The Food That Sings

What’s Cooking Connecticut? July 20, 2010

Filed under: Pasta — jlcouch @ 2:32 pm

A few years ago my Mom gave me this cookbook, What’s Cooking Connecticut Shoreline? and I have slowly been working my way through it (per my husband’s request).  All of the recipes have been submitted by families and local restaurants up and down the Connecticut shoreline and they all turn out fantastic and EASY to make.  One of our more recent favorites is Spaghetti Al Crudo with Crispy Tilapia.  According to the cookbook, this recipe comes  from Andrea Panno at The Guilford Bistro.


Spaghetti Al Crudo with Crispy Tilapia

3 large tomatoes, choppoed

3 cloves of garlic, crushed and chopped

salt and pepper, to taste

parsley, to taste

2 tilapia filets


3 tablespoons of water from pasta (for sauce)

3 tablespoons olive oil, for fish

1 pound of spaghetti, cooked al dente



Saute tomatoes and garlic in olive oil for 1 minute.  Add salt, pepper, and parsley to taste.  In a separate pan, fry tilapia that has been seasoned with salt and pepper and a little lemon juice and has been lightly dredged in flour, until crispy.  Set aside.   Add precooked spaghetti in with tomato/garlic mixture, add pasta water and more olive oil if needed and saute for 1 minute.  Add fresh arugula to tomato/garlic mixture, stir and plate.  Top with crispy tilapia and fresh parmigiano-reggiano if desired.


Nana’s Spaghetti July 13, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — jlcouch @ 12:18 am

Nana's SpaghettiThis is a family favorite that I’ve brought into my home courtesy of my grandmother Audrey Dempsey.  Where she got it from we don’t quite know, but I like to think that some Italian friend secretly passed it on to her straight from her vault of authentic family recipes.  What makes this recipe so special is that it is a true Bolognese sauce that has a deep and rich beef flavor.  You’ll see that there is only very little tomato in the sauce. Leave it to simmer on the stove to really build its deep flavors.


For the paste:

1 green pepper

1 onion

2 cloves of garlic

The vegetable paste in the food processor

1 stalk of celery

1 large carrot, peeled

For the sauce:

1 Tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil

1lb of ground sirloin

1 8oz can of tomato sauce

4 bouillon cubes

1/2 cup red wine


1.  Chop all vegetables and add to the food processor.  Process all of the vegetables until they have formed a paste.

2.  Over medium-high heat, add 1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil. Saute vegetable paste until cooked through.  Approximately 10 minutes.

3.  Add sirloin. Use the back of your spatula to break up the sirloin. Cook through until there is no more pink.  Approximately 10 minutes.  Meanwhile dissolve the bouillon cubes in water (according to package directions).

4. Add tomato sauce, bouillon cubes, and red wine.  Bring to a boil and then let it simmer for about 15 minutes.  Season with salt and pepper.

Serve over spaghetti with freshly grated Parmesean cheese.


BBQ Beef Stir-Fry April 19, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — jlcouch @ 11:34 pm
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It’s stir-fry night at the Couch residence.  Once again I have been influenced by the media.  Last week’s Jamie Oliver’s Revolution featured his attempt to teach 1000 residents of Huntington, West Virginia to make a beef stir fry, and after watching person after person make and eat this, I decided to explore my own stir-fry recipes.  I am not always a fan of Sandra Lee from food network, but this hoisin sauce recipe was delicious and simple to make.  No more hoisin out of the jar!

Ingredients (serves 4)

Adapted from Sandra Lee (food network)

BBQ Beef Stir-Fry with Lo Mein Noodles

1 (1 1/2-pound) beef chuck (or sirloin) steak, sliced into thin strips

2 tablespoons canola oil

2 carrots, sliced about 1/4-inch thick

2 stalks celery, sliced about 1/4-inch thick

1/2 medium yellow onion, sliced

8 ounces white button mushrooms, sliced

1 tablespoon freshly minced ginger root

1 tablespoon freshly minced garlic

1 head broccoli, cut into florets

1 (16-ounce) package lo mein noodles, cooked according to package directions

Hoisin Sauce

1/4 cup soy sauce

2 tablespoons tomato paste

1 teaspoon chopped ginger

1 teaspoon chopped garlic

1 teaspoon hot sauce

1/4 cup light brown sugar

2 tablespoons cider vinegar

1/8 teaspoon pepper

Stir-Fry: In a wok or large skillet over high heat add the canola oil. Add the beef and cook until browned, about 3 minutes. Set aside on a plate. Cook lo mein noodles according to directions on box (approximately 3-4 minutes in boiling water)

To the same pan the beef was cooked in, add the carrots, celery, onions, mushrooms, ginger, garlic, and broccoli and stir-fry until slightly tender but not soft, about 3 minutes. Add the beef back to the skillet along with half of the hoisin sauce (you’ll want to start with 1/2 and then add according to taste preference), and toss to coat the beef. Hoisin Sauce: In a medium bowl, whisk all the sauce ingredients until well blended.

Arrange the lo mein noodles on a serving platter and top with the beef stir-fry. Sprinkle a bit more hoisin sauce on the top of the dish.

Notes:  The single best ingredient to add fresh to an Asian dish is the simplest – ginger.  It is so easy to peel and grate, it stores well in your fridge or freezer, and it ads an entirely different dimension to the flavor when it is grated fresh rather than out of a jar.  You’ll be surprised how often you will use it.  I use it in everything from stir-fry’s to martinis.


Sole Meuniere April 15, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — jlcouch @ 11:13 pm
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I love french food.  I mean, who doesn’t?  All that deliciousness!  All that butter!  I decided to take on the classic sole meuniere because nothing says spring more (in my mind) than fish.  This recipe was surprisingly simple and with the exception of the sole, all of the ingredients were in my pantry/fridge.  I will definitely be making this more often!

Classic Sole Meuniere

From Bon Apetit, April 2010

Classic Sole Meuniere

*2 servings


1/2 cup of all purpose flour

4 sole fillets (each about 3-4 ounces)

coarse kosher salt

freshly ground black pepper

2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons of unsalted butter


1/4 cup unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces

2 tablespoons chopped fresh italian parsley

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

lemon wedges


Place flour in pie dish.  Rinse fish; pat dry with paper towels.  Sprinkle both sides of fish with salt and pepper.  Dredge fish on both sides with flour; shake off excess. Place on platter.

Heat oil in large skilled over medium high heat until oil is hot and shimmers.  Add butter; quickly swirl skillet to coat.  When foam subsides, add fish and cook until golden on bottom, 2 to 3 minutes.  Carefully turn fish over and cook until opaque in center and golden on bottom, 2-3 minutes.  Divide fish between 2 warmed plates,tent with foil.  Pour off drippings from skillet; wipe clean with paper towels.


Place skillet over medium-high heat.  Add butter, cook until golden, 1-2 minutes.  Remove from heat; stir in parsley and lemon juice.  Spoon sauce over fish.  Serve with lemon wedges.

* Served here with couscous and spring peas.


Caponata with Yellow Squash and Zucchini April 1, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — jlcouch @ 1:04 am

I love recipes where you can eat it a number of ways.  This really works well for the various taste preferences in my house.  Recently I was watching the food network and saw Giada make a “caponata panini” with eggplant.  I decided to give it a try with what I had in my refrigerator:  zucchini, green peppers, and squash.  It makes a slightly sweet and delicious sauce that you can eat on pasta, over rice, or between two slices of french bread pressed.  My personal favorite was the latter.


Adapted from Giada’s recipe for Caponata Panini


Simmering Caponata

1/4 cup olive oil

1 medium onion, chopped

1 celery stalk, chopped

1 zucchini, cut into 1/2-inch cubes

1 yellow squash, cut into ½-inch cubes

1 red (or green) bell pepper, cored seeded, and cut into 1/2-inch pieces

1 (14 1/2-ounce) can diced tomatoes with juices

3 tablespoons raisins

1/2 teaspoon dried oreganoCaponata with Yellow Squash and Zucchini.  Try it on a panini!

1/4 cup red wine vinegar

3 teaspoons sugar

1 tablespoon drained capers

1/2 teaspoon salt, plus more for seasoning

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more for seasoning

In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the onion and cook until translucent, about 3 minutes. Add the celery and squash and zucchini and cook until soft, about 5 minutes. Add the bell pepper and cook until crisp-tender, about 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes, raisins, and oregano to the pan. Simmer over medium-low heat, stirring frequently, until the mixture thickens, about 20 minutes. Stir in the vinegar, sugar, capers, 1/2 teaspoon of salt and 1/2 teaspoon of black pepper. Season, to taste, with more salt and pepper, if needed. Serve over pasta, rice, on a hoagie, or between French bread slices (pressed like a Panini with cheese).


Aged Cheddar and Guinness Fondue and Irish-American Soda Bread March 18, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — jlcouch @ 1:11 am
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Happy St. Patrick’s Day!  Today, in many homes across the world, families are making their favorite Irish traditional dishes: Corned Beef and Cabbage, Irish Soda Bread, Shepherd’s Pie.  I too wanted to participate in this nod to my Irish ancestry, but with the hectic day that I had, I decided to go with something a bit less usual.  Fondue.  My family loves Fondue.   We have been enjoying the delicious (and traditionally Swiss) meal for years and every time we make it, and we try to make it slightly different each time, we look at each other and promise to make the quite simple dish more often.  Here is a recipe that was modified from a previous German Stout and Cheddar fondue that we have made in the past.

I’ve also included a recipe for Irish-American Soda Bread.  Irish-American soda bread is a sweeter, lighter take on the traditional bread.  This one has currants and caraway seeds in it as well. This is my first time making it and it was a success.  Delicious!


2 apples, cored & cut into chunks

Ingredients for fondue

2 cups cauliflower florets
1 cups of sweet gherkin pickles (surprisingly delicious with fondue)
2 cups baby carrots, each halved
1 baguette (or any bread with lots of crusty crust)
lil’ smokies sausages or pigs-in-blankets

1 lb good aged cheddar, grated
2 ½ tbs all-purpose flour
8 oz. Guinness stout + more if needed
6 tablespoons frozen apple juice concentrate, thawed
1 tsp powdered mustard
1 tsp finely minced garlic
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
2 tsp olive oil

Mix in the cheese gradually

Cut the bread into 1” squares. You may want to toast the bread. If your bread is day-old, skip this step.Turn oven to 250F. Toast bread pieces for 15 minutes. Remove and cool.

Make fondue: Toss grated cheese with the flour (a very important step!). In your fondue pot over low heat, or in a saucepan, add 2 teaspoons of olive oil and garlic. Fry until garlic is fragrant, about 30 seconds. Turn heat to medium-high. Add Guinness, apple juice concentrate, Worcestershire sauce and mustard. Bring to boil. Add cheese a little at a time, stirring constantly until fondue is smooth and melted. Thin with more Guinness, if needed throughout the meal. Season with salt and pepper.

Serve: Arrange bread, vegetables and fruit around the table. Enjoy!

Irish-American Soda Bread

Fondue and dipping ingredients

From King Arthur

6 tablespoons (3 ounces) butter
3/4 cup (5 1/4 ounces) sugar

2 large eggs
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
3 cups (12 3/4 ounces) King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
1 1/2 cups (12 ounces) buttermilk (or 1 cup milk + 1/2 cup yogurt)
1 cup (5 ounces) currants or golden raisins, firmly packed
2 teaspoons caraway seeds
1 tablespoon milk, for glazeRight out of the oven
1 tablespoon coarse sugar, for topping

In a large bowl, beat together the butter and sugar until smooth. Add the eggs, and beat on high speed until the mixture is thick and light-colored, about 2 minutes. Stir in the baking powder, baking soda, and salt, then 1 cup of the flour. Gently beat in half the buttermilk (or milk/yogurt mixture), then another cup of the flour. Add the remainder of the buttermilk, and the final cup of flour, mixing until smooth. Stir in the currants and caraway seeds.

Spoon the mixture into a lightly greased 8″ x 3 1/2″ round pan (or a 9″ x 3″ round pan), one whose capacity is at least 5 1/2 cups. A souffle pan or panettone pan is a good choice. Drizzle the milk atop the batter, and sprinkle with the sugar.

Bake the bread in a preheated 325°F oven for 1 hour 15 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean. Tent a sheet of aluminum foil over the top for the final 15 minutes, if it appears to be browning too quickly. Remove the bread from the oven, wait about 5 minutes, then carefully turn it out onto a rack to cool. Allow the bread to cool for at least 1 hour before slicing. Yield: about 12 servings.


Adult Sloppy Joes March 5, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — jlcouch @ 8:27 pm

This recipe came in part from nostalgia, and in part from a need to use up the rest of those pesky hamburger buns without having to eat more hamburgers.  The homemade sauce really makes these feel much more “fancy” than your everyday sloppy Joe.  I like mine on a roll, my 2 year old eats his over rice, and my husband eats his over cheesy potatoes.  A simple, delicious week night meal for everyone.

“Adult” Sloppy Joes

Yummy Sloppy Joes

Adapted from Rachael Ray


1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil

1 1/4 lb chopped sirloin

1/4 cup brown sugar

1 tablespoon of steak seasoning (McCormick)

1 medium onion, diced

1 small red pepper, diced

1 tablespoon red wine vinegar

1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

2 cups of tomato sauce

2 tablespoons of tomato paste

1 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

Hamburger rolls


Heat skillet over medium/high heat and add extra virgin olive oil. Saute onion and red pepper for approximately 5 minutes until soft.  Add chopped sirloin and brown, breaking it up with the back of the spatula.  (approx. 10 minutes).  In a small bowl, combine brown sugar and steak seasoning.  Add sugar and spice mixture to the skillet.  Reduce heat to medium heat, add red wine vinegar and Worcestershire for 5 minutes.  Add tomato sauce, tomato paste, and season for salt and pepper.  Let it simmer for 10 minutes while you heat the rolls.

Two thumbs up from husband and son!