce when they’re done so they also absorb the flavor.

I usually make the sauce early in the day and after it’s done, just let it sit on the stove until dinner then I re-heat it. This should make enough sauce for a couple of dinners or good sized lasagna.

Sauce is down in the basement along with jars of plain sauce, tomato paste, and a couple dozen quarts of soup.

We're ready for winter - and hell freezing over if I ever get reinstated.



Baked Cod

Baked Cod Gratinée

The Year of the Tomato continues...

I canned another 8 pints of tomato sauce, today, and then set Victor loose in the kitchen for dinner.

Kitchen tag-teaming is an art in our house! We had cod, we had sweet potatoes, and we had tomatoes - the perfect combination for a fantastic dish!

He started with a small casserole dish - buttered. Into that went thinly sliced sweet potato, a bit of sliced onion, and sliced tomato on top of that. A bit of salt and pepper, of course, and then a sprinkling of bread crumbs and just a bit of parmigiano reggiano.

It was covered, and then into a 350°F oven for about 35 minutes.

The cover came off and the fish went on. He drizzled the fish with aleppo oil - a mixture of aleppo pepper and oil. Onto the entire dish went a covering of bread crumbs and grated cheeses, mixed with a bit of S&P and oregano.

Since everything else was cooked, it went under the broiler for just a couple of minutes to cook the fish.

To serve, it was topped with chopped tomatoes - because we have lots of tomatoes.

Baked Cod

It was a very uncomplicated dish - and just exploded with flavor. The sweet potatoes were perfectly soft, the tomatoes almost disintegrated, the fish was perfectly firm and moist...

Crusty cheese and crumbs added texture and flavor.

Perfection on a plate!



Italian Sausage

Homemade Italian Sausage

We're back from California after a whirlwind visit. The occasion was my nephew's wedding.

I hafta tell ya - my family does great weddings! Loud and boisterous while still reasonably civilized. We had a blast. The wedding was in Capay, California - about an hour and a half northeast of San Francisco. The venue and the weather were picture perfect and it was great spending time with the family. Even more fun was walking into a restaurant the following morning with 35 people for breakfast. Needless to say, we tipped well!

But all good things do come to an end, and we're back...

First thing we did was hit the garden - five days of not picking tomatoes meant we had a lot to deal with.


Victor made more sun-dried and I made more paste. And then we made Italian Sausage.

Italian Sausage

A nice, spicy Italian Sausage!

3 pounds of pork gave us 12 4oz sausages. 10 went into the freezer and two were saved for dinner. Perfect.

As per usual, the recipe is a bit vague.

  • pork butt, ground
  • salt
  • pepper
  • fennel seed
  • fennel pollen
  • garlic powder
  • onion powder
  • brown sugar
  • aleppo pepper
  • cayenne pepper
  • crushed red pepper
  • oregano
  • thyme
  • red wine
  • paprika

Grind pork, mix in spices, regrind, stuff into casings... It really is up to you to add how much of something you like. Ya want spicy - add a lot of the hot spices. You want it sweet - leave them out. You could get by with just fennel, salt, and pepper...

And then we got to eat it!

First, I caramelized a couple of onions. Then I grilled the sausages. I cooked the orecchiette, drained it, and added some tomato paste - the awesome homemade stuff - and 2 chopped tomatoes from the garden. Then went a pinch of S&P and a bit of oregano.

It went onto the plate, a sausage on top of it, and the onions on top of it all. Some freshly grated pecorino romano topped it off.

Italian Sausage

It was a great combination of flavors.




Making Tomato Paste

Homemade Tomato Paste

The tomato bounty contines.

Victor was online and came across recipes for tomato paste. We had both thought about making it, but neither of us were thrilled about stirring it on the stovetop for literal hours, worrying about scorching or burning...

Enter the Oven Method!

The concept is to take the tomato juice/pulp and reduce it in the oven instead of on the stove. Since we can't do it outdoors as they do in Sicily, it seemed like a perfect solution. We watched a video of people in Sicily making tomato paste - spreading the juicy pulp on five wooden tables outdoors, and then gradually combining it until they were left with a bucket of paste.

The reality is you don't get a lot of volume - it reduces 90%. One woman made a great point, though, about it - Yes, it's a bit of work, but would you ever consider spreading canned tomato paste on a crusty slice of bread?!? Most likely, not. You will with this, however! We spread it on fish and then topped it with fresh tomato relish - but that's another story.

We added just a bit of citric acid. Tomatoes are naturally acidic - something you want for canning - but the seeds carry a lot of that acidic content and you take out the seeds for paste.

You can use any tomatoes, but plum tomatoes will give you the most volume per pound - they're more meaty. We did a combination of about 7 pounds of plum/San Marzano and 3 pounds heirloom.

You'll need a food mill and 2 rimmed sheet pans. You will also need 3 to 4 hours of oven time. It will vary based on the juiciness of your tomatoes.

Tomato Paste

  • 10 pounds tomatoes
  • 4 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp citric acid

Wash and cut tomatoes. Add 2 teaspoons of salt and 2 tablespoons of olive oil, and miox well.

Making Tomato Paste

Simmer the tomatoes until they break down and are soft and cooked through.

Making Tomato Paste

Let cool a bit and then pass through a food mill.

Making Tomato Paste

Spread juice/pulp onto two sheet pans and place in upper and lower thirds of a preheated 350°F oven. Bake for 30 minutes.

Making Tomato Paste

After 30 minutes, remove from oven, stir, and return - switching pan location each time. This is after the first 30 minutes. Still quite thin, but noticeably thicker than when it went in.

Making Tomato Paste

After an hour and a half.

Making Tomato Paste

After 3 hours. The deep brick red color you're looking for.

Making Tomato Paste

Ready to jar.

Making Tomato Paste

The finished product.

Making Tomato Paste

You can place it in containers and freeze, or you can can it either with a water bath or pressure canner. We have a pressure canner, so I use it almost exclusively.

Use 4 oz jars.

For a water bath, process for 15 minutes or process for 15 minutes at 11 pounds pressure with the pressure canner.

The result is unbelievable - the most awesomely rich tomato flavor you may ever experience.

We're hoping we'll be able to do at least one more batch before the season is over.

It really is awesome stuff!



Homemade Pasta

Homemade Fettuccine and Home-Grown Tomatoes

Homemade pasta with a fresh sauce made from tomatoes out of our garden. It does not suck to be us.

Some meals are over-the-top because of their exotic ingredients. Others are over-the-top because of their simplicity. Tonight's dinner was definitely of the latter.

Fresh pasta is flour and eggs. It does not get much more basic. We use Italian flour, but all-purpose will do. We also add semolina - but you can still make a good pasta without it. Don't let the lack of a specialty ingredient keep you from making this.

Fresh Pasta

  • 1 cup tipo ’00’ flour
  • 1/3 cup semolina flour
  • 2 eggs
  • pinch salt
  • 1 tbsp water – maybe

Mix flour, salt, and eggs until fully combined. Knead on a floured board until smooth, adding a drop or two of additional water, if needed.

Let the dough rest for 30 minutes, and then roll out using pasta machine. You can roll this with a rolling pin, but a pasta roller is so much easier!

Fresh pasta

Lightly dust and then fold the pasta strips.

And then cut to desired width.

Unfold and place on a floured sheet pan.

Cook in lightly boiling salted water for about 3 minutes. Then add to sauce and cook an additional 2 minutes.

The sauce was another lesson in simplicity.

Fresh tomatoes - not peeled or anything - with fresh leeks, green onions, a bit of anchovy paste, tomato paste, wine, garlic, zucchini, crushed red pepper, and salt and pepper.

Homemade Pasta

Some freshly grated parmigiano reggiano on top.

Rich and silky-smooth, bursting with flavor. Absolute perfection.

And while we're talking about tomatoes from the garden, we added to our sauces...

We now have sauce from Black Krim tomatoes, San Marzano tomatoes, Green Zebra tomatoes, and Brandywine Yellow tomatoes. Hopefully, we'll get another dozen or so quarts before we head to California mid-month.

Tomato Sauces

Pretty awesome...



Stuffed Tomatoes

Stuffed Tomatoes

The tomatoes just keep coming! The eggplant fizzled, the peppers fizzled, but the tomatoes are coming on strong.

If I was going to hope for at least one of the three to come on strong, it would be the tomatoes - there are so many more things you can do with them.

Tonight, Victor took a few plums and stuffed them Victor-Style - the perfect side dish!

Stuffed Tomatoes

  • bread crumbs
  • parmigiano
  • garlic powder
  • oregano
  • salt & pepper
  • crushed red pepper flakes
  • fried hot Italian peppers

Slice tomatoes in half and core. Lightly salt and lightly cover in olive oil. Dredge in bread crumbs.

Mix bread crumbs with parmigiano, garlic powder, oregano, crushed red pepper, and S&P.

Place a hot Italian pepper in tomato cavity. Top with bread crumb mixture.

Place in small baking dish and drizzle with olive oil. Add about 1/2 cup white wine to dish, cover, and bake about 30 minutes at 350°F.

Uncover and bake an additional 20 minutes.

Stuffed Tomatoes

Absolutely delish! We're both fans of hot peppers, so the Italian hot in the tomato was perfection. If you don't like heat, leave it out - but it was really really good!

The steaks were liberally doused with Nick Stellino's magic spice mixture - equal parts of:

  • garlic powder
  • onion powder
  • brown sugar
  • salt
  • pepper
  • paprika

Onto the grill they went.

There are more heirloom tomatoes ripening with another round of San Marzanos and plums not far behind.

This is fun!



Korean BBQ

BBQ Pork Tenderloin

In my quest for fun, new - to me - spicy peppers, I ordered some Korean Gochugaru Pepper Flakes online. While I know that I like eating Korean food, I haven't cooked a lot of Korean food. We used to frequent a Korean restaurant on 9th & Judah in San Francisco that had fantastic food - there was no reason to cook it if you could get such wonderful food right down the street.

Fast-forward many years, and Gochugaru pepper flakes are on their way. My first use was going to be on a pork tenderloin.

Sadly, the package was damaged in transit and never arrived. It was sent back - with full refund. I ordered another.

On to Plan B.

I had a container of Korean Gochujang Paste in the 'fridge, so I started there.

Gochu in Korean, is pepper and garu means powder. Gochujang is a paste that has gochugaru in it - along with other ingredients. The things you learn...

I decided to make a BBQ sauce of sorts, so I broke out the blender. I put in a half of an onion, 6 small radishes, 3 cloves of garlic, about 3 tablespoons of gochujang paste, and three tablespoons of ketchup, along with a pinch of salt and blended it all into a smooth sauce.

I sliced the tenderloin into about 3/4-inch slices and placed them into the sauce for about an hour. From there, they went onto a very hot grill for just a few minutes.

Onto the plate, topped with chopped scallions, and served with white rice.

Korean BBQ

It wasn't the most authentic Korean BBQ, but it did have a lot of flavor. Not overly hot and not overly sweet, it had a nice balance of flavors.

The gochugaru pepper should arrive this weekend. We shall see what other concoctions we can come up with...


Aleppo Pepper Risotto

Risotto with Aleppo Pepper

For a spice that is so popular, I must say that trying to find Aleppo Pepper out here in the culinary wasteland of the Philadelphia suburbs is nigh-on impossible. Thank goodness for online shopping or our culinary staples would be reduced to white bread and black pepper.

Aleppo pepper is named for the city of Aleppo in Syria - a city that has been inhabited for upwards of 8,000 years. Longevity doesn't translate to peace, however. Because of continued war in the area, the spice now comes mostly from Turkey.

The pepper is mildly spicy compared to other crushed red peppers, and has a unique sweetness, as well. It's quite flavorful.

Aleppo Pepper Risotto

Risotto with Aleppo Pepper

  • 1 chicken breast, cubed
  • 1 cup arborio, carnaroli, vialone nano, or other risotto rice
  • 5 green onions, chopped
  • 1 bunch asparagus, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 heaping tbsp Aleppo pepper
  • 1 cup white wine
  • 4 cups chicken broth
  • 1/4 cup grated parmigiano cheese
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • S&P, to taste

Saute chicken in a combination of butter and olive oil until just starting to brown a bit. Add minced garlic and aleppo pepper. Saute until chicken is almost done.

Add 1 cup of rice and saute until the rice is translucent. Add 1 cup white wine and stir until most of it has been absorbed.

Heat the broth and add by half-cupfuls, stirring and waiting until it has been absorbed before adding the next. About halfway through, add the asparagus and green onions.

Continue cooking and stirring, adding broth by half-cupfulls, until rice is fully cooked.

Stir in the cheese and the butter. Check for seasoning and add salt and pepper, as desired.

The combination of pepper, chicken, rice, and asparagus just seemed to work. Of course, I think cardboard would have worked with this. The flavors were exceptional.

The leftovers are going to be worked into a chicken soup.

More fun cooking!