Friday, March 17, 2017

Matzo Ball & Chicken Soup

What are matzo balls? They are a kind of dumpling made from a holiday cracker called matzo. Matzo is eaten during the Passover holiday to symbolize the haste with which the Isrealites were compelled to flee Egypt (they did not even have time for their bread to rise). During the week long Passover holiday, out of respect for our harried ancestors, we are forbidden to eat all foods which are leavened. Matzo becomes fairly important to a lot of dishes during that week. It is scrambled with eggs and served with jam (called Matzo Brei); it is used as a binder in holiday casseroles (such as savory kugels--a dense casserole resembling a kind of pudding); a very popular use for it is as a dumpling in chicken soup. These dumplings are so popular the dish is named for them: matzo ball soup. Matzo balls can be large or enormous, light and soft or dense and chewy. They are made according to the cook's preference. My ideal matzo ball is on the small side, light and soft with just a little bit of bite.

I may seem like a lot of work for one pot of soup, but this chicken soup is flavorful and immensely satisfying (especially as we start to catch change of the season colds). If anyone in our house has the sniffles I leave the skin on the chicken. This is because of a homeopathic belief that chicken fat has natural antibiotics.

Matzo Ball & Chicken Soup

Makes 16 servings


32 ounces organic chicken stock
1 whole (~5 lbs) chicken, broken down
16 ounces mirepoix
3 Tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon thyme
1 bay leaf
Salt, to taste
Pepper, to taste

1. In a stockpot over medium heat, add olive oil. Add mirepoix, thyme, a pinch of salt and pepper and the bayleaf. Saute until mirepoix has softened and become fragrant (approx 5 minutes).
2. Rinse chicken pieces under cold water and add to stock pot. Add stock, then water to cover.
3. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Simmer 20 - 25 minutes, or until chicken breasts are cooked through. Remove chicken breasts and when they are cool enough to handle, remove meat and return bones to the stock pot. Simmer dark meat for another 20 minutes, then remove, pull from bones and return bones to the pot.
4. Cook on the lowest setting for an additional 40 - 60 minutes, skimming the fat off of the surface occasionally.
5. When needed, strain broth and bring to a boil to cook the matzo balls (see below).

Matzoh balls:

4 jumbo eggs
1 1/2 cups matzoh meal
1/4 cup neutral oil*
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
3 ounces carbonated water
1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1. Whisk together egg and oil (or schmaltz). Mix in matzoh meal, salt, baking powder and soda water.
2. Set in fridge for 15 minutes.
3. Meanwhile, strain 8 cups of soup into a pot with a tightly fitted lid. Bring to a boil.
4. Form balls approximately 1" diameter.
5. Place balls in boiling soup. Cover and bring to a simmer. Cook for 20 minutes. Cook the balls in two batches to give them enough room to expand.

Serve dumplings in broth with chicken meat.

*Substitute schmaltz if you should have some in your pantry

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Parmesan Pepper Roasted Cauliflower (Cacio e Pepe)

Before I apologize for mis-using the term cacio e pepe (an amazing simple pasta preparation with parmesan and black pepper) I have quite a bit of news to announce! It is well into the new year now and I want to share with you what will be upcoming for The Joyous Kitchen. First, the bad news: I’ll be updating with less frequency for a while, probably the better part of the year. However, that is because I will be working hard on two new cookbooks for you to put on your kitchen shelves! That’s right--two cookbooks! Hopefully you’re as excited about my upcoming barbeque cookbook and my upcoming baby food cookbook as I am. I’ll be updating with news on the books from time to time, as well as continuing to share recipes here.

Ok, on to the apology: I am sorry to use the name for my dish of a gorgeous cooking alchemical event whereby the heat from cooked pasta infuses into it the flavors of cheese and spicy sweet black pepper and the starchy cooking water forms a luscious sauce over all. Seriously, if you’ve never tried cacio e pepe pasta, you should. It is difficult to believe that something with three ingredients can be so deliciously sophisticated.

Why have I used the name of this preparation so liberally? Because it struck me just the other day what a sexy combination parmesan and pepper is for roasted cauliflower. Although cauliflower doesn’t exude enough moisture to form a sauce and isn’t porous enough to absorb the flavors in the same way, I still think the combination is good enough that it can borrow the name.

Cacio e Pepe Roasted Cauliflower

Serves 4

One head cauliflower, cleaned and trimmed into florets
1 1/2 Tablespoon olive oil
1 ounce Parmesan cheese
Generous pinch pepper
Salt, to taste

1. Preheat the oven to 400. Toss cauliflower in olive oil to coat. Season with salt and liberally with freshly ground pepper.
2. Grease a cookie sheet or line it with parchment. Lay cauliflower florets in a single layer.
3. Bake for 20 - 35 minutes, or until the cauliflower is cooked through.
4. Remove from oven and allow to cool slightly. When the florets are cool enough to handle grate cheese over them and toss to coat.

Serve warm.

Monday, January 9, 2017

3 Step Chicken Cacciatore

Happy new year, everyone! I’m posting today to help everyone with their new year’s resolutions--at least the diet related ones. Diet food can be a drag. Bland, or uninspiring, sometimes even downright unsatisfying. Chicken Cacciatore is none of those things! It is a hearty, satisfying peasant dish. More of a concept, really; endlessly customizable, the word Cacciatore simply means “catch.” So it was a stew or a roast made from not only the hunter’s spoils, but also the vegetables one had laying around one’s pantry. That being said, in America Cacciatore (which almost always features chicken) is thought of as something of a specific dish. There are always bell peppers of some kind, and usually tinned tomatoes, mushrooms and/or olives.

Since I've been obsessed with my calorie counting app (especially since the new year) and since you can input your own recipes, I know exactly how many calories this hearty stew is per serving: 337. An excellent number, considering how filling it is.

As i mentioned above, this is a dish that is highly customizable. As such, this recipe is just a jumping off point. Make this dish however you want it to be, however your family likes it. I hope you enjoy my version of it, but don’t be afraid to experiment.

I've made this stew in both my dutch oven and my crockpot. I've used a Dutch oven in this recipe because I find more people have a dutch oven than a crock pot. To cook it in a crock pot simply transfer the sauteed veggies to the bottom of the crock pot between steps 2 & 3. Cook in the crock pot for 3 hours on high or 6 hours on low.

Chicken Cacciatore

Serves 8

3 - 3.5 lbs boneless skinless chicken thighs
1 (28 oz) can chopped tomatoes
2 cups low sodium chicken stock
1/2 cup olives
2 medium green peppers, cut into strips
2 medium orange peppers, cut into strips
8 ounces sliced mushrooms
3 Tablespoons olive oil
1 small yellow onion, roughly chopped
3 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 bay leaf
Salt, to taste
Pepper, to taste

1. In a Dutch oven or heavy bottomed stock pot over medium heat, saute onions, and peppers in olive oil until they begin to soften.
2. Add garlic, oregano and basil and cook for an additional minute.
3. Add chicken, tomatoes, chicken stock, bay leaf and olives. Season with salt and pepper. Bring stew to a gentle boil, cover and reduce heat to low. Simmer, covered, for 90 minutes.

Serve over pasta (we've tried rigatoni and gemelli, with the latter bring our favorite).

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Linguini alla Marcella with Mozzarella

I have to share this recipe with all of you before you make your New Year’s resolutions. Why? Well, it is exquisite in its decadence, clever in its simple execution and I think everyone should taste it at least once. This pasta was introduced to me several years ago by my then roommate and food guru, who based it off of a Marcella Hazan recipe. I made it our special way many times before I learned of her influence. The recipe was initially tweaked by my roommate and I have added my own touches, most notably, the addition of melty fresh mozzarella and a tiny burst of heat to compliment the rich, sweet sauce.

Use whichever type of pasta strikes your fancy. I usually make this with spaghetti, but I had linguine on hand.

Do try to get a dark honey, such as buckwheat. Those molasses notes make an absolutely stunning addition and elevate the tart, brassy flavor of tinned tomatoes. I usually find my buckwheat or wildflower honey at farmer's markets or small specialty grocers.

Linguine alla Marcella con Mozzarella

Makes 8 servings

1 1/2 lbs pasta of choice
1 yellow onion, peeled and cut in half
8 oz. fresh mozzarella, cut into 1/2“ pieces
1 (28 oz) can crushed tomatoes
1/2 cup butter (1 stick)
1 - 2 teaspoons buckwheat (or similar) honey
Pinch of crushed red pepper
Salt, to taste
Pepper, to taste

1. In a medium pot over low flame, combine tomatoes, onion, butter and red pepper flakes. Season with salt and pepper. The sauce will need to simmer on low for 45 minutes. Stir occasionally.
2. In the last 20 minutes of cook time for the sauce add honey one teaspoon at a time, until it is as you prefer it (should be just a touch sweet, like a bursting-ly ripe cherry tomato) adjust for salt and pepper. Prepare the pasta according to the package directions.
3. Strain pasta and reserve 1/4 cup pasta water. In a large mixing bowl mix pasta, sauce, mozzarella and pasta water together.

Serve garnished with chopped flat leaf parsley.

Friday, December 23, 2016

Fruitcake French Toast

What to eat the morning after a decadent, delicious Christmas meal? It feels as though it should be special, something interesting and festive. Well, this spice packed french toast with boozey citrus maple syrup is a wonderful option for your Christmas day breakfast or brunch. And the syrup can be made ahead of time. It will keep for up to two weeks in the refrigerator. Since we don't have that much time before Christmas it will do just fine made the day before.

If you took a poll about how people feel about fruitcake it would probably--though half in jest--be described as extremely unpopular. I’ve had passable and even bad versions of fruitcake. But I’ve also had fabulous versions. Done well it is a real treat: a moist, dense spice cake with deliciously sweet and warm, fiery booze soaked candied fruit.
Since the flavors are really fabulous but the execution leaves much to be desired, I decided to try to honor the spirit of fruitcake in (hopefully) the best possible way: turning it into a moist, spicy, sweet brioche french toast topped with boozey candied orange peels accompanied by a maple orange cognac syrup.

I candied my own orange peels, a byproduct of which is orange simple syrup. If you can get them at your store just leave the orange simple syrup out. If you'd like to make your own candied orange peels, skip to the recipe at the bottom. These can be made up to two weeks ahead and stored in an airtight container.

Fruitcake French Toast

Serves 6

For the syrup:

1 cup maple syrup
1/3 cup cognac
2 Tablespoons  (approx 3/4 of an entire orange peel) candied peel, diced
1 teaspoon orange simple syrup

1. Combine all ingredients in a small, heavy bottomed saucepan over the lowest heat setting.
2. Cook for 20 minutes to infuse flavors and cook away some of the alcohol.

Serve warm over spiced brioche french toast.

For the toast:
6 thick slices stale brioche loaf
6 jumbo eggs
3/4 cup half n half
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla bean paste
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon allspice
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon orange simple syrup
(Up to) 2 Tablespoons unsalted butter

1. In a bowl whisk together eggs, spices, vanilla, half n half, and syrup.
2. In a single layer soak bread slices for 2 minutes.
3. Heat a pan over medium heat. Add a small pat of butter and swirl to coat pan.
4. Flip bread and soak on opposite side for 2 minutes.
5. Shake excess egg off of bread and lay in pan. Turn heat down just a bit and fry for 5 minutes. Flip and fry for an additional 5 minutes.
Serve with Maple orange cognac syrup.

Candied orange peels

Peel of one orange, cut into long, 1/2 centimeter wide strips
1/2 cup sugar
3 Tablespoons cognac
1/2 cup simple syrup

1. Combine sugar, water and cognac in a small heavy bottomed saucepan over low heat. When sugar has dissolved, add orange peel slices.
2. Cook at a lazy simmer for 25 - 30 minutes, or until white pith turns translucent.
3. Remove peels from pan, shaking the excess liquid back in the pan.
To make orange simple syrup: strain liquid. Stored in an airtight jar in the refrigerator, it will keep for up to two weeks.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Champagne and Elderflower Liqueur Cocktail

Tis the season to enjoy a good stiff drink or two. And I’ve got just the drink for the hectic holiday season: a strong, fancy, delicious champagne cocktail. Perhaps you can help me name it. I’m thinking some sort of play on a Bellini. How does a champagne and elderflower cocktail resemble a Bellini? Well, it also has fruit in it; a refreshing splash of ruby red grapefruit juice. What I didn’t realize when I mixed it up was that elderflower liqueur and champagne are a pretty popular combination. For good reason, as the strong, sweetly herbaceous, vaguely medicinal and liquorice notes of the liqueur are a fabulous fiery counterpoint to the light, tart effervescence of brut champagne. I found the combination to be a bit overwhelming, so I decided to add ruby red grapefruit juice. Together with vodka, elderflower liqueur and grapefruit juice are one of my favorite potent potable combinations, the reason being that the fresh, tart-sweet taste of the juice mellows out the liquorice and herbal tincture notes the perfect amount to make the two a highly enjoyable drink combination. Replacing vodka with brut champagne puts a fancy holiday twist on this scrumptious combination.

I use my homemade elderflower liqueur, but if you haven't any homemade on hand you can use St. Germaine.

Champagne and Elderflower Liqueur with Ruby Grapefruit Juice

1/2 flute (approx 2.2 ounces) brut champagne
3/4 ounce elderflower liqueur
3/4 ounce ruby red grapefruit juice

1. Fill a champagne flute halfway through with chilled brut champagne.
2. Combine juice and liqueur in a shaker over ice. Shake for a few seconds, then strain into the flute over the champagne.

Serve garnished with grapefruit twist.

Monday, December 12, 2016

Garlic & Rosemary Braised Carrots

Well, I've been away since Thanksgiving. The holidays with a toddler have been rather hectic. To make it up to my readers I'll be updating the blog with multiple posts this week. To start it off I'll be sharing a recipe from our cookbook, Foodies+ Christmas Around the World (see purchase links below). All of the proceeds are going to action against hunger. This recipe for deliciously savory braised carrots is from a good friend of mine, Lisa Watson, who blogs over at
For more great recipes, please purchase a copy of our cookbook and help support Action Against Hunger!


(From the cookbook)

This recipe is eaten as a side dish every year at our Christmas meal in Italy. The carrots go very well with any type of main dish. They take quite a bit of time to make, but the effort is worth it. The long cooking time concentrates the sweetness of the carrots, and the final browning caramelizes them, so don’t skimp on the time needed.

You can prepare the whole recipe up to 2 days in advance and keep the carrots in the fridge, in an airtight container, until needed. They can be heated up on the stovetop on a low temperature. Stir them occasionally when reheating.

Rosemary & Garlic Braised Carrots

Timings Prep Time: 15 – 45 minutes (depending on tools used)

Cooking Time: 1½ hours Total Time needed: 2 - 3 hours

Serves 4 people

1 kg (2 lb 3 oz) carrots
2 sprigs rosemary
1 clove garlic
8 Tbsp olive oil
Water as needed
1 tsp salt
Slice the carrots into rounds that are about 1 cm (½”) thick. Do not slice them too thinly, or they will fall apart when cooking. If you have a mandolin or food processor that does this for you, use it to save time. Heat the oil in a large frying pan. Add the whole clove of garlic and the whole rosemary sprigs. Cook for 1 - 2 minutes. Add the carrots and salt. Sauté them on medium-high heat for 5 minutes, stirring often. Add enough water to cover the carrots. Wait until it is simmering, and then turn the heat down to medium. Continue to cook the carrots, uncovered, for approximately 1 hour, gently stirring occasionally. If the water boils off too quickly, add more. You should be left with a bit of water in the bottom of the pan at the end of the hour. Turn the heat up to medium-high again and cook for 20 -25 minutes, until the water has boiled off and the carrots are browned. Stir often, otherwise the carrots will burn, but stir gently, otherwise they will break apart. Check seasoning, and serve immediately.

Coming up this week: an absolutely amazing champagne cocktail; later in the week a decadent breakfast dish perfect for a fancy Christmas breakfast. Stay tuned. ;)