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Making Pasta at Sur la Table Cooking Class

Making Pasta at Sur la Table Cooking Class

Last week my colleagues at work and I had a chance to attend a really fun Sur la Table cooking class, a fun kitchenware store located in the nearby mall. Most of us had never been to a cooking class before, so this was a virgin experience for me and others. It was a total blast and a great bonding experience. Plus, we made delicious Fettuccine with Tuscan Sausage and Caramelized Onion Ragu. We even made our own pasta noodles.

Fettuccine with Tuscan Sausage and Caramelized Onion Ragu

Our finished Fettuccine Ragu was delizioso!

Ultimately, we made this whole menu:

  • Classic Caesar Salad with Garlic Croutons
  • Fettuccine with Tuscan Sausage and Caramelized Onion Ragu
  • Tiramisu Gelato

(And no, this is not a sponsored post – just sharing because it was fun and delicious.)

Sur la Table Cooking Class

At the back of the store, there is a giant exhibition kitchen where the Sur la Table Cooking Class sessions are held. Judging from the look of their weekly class schedule, this is a very popular thing to do. As we arrived, the cooking school staff handed us aprons and told us to wash up. Just like mom used to say!

cooking class couple at Sur la Table

Getting ready to make Fettuccine with Tuscan Sausage and Caramelized Onion Ragu

We situated ourselves in groups at cooking stations around the room, and waited for the Chef to signal it was time to start. They may have been a little wine poured during this set-up period, and we may have had to send someone out for more bottles. Like I said, it was a bonding experience.

How to Make Tiramisu Gelato

Just the way I like it, we made dessert first. Chef explained we would start with the gelato because it needed time in the freezer to firm up. As we mixed the ingredients, I felt my arteries hardening. Main ingredients included whipping cream, egg yolks, sugar and mascarpone cheese (yum). From there, we mixed in lady fingers, Kahlua, espresso and some other goodies. There’s more to the prep, but it ended up in the freezer looking delicious.

people in kitchen at Sur la Table Cooking School

My work colleagues cooked up delicious Tiramisu Gelato at Sur la Table Cooking School

How to Make Fettuccine with Tuscan Sausage and Caramelized Onion Ragu

Ok, I’m an Italian boy so I should know how to do this right? Well, even I learned some new tricks. The caramelized onions with sherry was a nice touch, and something I haven’t done before. Of course, the making of the pasta noodles was really cool since I have never done that either. There is a great place in San Diego where I buy my fresh pasta called Assenti’s. They make many different kinds of pasta noodles, all in house and so fresh and delicious.

Sur la Table Cooking school ingredients

Another view of the ragu ingredients before we started the sauce.

For purposes of this post, let’s assume you have the noodles already.

Sausage and Carmelized Onion Ragu Recipe:

(with credit to Sur la Table and a few of my own edits)

  • 1 lb mild Italian Sausage, with casings removed
  • 2 Tbs unsalted butter
  • 2 large yellow onions, thinly sliced
  • 2 large garlic gloves, minced
  • 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 cup cream sherry
  • 1 cup low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 28-ounce can whole San Marzano tomatoes, drained and chopped, juice reserved
  • 1 Tbs minced fresh thyme
  • salt and pepper
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan-Reggiano cheese
  • 1/4 cup loosely packed fresh basil leaves, torn
  • Pasta noodles

To prepare ragu:

To a large skillet set over medium-high heat, add sausage and cook until browned, using a wooden spoon to break into pieces. Remove sausage from skillet and transfer to a paper towel-lined plate. Add butter and onions to the skillet and cook until deep golden brown, stirring often for 20-30 minutes.

ragu ingredients to make pasta sauce

As we sous chefs got ready to prep our ingredients for the ragu, Chef Douglas gave us some important instructions.

Add garlic and red pepper flakes to onions and stir. Add sherry to mixture and bring to a boil, scraping up the browned bits from the bottom of the skillet. Once sherry has reduced, add the sausage back to the skillet, and add the broth, tomatoes and thyme. Bring the mixture to a boil and then lower heat to simmer, stirring occasionally for about 20 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste.

To cook the pasta:

Chef taught us that regular dry pasta noodles have water in their recipe, which is why they turn to mush if you overcook them. Fresh pasta noodles are just flour, eggs and olive oil, and they do the opposite when overcooked – they get tougher. Fresh noodles only need 2-3 minutes to cook al dente, while dry noodles make take 8-12 minutes depending on the type. Either way, bring a salted pot of water to boil and add noodles to cook, stirring constantly to avoid sticking together. When cooked, drain the pasta and add save about a cup of the pasta water.

To serve:

Transfer the pasta to the the skillet with the ragu, and toss well with tongs. Add reserved pasta water to loosen the sauce as needed. Divide pasta among bowls, garnish with Parmesan and basil, and serve immediately.

Delicious and easy!

Fettuccine with Tuscan Sausage and Caramelized Onion Ragu

Our finished Fettuccine Ragu was delizioso!

Making Pasta Noodles

The process was fun in a group, and I enjoyed making pasta noodles together. Judging from the number of steps to make the dough, and then more steps to flatten it and cut it into strips, I don’t see this in my near future. I have the friendly Assenti Brothers to do that for me. However, I will say that fresh noodles just taste SO MUCH BETTER.

 


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Learning About the Different Cuts of Steak

Learning About the Different Cuts of Steak

*This post was sponsored by Omaha Steaks, and we are proud to be Brand Ambassadors for America’s Original Butcher.

Recently, we’ve been learning about the different cuts of steak. After spending time with the good people at Omaha Steaks at their headquarters in Omaha, we left there schooled on all the cuts of meat that qualify as different steaks in the carnivore’s repertoire. There are many nuances between one cut of steak from another. For example, why the filet mignon is so tender. Or why certain steaks are more expensive than others to butcher.

Omaha Steaks master butchers

Don’t let this friendly pose fool you. I’m holding some sharp-ass butcher knives, ready to carve this meat!

It’s eye-opening to realize how many options there are! Learning about the different cuts of steak is something best taught by a true butcher. So we went straight to the best.

America’s Original Butcher

Harkening back to the old days when people went to the butcher shop several times a week to pick up the finest meats, Omaha Steaks has introduced Custom Butcher Services. Thanks to this new service, you can connect with Omaha Steaks and order cuts of meat to your specifications and liking. Want filet mignon steaks that are 5 inches thick? No problem. Or perhaps you’d like a giant King Cut T-bone steak weighing in at 48 ounces (3 pounds of meat)? They’ve got you covered. Maybe you’re having a special party and want to serve steaks cut in the shape of the State of Texas? Absolutely can be done (and has, for a customized order recently!)

Omaha Steaks is known as America’s Original Butcher for a reason. They’ve been known for butchering the best steaks in US for more than 100 years.

Learning About the Different Cuts of Steak

Being onsite at the Omaha Steaks facilities was a huge eye-opener. The professionalism and pride each team member exhibits is so impressive and inspiring. Now I can understand why meats from Omaha Steaks are so widely respected! The quality of each cut is impeccable, and created with love. They took time to teach us about the different cuts of steak. Where the steak comes from on the cow creates big differences between them in taste and flavor. Fact is, I like them all:

Filet Mignon

Widely viewed as one of the finest cuts of steak available, filet mignon is the one you probably order in restaurants when you want to be fancy. So tender you can cut it with a fork, this cut is from a muscle area that isn’t used much.  The result is a soft and very lean cut of meat with a very mild flavor.

platters of different types of steak from Omaha Steaks

These platters display all the cuts of steak we sampled at our Steak Tasting Party.

Top Sirloin Steak

One of the top cuts and highly sought after, the Top Sirloin Steak comes from the loin area of the cow. It’s extremely lean like the filet, with a little more chew and meaty flavor. It’s usually butchered in a square-ish shape.

New York Strip Steak

Much beloved for its impressive look on the plate, the New York Strip Steak is half of a T-Bone steak. The cut on other half of the bone being the Filet). It might not be as tender as the filet, but it makes up for it in texture and flavor. The Strip also tends to be a less pricey cut than some others, but packs a lot for the money.

Ribeye Steak

The Ribeye Steak is my favorite for flavor and texture, and I guess a lot of others agree. This is one of the most popular cuts because of its marbling – the description used to describe the look of fat interspersed into the meat. This bit of fat melts in cooking, and flavors the beef like fine butter. So delicious!

Raw New York Strip Steak, Top Sirloin Steak, Filet of Prime Rib steak

The marbling in the Strip and Prime Rib steaks is very visible in comparison to the lean Top Sirloin steak.

T-Bone Steak

Mentioned earlier, a T-Bone Steak is  literally divided by a T-shaped bone. On one side on the bone is a New York Strip Steak, and the other is a Filet Mignon. This can be a large meal best suited for someone pretty darn hungry.

Flat Iron Steak

The Flat Iron Steak is best served in slices, since it can be more tough than the others but still full of flavor. The cut comes from the shoulder area, which is a pretty active muscle – thus the tougher chew. We like the sliced Flat Iron Steak in salads and stir fry dishes.

Flank Steak

A larger cut of meat, the Flank Steak can be hard to cook properly. We like it best when marinaded in lime and spices, and grilled quickly. This steak cooks fast, and should then be sliced against the grain for best enjoyment. For some reason, we love Flank Steak in the summer with corn on the cob and watermelon.

Don’t Try This at Home

While in Omaha, I even got to try my hand at butchering a steak myself! Let me tell you, it’s not as easy as those butchers make it look. An extremely sharp knife is necessary, along with the decision to cut in one fell swoop without hesitation. All that without chopping off your fingers in the process. Put that together with the pressure of cutting each piece of meat in identical and equal parts, and it becomes a highly skilled endeavor. The steak I cut was supposed to measure at 10 ounces, and mine weighed in at 15. Oops!

butchering meat with Omaha Steaks

My butchering lesson with the experts from Omaha Steaks was such a blast!

Serve It Up

After all that butchering, we were off for a field trip to the corn fields of Iowa to see the cows and their wholesome feed. To be honest, this city boy has never set foot in a real life corn field. IN IOWA NO LESS! I loved our visit to the Hough Farms.

Omaha Steaks steak and fries at farm dinner

The steak I butchered, served up with some delicious thrice-fried potatoes. Full circle from butcher’s cut to my plate!

The day ended perfectly with a barbecue on the lawns at the farmhouse. Omaha Steaks chefs had cooked up the steaks we had cut for ourselves earlier, and boy were they delicious. I’m not sure whether it was the quality of that cut of meat, or my expert butchering (ha!). For whatever reason, that was just about the best steak I have ever tasted.

Host a Steak Tasting Party!

Here’s a fun idea – host a steak tasting party for your friends and family. We just had a dinner party at our house with some friends, and I ordered five different cuts of steak from Omaha Steaks Custom Butchers Services. They worked with me over the phone, creating the perfect order by customizing the size and cut of each steak to fit my needs. Out friends had a blast tasting each kind of steak, and comparing the flavors, textures and favorites. Here are some details about our Steak Tasting Party, if you’d like to host your own.

people sampling steak at steak tasting party hosted by Omaha Steaks

Our friends dug right into tasting the various cuts of steak to determine their favorites.

Now I know what to order from the custom butchers services at Omaha Steaks. How about you?

 


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Italian Stuffed Zucchini Recipe

Italian Stuffed Zucchini Recipe

My mom was a resourceful cook, creating delicious meals with limited resources. She grew up in a poor family of Sicilian immigrants, and learned to cook from my nana by adapting recipes from the Old Country to more modern American ingredients. Mom taught me many of her secrets, and I’m happy to share with you one of our family favorites – Italian Stuffed Zucchini Recipe.

preparing globe zucchini for stuffing

Any type of zucchini can be used, and we like globe zucchinis because they look so cool.

 

Summer is the perfect time to make this dish, since zucchini is in abundance at farmers markets and backyard vegetable gardens. Although you can make this recipe with any type of zucchini, I found the globe zucchini variety at our local Little Italy Mercato. They are fun to hollow out and use as natural cups to hold all the cheesy goodness.

Italian Stuffed Zucchini Recipe

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Start with four good size zucchini. Whether you have globe zucchini or the regular type, hollow them out like you would a pumpkin at Halloween. Set aside the insides – we will use them in the recipe.

stuffed globe zucchini

Hollowing out globe zucchinis, we stuff them with a mixture of sausage, mushrooms, cheese and other goodness.

 

Mom would plop the hollowed zucchini in a pot of boiling water for 2-3 minutes to soften them. I have skipped this step once or twice when making this dish. It really depends on whether you want to enjoy the finished product with a knife and fork, or more softened like a casserole.

Gather the following ingredients:

  • 4 zucchini (globe or regular)
  • 1 lb. Italian sausage (best freshly made from the butcher)
  • 1 large yellow onion, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, finely diced
  • 2 T. olive oil
  • 2 medium (or 1 large) portobello mushroom, cubed
  • 1 cup bread crumbs (mom made her own but who has time for that?!?)
  • 1 cup grated mozzarella cheese (I used a mix of Italian cheeses readymade from Trader Joe’s)
  • 1/2 cup romano cheese
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tbs chopped parsley
  • 2 tbs chopped basil
  • salt and pepper to taste

 

portobello mushroom ingredients

Any mushrooms can be used in this recipe, and we prefer portobellos for their flavor and flair.

 

Take the sausage out of its casing, crumble and fry in a pan with oil, onions and garlic. Add mushroom and insides of zucchini, cooking until just tender. Combine the sausage mixture in a bowl with bread crumbs, egg parsley, basil, salt and pepper. Stuff the zucchini until heaping, and place in a greased baking dish.

Bake at 350 degrees for about 125-30 minutes or until tender.

caprese salad with heirloom tomatoes

As a nice side dish, we love to serve sliced heirloom tomatoes topped with buffalo mozzarella and chopped fresh basil.

Serve with a dash of parmesan cheese and a sprinkle of fresh basil.

 

rototilling the vegetable garden 1971

Mom was willing to tackle anything when I was growing up, including this rototiller sesh getting our vegetable patch ready for planting zucchini and more.