Grill Masters:: Smoked Branzino

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It’s officially grilling season, and with Fourth of July this weekend, why not take your grilling to a new level and try your hand at grilled Branzino?

Branzino is flaky and subtle, and it takes on flavors quite well. I love to smoke it with rosemary from our garden. The results are a buttery smokey flavor with a soft and melt in your mouth texture. It’s a great summer recipe and the flavors could be translated to other fish types as well. Let me know if you give it a try!

Smoked Branzino
Serves 4

You will need:
– 3  whole cleaned Branzino about 2 lbs
– 3 lemons
– 2 tablespoons fresh thyme
– 1 large bunch of fresh rosemary on the stems
– 2 tablespoons fresh rosemary chopped coarsely
– 1 tablespoon salt
– 3 tablespoons olive oil

To prepare:

Have your fishmonger gut and clean the fish. Rinse under cold water, pat dry and set aside.

In a glass dish place fish and coat with thyme, rosemary, salt and oil, squeeze 1 lemon over the fish and massage into the fish. Place in the fridge for 1 hour.

Start the fire, after coals are white, (about 1 hour) pull the fish from the fridge place on the grill, place the large bunch of rosemary next to the fish and close the lid of the grill. Smoke should start forming, do not open the grill for 5 minutes. This will ensure the smoky flavor permeates the fish.

After 5 minutes, gently turn the fish to cook the other side. Add more rosemary if the rosemary has burned. Cook for 10 minutes uncovered. Watching to make sure the fish doesn’t burn.

Remove and garnish with lemon slices and serve warm.

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Comfort Food:: Meatless Lasagna

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I am sure you are, like me, relying heavily on meals that make you feel good from the inside out. Food is comforting, especially in these uncertain times. One of those meals for me is my meatless lasagna. It’s the quintessential comfort food.

This recipe makes a large portion of lasagna, so plan to serve it again for lunches and dinners, or divide it into two baking dishes and leave one for a neighbor on their porch. We could all use a little surprise these days. Enjoy!

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Meatless Lasagna
Serves 12-14

You will need:
– 1 package lasagna noodles (you will need 12 noodles)
– 3 tablespoons olive oil
– 2 cloves of garlic finely minced
– 2 cups mushrooms cut into thin slices
– 6 cups Spinach
– 1 16.oz ricotta ( low fat is fine)
– 2 cups shredded Mozzarella cheese (reserve 1 cup for the topping)
– 1 egg
– 1 teaspoon dried oregano
– 1 1/2 cups grated Parmesan cheese (reserve ½ cup for the topping)
– 1 16 oz jar prepared marinara sauce (or your own sauce recipe)

To prepare noodles:

Preheat Oven 400 degrees F

Prepare noodles according to manufacturer’s instructions.

Note: once the noodles are cooked, I like to rinse them in cool water and then leave them in the water until I am ready to layer the pan, this makes them not stick together.

To prepare filling:

Combine the ricotta, 2 cups of mozzarella cheese, and the 1 cup Parmesan cheese, oregano and egg in a bowl and combine until smooth. Set aside.

In a saute pan, add oil, garlic and mushrooms. Saute until browned, then toss in the spinach and saute the spinach and mushrooms until all the moisture in the pan has evaporated. You want the mixture as dry as possible.

To layer:

Separate the noodles in the water some of them may have stuck together, then drain in a colander. I like to line up my fillings and the noodles.

In a lasagna pan (9”x13)” lay in the layer of noodles, 3 to 4 is perfect. Then add the sauce about (1/2 cup), the spinach mushroom filling, and then dollops of the ricotta filling (about 3 tablespoon dollops), finishing off the layer with a sprinkle of shredded Mozzarella ( about 1/2 cup). Repeat this process 3 times, each time starting with the noodle layer. The top layer should be the noodles, sauce and the 1 cup of Mozzarella and ½ cup of Parmesan make sure to cover the entire top layer.

Bake in the oven for 40 minutes at 400 degrees F. Let it set up for 15-20 minutes before serving.

xx Annette

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My Pantry Staples

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It. has. been. a crazy week. Well for me, it’s been a crazy few weeks. As most of you know by now from following me on Instagram, Frank and I went to Italy only to return a few days later. We immediately went into self-quarantine and have been at home ever since.

While it’s not entirely what we had in mind, it has given me time to work on recipe testing for the new La Fortezza cookbook. It’s also inspired me to think creatively about meal planning.

A few years ago, I posted my pantry staples, and I cannot think of a better time to repost that post than right now. Use this guide to order your groceries to be delivered. I even include a few recipe ideas at the bottom!

Over the next few weeks, I’ll be bringing you more Easter ideas along with a few faithful recipes to get us all through this difficult time. We’re all in this together.

Annette’s Pantry Must-haves

– Tomatoes, crushed and sundried
– Organic Marinara Sauce
– Pimientos
– Olives
– Beans, white, black and pinto
– Artichokes
– Capers
– Dijon mustard
– Salsa
– Pasta
– Soba noodles
– Rice
– Couscous
– Polenta
– Broth, veggie and chicken
– Flavored oils, garlic, sesame and lemon
– Balsamic vinegar
– Soy Sauce
– Salts, truffle and garlic
– Dried spices, parsley, basil, curry powder
– Honey, flavored with truffles
– Jam, raspberry, fig, apricot, lemon curds
– Nuts, walnuts and almonds
– Crackers
– Popcorn, microwavable
– Tortilla chipa
– Flour
– Sugar
– Baking powder
– Corn starch
– Vanilla
– Spices such as cinnamon
– Chocolate chips
– Graham crackers

Fridge and Freezer:
– Eggs
– Parm cheese
– Soft cheese
– Fresh garlic
– Onion
– Lettuce
– White wine
– Veggies
– Chicken
– Ground beef, turkey or buffalo
– Salmon
– Tuna

Quick Appetizers
– Olives
– Popcorn with truffle flavored salt
– Baked artichoke spread, artichoke, parm cheese, garlic salt, Dijon mustard, olive oil serve w/crackers
– White and black bean salad, with pimento, stir in salsa
– Salsa and chips
– Parm cheese with honey and crackers or jam and crackers
– Salmon with capers with dried parsley, and lemon oil and crackers
– Artichoke and egg, frittata
– Soft cheese with salsa ( pineapple or mango) and crackers

Quick Dinners
*I serve all of these with a salad with balsamic, olive oil and salt and pepper*

– Pasta with lemon-flavored olive oil, and crushed nuts, with dried basil
– Pasta, sun-dried tomato and chopped olives, and parm
– 3 Bean soup with balsamic vinegar reduction.
– Couscous with tomato and artichoke and pimento, almonds, with dried basil, with a pinch of cinnamon, served with baked basil, garlic salt and mustard rubbed chicken.
– Chicken with rice, sliced almonds, dried basil and chicken stock.
– Chicken and tortilla chips with salsa and rice, chicken broth
– Curry Chicken and rice soup
– Soba noodles and sesame sauce, frozen edamame
– Baked Polenta, with marinara sauce, parm cheese
– Chili, with turkey, beans, tomatoes, garlic, and chicken stock. serve with tortilla chips and salsa

xx Annette

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Butternut Squash Soup

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One of my favorite ways to make sure I’m getting all of the vegetables I need is making a big pot of soup, especially in the winter when days are short and often dreary. This time of year, butternut squash is prevalent in markets and grocery stores. You can even buy it already cubed! Scoop up some squash on your next trip to the store, and create this lovely, vegetable dense, soup. It’s a crowd pleaser for the entire family!

Butternut Squash Soup
Serves 8

You will need:

– 1 cup cubed butternut squash
– 1 cup rough chopped yellow onion
– 1 cup cubed carrots
– 1 cup cubed celery
– 1 cup cubed parsnips
– 1/2 cup cubed baby red potatoes
– 1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
– 2 cups kale, shredded
– 1/4 cup olive oil
– 1 15 oz can of white beans
– 1 quart organic vegetable stock
– salt and pepper

To prepare:

Peel and cube squash, onion, carrots, celery, parsnips, and red potato into 1-inch cubes.

Put the vegetables in a heavy cast iron pot, except the kale and white beans.

Saute all the vegetables in the olive oil until the vegetables are soft and the onion is translucent  (about 15 minutes). Then add the kale, beans and stock, and stir until blended.  Season mixture with salt and pepper.

Simmer on low heat for 1.5 hours.

To serve:

Serve this soup with crusty bread and a spinach, apple, walnut salad with blue cheese crumbles and balsamic vinaigrette.

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Chinese Hot and Sour Soup

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One of the ways to keep a January detox interesting is to include amazing, flavorful dishes on your menu. If you ever crave some really bold flavors like I do, try this Asian inspired sweet and sour soup by Fuss-Free Cooking. It really hits the mark. Enjoy it below!

Chinese Hot Sour Soup
Serves 4

You will need:

– 1 tbsp oil
– 2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
– 25g (0.8 ounce/ about 6-7  mushrooms) shitake mushrooms, sliced
– 1/2 tsp dried chili flakes *adjust to taste*
– 3 fresh tomatoes, roughly diced
– 2 cups of chopped kale ( I used the curly variety)
– 1 cup frozen corn kernels
– 4 cup low sodium chicken broth (you can use vegetable broth also)
– A dash of soy sauce *adjust to taste; you may need more if you make your own broth*
– 1 tbsp sesame oil (you can add more if you prefer a stronger scent)
– 2 dashes of white ground pepper
– 3 tbsps cornstarch
– 1/2 cup cold water
– 2 eggs, beaten
– Spring onions, chopped for garnish *optional*

To prepare:

In a large pot (or a wok), heat up a tablespoon of cooking oil and then add mushrooms, garlic and chili flakes. Saute over low heat until the garlic becomes aromatic. Add kale, tomatoes and sweet corn and stir to combine with the fragrant ingredients. Pour the broth into the vegetable mixture and let it simmer with a lid on over high heat until it starts to boil. Turn the flame over to the low and simmer for another 10 minutes after the broth reaches its boiling point. In the meantime, mix the cornstarch with cold water. Remove the lid. Over high heat and while the soup is bubbling vigorously, add the cornstarch mixture and stir to combine with the soup. The soup will thicken as it boils. Keep it boiling until it reaches your desired consistency. Then gradually pour the beaten eggs into the soup in a circular motion (rather streaming the egg in one spot). Allow the eggs to be fully cooked before you start stirring the soup. This is to ensure the eggs do not cloud the soup and they should appear ribbon-like. Stir in the sesame oil, soy sauce and white pepper. Serve immediately.

Soup recipe and photo from Fuss-Free Cooking.

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