Saturday, September 21, 2013

Stuffed Potatoes

Stuffed Potatoes
Recipe Adapted from: Jerusalem A Cookbook


    For The Tomato Sauce

  • 2 Tbs Olive Oil
  • 5 Cloves Garlic, crushed
  • 120 grams Onion, finely diced
  • 80 grams Celery, finely diced
  • 70 grams Carrot, peeled and finely diced
  • 1 small Red or Green Chile

  • 1 1/2 Tsp Ground Cumin
  • 1 Tsp Ground Allspice
  • 1 1/2 Tsp Sweet Paprika
  • Pinch Smoked Paprika
  • 1 Tsp Caraway seeds, ground
  • 28 oz. Can Tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 Tbs. Tamarind Paste
  • 1 1/2 Tsp. Sugar

  • For The Potato Stuffing

  • 500 grams Ground Beef
  • 200 grams Coarse Bread Crumbs
  • 120 Grams Onion, finely diced
  • 2 Cloves Garlic, crushed
  • 20 Grams Flat Leaf Parsley, finely chopped
  • 2 Tbsp Thyme, chopped
  • 1 1/2 Tsp Ground Cinnamon
  • 2 Large Eggs
  • 1.5 Kg. Yukon Gold Potatoes, peeled, halved, and cored
  • 2 Tbs Cilantro, Chopped
  • 1 1/2 Tsp Salt
  • Pepper
Cooking Directions
  1. Clean and dice the vegetables and herbs for both the sauce and stuffing and measure out the spices. If you're using canned whole tomatoes, empty them into a bowl and crush them. Having everything ready before you start to cook will make everything much easier.
  2. Over medium heat warm the olive oil in a saute pan large enough to hold the potatoes in one layer.
  3. Add the sauce vegetables and saute until they are softened, about 8-10 minutes.
  4. Add the sauce spices and cook for a few minutes more until the mixture is very fragrant. Be careful not to allow the mixture to scorch.
  5. Carefully add the tomatoes, tamarind paste, sugar, 1/2 tsp salt and a few grinds of black pepper. 
  6. Brink the mixture to a boil, stirring, taste for seasoning, and set aside, off the heat.
  7. In a large bowl combine the ground beef, bread crumbs, onion, garlic, parsley, thyme, cinnamon, eggs, 1 tsp salt and a few grinds of pepper.
  8. Mix with your hands until the ingredients are well combined.

  9. Peel and halve the potatoes, then core them using a melon baller. Reserve the scraps for another use. (Submerged in water, they'll keep in the refrigerator overnight.)
  10. Stuff the mixture into the potatoes, ensuring it is well packed, leaving no spaces.

  11. As each potato is stuffed settle it into the tomato sauce.

  12. When all the potatoes are in place, add a little water to bring the liquid almost to the top of the stuffing.
  13. Bring the whole thing to a gentle simmer, cover, and cook for 60-90 minutes, until the potatoes are fully cooked and soft.
  14. Allow to cool slightly before serving, sprinkled with the chopped cilantro.

It's a little hard to believe, but this recipe is only a little harder than making meatloaf. The only slightly exotic ingredient is the tamarind past and even that's available almost everywhere.

Obviously, this recipe makes a lot. The saute pan I used could only hold a little more than 2 pounds of potatoes. As a result I had about a third of the stuffing left over. It's in the freezer for now and will probably turn into a braised meatloaf in a week or so.

The Saucepan: The pan in the pictures worked fine but even at a low simmer there was a more or less constant drip onto the stove top. It would have been a huge mess on a gas range. Next time I'll make it in a deep "dutch oven".

Potatoes: You really do have to use Yukon Gold or a similar waxy potato. Starchy types like your regular russet baking potato will fall apart during the long simmer.

Vegetables: Dice 'em much finer than I did.  The ones in the pictures are a bit on the rustic side. They're fine in the sauce, but they're hard to mix evenly with the ground beef and bread crumbs.

Bread Crumbs: Do not under any circumstances even consider using the ones that come in a can or bag. Just grab a loaf of crusty bread when you're buying the rest of the ingredients and make then yourself. You can easily save stale bread in the freezer and when you have a bunch of chunks just toss them in the food processor, pop the crumbs in a low oven for a few minutes to dry them out and then refreeze.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

San Lorenzo Bellizzi - Even Cheaper Than Guardia Sanframondi

Lotto n. 24 - 1.800
So it's been a while since I posted on real estate in Italy, mainly because we're in "saving up" mode. But this afternoon Seeds From Italy (my source for Italian vegetable seeds) posted a very interesting link on FaceBook. It seems the Commune di San Lorenzo Bellizzi owns a bunch of more or less ruined properties in the "centro storico" and they've just posted a list documenting 25 of 'em.

How cheap?1.500 to 3.000

You already clicked didn't you? OK. I'll wait.

OK, where the heck is San Lorenzo Bellizzi? It's located in Calabria, near the border of Basilicata:

View Larger Map

Yeah, way the heck down there. Which is actually pretty cool if you're looking for a vacation home off the beaten path but with plenty of great scenery (maybe better than Guardia Sanframondi!), 35 km. from the ocean, and packed with rural Italian character.

Although the good ol' Wikipedia doesn't have much on San Lorenzo Bellizzi, the town does have a website evidently set up by by someone from the town. Like Guardia Sanframondi it doesn't seem to have any actual hotels, but there are a couple of B&Bs and Agriturismo offerings.

What's the downside? The 25 places on the list are all what might be (charitably) called "unique fixer-uppers". Seeing as it's very rural Italy, there are going to be few, if any, people who speak much English. But man, what an adventure!

Oddly enough, there's House Hunters International couple living not too far north in Basilicata. Maybe I'll drop 'em a note and see what they might be up for...

Monday, September 2, 2013

Lobster Apocalypse Part 3: Lobster Risotto

Lobster Apocalypse Part 3: Lobster Risotto
Recipe by William Colsher

Yield: 2 "main course" servings

  • 2 Small Lobsters
  • 1 Egg White
  • 1 Medium Shallot, finely diced
  • 1 Cup Vialone Nano rice
  • 1 Cup Dry White Wine
  • 2 Tbs Butter
  • 2 Tbs Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Cooking Directions
  1. Make Lobster Stock with the lobsters. Refrigerate the meat and let the stock cool.
  2. Pour the lobster stock into a clean saucepan.

  3. Whisk the egg white with 1/4 cup cold water until frothy and stir it into the lobster stock.

  4. Bring the stock to a boil over medium high heat, stirring gently until the egg white coagulates, trapping most of the impurities.

  5. Strain the stock through a double layer of cheese cloth into a clean saucepan and set aside over low heat, covered.
  6. Place the butter and oil in a large saucepan over medium heat.
  7. When the butter has melted and the foam subsides add the shallot and cook until softened. Do not allow the shallot to color.
  8. Add the rice and cook, stirring constantly until it begins to become translucent.

  9. Reduce the heat to medium-low and carefully add the white wine. Cook, stirring constantly until the wine is absorbed.
  10. Add the reserved lobster stock to the rice 1/2 cup at a time. Stir regularly and do not add additional stock until he previous 1/2 cup has been absorbed. Continue until the rice reaches your desired degree of tenderness. (The quart of stock that the recipe yields should be enough for 1 cup of rice. If not, simply use hot water.)
  11. When the rice is ready, chop the reserved lobster meat into large pieces and stir it in. Cook for a minute or two to finish the lobster, taste for seasoning, and serve immediately.


This recipe makes enough risotto for 4 "first course" size servings. If you plan to use it that way, use three small (1 1/4 lb.) lobsters instead of two.

I prefer Vialone Nano rice, but it can be a little hard to find. Carnaroli or Arborio are just fine.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Lobster Apocalypse Part 2c: Lobster Pie - Filling and Assembly

Lobster Apocalypse Part 2c: Lobster Pie - Filling and Assembly

Recipe Adapted From The City Tavern Cookbook

Yield: 2 Servings

Lobster Apocalypse Part 2a: Lobster Pie - Lobster Stock
Lobster Apocalypse Part 2b: Lobster Pie - Lobster Cream Sauce

  • 12-14 oz. Lobster Meat (about 3 small lobsters)
  • 8 oz. Large Shrimp
  • 8 oz. Button Mushrooms
  • 1 Tbs. Butter
  • 2 Tbs. Dry Sherry
  • 2 Cups Lobster Cream Sauce
  • 1 sheet Commercial Puff Pastry
Cooking Directions

  1. Clean and halve or quarter the mushrooms. Clean and devein the shrimp. If they are very large, cut them in half. Chop the lobster meat into bite size chunks.

  2. Melt the butter in a 9" saute pan, add the mushrooms, sprinkle on a pinch of salt and saute gently until they begin to soften.
  3. Add the shrimp to the mixture and saute until they begin to become pink.
  4. Add the lobster and continue to saute until the seafood is almost cooked through.
  5. Add the sherry to deglaze the pan and cook until most of the liquid has evaporated.

  6. Ready to Sauce

  7. Off heat, arrange the filling evenly in the pan.

  8. Pour on the reserved Lobster Cream Sauce and shake the pan to ensure the filling is completely incorporated.
  9. Roll out the puff pastry sheet so it is large enough to cover the saute pan.

  10. Cover the pan with the puff pastry and pierce several times to allow steam to escape.

  11. Bake 15-20 minutes at 450 degrees, until the top is puffed and browned and the sauce is bubbling through.

Lobster Apocalypse Part 2b: Lobster Pie - Lobster Cream Sauce

Lobster Apocalypse Part 2b: Lobster Cream Sauce
Recipe Adapted from The City Tavern Cookbook

Lobster Apocalypse Part 2a: Lobster Pie - Lobster Stock
Lobster Apocalypse Part 2c: Lobster Pie - Filling and Assembly

Yield: 2 cups
Calories per serving: Hahahaha!
Fat per serving: Don't ask.

  • 1 Cup Lobster Stock
  • 1 Cup Cream
  • 4 Tbs Butter
  • 4 Tbs Flour
  • 1 Tbs Finely chopped shallot
  • 1 Tbs Chopped Fresh Parsley
  • Large Pinch Chopped Fresh Thyme
  • Large Pinch Cayenne
  • 1 Tbs Tomato Paste
  • 2 Tbs Dry Sherry
  • Salt
  • White Pepper
Cooking Directions
  1. Melt the butter in a medium sauce pan, add the shallots and gently cook until they are softened and translucent.
  2. Add the tomato paste and whisk until the mixture is smooth.
  3. Add the flour, whisking, and cook until the roux begins to bubble. Do not allow it to color.
  4. Off heat, slowly add the lobster stock, sherry, and cream, whisking constantly. When the mixture is smooth return it to the heat.
  5. Add the remaining ingredients and bring the sauce to a boil. It should be the consistency of thick gravy. If it is too thick add more lobster stock, if too thin simmer to reduce.
  6. Season with salt a pepper to taste and set aside off heat, covered.

Lobster Apocalypse Part 2a: Lobster Pie - Lobster Stock

Lobster Apocalypse Part 2a: Lobster Stock

Recipe Adapted From The City Tavern Cookbook

Lobster Apocalypse Part 2b: Lobster Pie - Lobster Cream Sauce
Lobster Apocalypse Part 2c: Lobster Pie - Filling and Assembly

Yield: 1 Quart

  • 3 Lobster shells and heads
  • 1 Medium Onion
  • 3 stalks Celery
  • 1 Bay Leaf
  • 1 Large Tomato
  • 1 Tbs Tomato Paste
  • 1 Gallon Water

Cooking Directions
    The Vegetables
  1. Roughly chop the onion and celery and tomato.
  2. Place all ingredients in a large stock pot and bring to a boil.
  3. Almost reduced - it might take as long as 6 hours
  4. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook until the liquid is reduced to about a quart.
  5. Strain Carefully
  6. Pull out the big chunks of lobster shell and head, then strain remainder through a double layer of cheesecloth.
  7. Set the lobster stock aside, covered, for the Lobster Pie Recipe, next.


Like me you probably don't have lobster shells and heads in your freezer ready to make lobster stock at a moment's notice.  The trick is to par cook the lobsters that will go into the Lobster Pie, remove the meat, and use the rest here. To par cook the lobsters, bring a large pot of water to a boil and cook each lobster for just 3 minutes. Refrigerate the meat immediately.


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