Garlic Oil

This is one that couldn’t be any easier. I use this garlic oil in everything, from frying eggs to salad dressings. Wonderful to start off a basic marinara sauce. It’s great with some dried or fresh herbs sprinkled in, and dipping chunks of crusty bread. Or, even as a finishing drizzle on some hot oven fries. Basically, anything you wish to impart a little extra garlic flavor into!

I like to use a good quality olive oil – don’t go spending a bunch of money on the fancy extra-virgin stuff, though. I just glug it right into a saucepan with a handful of garlic cloves, get them bubbling a bit, then turn down the heat to low to let the flavor infusion happen. Sometimes, if I’m feelin’ frisky, I’ll add a few sprigs of fresh herbs…but it’s not necessary.

Keeps forever (at least a month or so – if it lasts that long!) as well. I just keep it right on the counter with all my other oils, so it’s right at hand when I need it. It also makes a wonderful homemade gift when presented in a pretty oil dispenser with a ribbon! If you’re worried about it spoiling, it also keeps fine in the refrigerator. This is definitely one to have around, guys!

Soprano's Sunday Gravy

I’ve talked before about my love of all things mafioso. While I was always a fan of the classics like Goodfellas and The Godfather trilogy, it was really The Sopranos that really cemented that love. One of my favorite cookbooks is The Sopranos Family Cookbook. Every single recipe I’ve tried from it has been wonderful. The first one that I ever made from it’s pages is this recipe for Sunday gravy…

Italians call a meaty sauce that’s been simmered all day a “gravy”. This one is made with the addition of country pork ribs, sausage, and veal – which I leave out (I just can’t get past the baby cow thing). Now, if you’ve never added pork to your red sauce – with all due respect, but you’ve sorely been missing out. It adds such a wonderful richness and complexity that is unparalleled. Sausage is great, but the pork ribs are really where it’s at.

It’s wonderful simply tossed with pasta, or if you want to doll it up even more you can add mozzarella cheese and mini-meatballs to make Ziti al Forno. No matter what you do with it, you can’t go wrong with this sauce. It’s really a staple. Do yourself a favor and make it soon, you won’t regret it! Bada-bing.

Source: adapted from The Sopranos Family Cookbook

Hot Pepper Shooters

If I had to choose a favorite new food item of 2014, Pepper Shooters would be it. I first had them when I was in the hospital after having Nathan, from a sandwich chain called Primo’s

Their sandwiches are pretty much life-changing, as are these little bites of Heaven that they sell known as Pepper Shooters. From first bite I was hooked. So I thought it was only appropriate that I share this for my last recipe of the year!

Hot pickled cherry peppers that are hollowed out, then stuffed with chunks of sharp provolone cheese and proscuitto. You could also use other Italian deli meats – like capicola or thinly sliced salami. Whatever floats your boat! A little drizzle of good olive oil and a sprinkling of dried oregano and you’re good to go!

They’re the perfect party appetizer. Either served alone, or with other cured meats, olives, and cheeses for to make a lovely antipasto platter. And, the best part is they only take a few minutes to throw together – which always makes for a winner in my book!

Homemade Stromboli

Since I’ve gone homemade, pizza Friday has long been the favorite night of the week at our house. There’s just something about making your own dough and sliding that pizza pie into the oven in your own kitchen that is so satisfying!

But, about once a month we like to turn our favorite pizzas into homemade stromboli. It’s a little different, and adds some variety! Dough is rolled out into a long oval, toppings and cheese are piled on, then everything is rolled up together and baked. Pizza sauce is served on the side for dipping, as opposed to inside the roll – which tends to make this Italian specialty soggy.

They’d be great for a party or Holiday get-together too, as they’re served as individual slices. I also love the fact that I can cook two of them in the oven at the same time. With pizza, I’m limited to one at a time.

Toppings can vary of course. I’ve found that when I use veggies, I like to give them a quick saute or roast first to release some of the moisture. I’ve done mushrooms, onions, and peppers that way to make a delicious veggie stromboli. But, I’d say our favorite variation is pretty traditional – deli pepperoni and salami with mozzarella and provolone cheese.  If I have some deli ham in the refrigerator I’ll occasionally add that in too. Whatever floats your boat – the only limit is your imagination!

Homemade Stromboli

2 balls pizza dough
cornmeal, for dusting
1/4 lb. deli-sliced pepperoni (sandwich sized)
1/4 lb. hard salami
1 1/2 cups mozzarella cheese, shredded
12 slices Provolone cheese
olive oil
pizza sauce, for serving

Place pizza stone in oven and preheat oven to 500 degrees. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper and sprinkle with cornmeal. Set aside.

On a clean work surface, use your hands to spread pizza dough into a 12×6-inch oval. In the center of the dough, place the half of the sliced pepperoni, leaving a 2-inch border at the ends to wrap. Repeat with the half of the salami and half of the sliced Provolone cheese. Sprinkle half of the mozzarella cheese on top, right down the middle.

Tuck the ends of the oval in on top of the cheeses. Then, take the flap of dough closest to you and fold it up and over the toppings, then tuck and roll the stromboli over. Seal the other side of the dough into the stromboli by pinching it closed with your fingers.

Carfeully place the stromboli on the prepared baking sheet, seam side down. Repeat process with the remaining ingredients to make another stromboli.

Using a serrated knife, slash the top of the dough gently, 4 or 5 times to create pockets for air to escape. Brush the top of the dough with olive oil.

Carefully slide the parchment paper with the stromboli onto the hot baking stone. Bake for about 15 minutes, until golden brown. Remove from oven and let sit for about 5 minutes before slicing.

Serve with individual servings of pizza sauce.