Goodby summer…There’s no better way to celebrate the end of summer than with an indulgent lobster roll! Whether it’s served as a Labor Day celebration lunch or dinner your family and guests will love them.… More
A few weeks ago Jack & I were visiting family in Cary, NC, to celebrate my great-grandson’s 5th birthday. Julian was excited to show me how he swims in the big community pool so, off we went. After sunscreen, earplugs & swim arms, he was ready to have fun. All the while I was a little distracted by the amazing aroma of grilling taking place to my right at one of the grill stations nearby. I could see chicken and steak on the grill which made my mouth start watering. I had to investigate! I then had the pleasure of meeting Dwayne & Sylvia Pearce. Dwayne is the Grill Master but quickly confessed that it’s his wife Sylvia’s homemade rub that makes the food delicious. It was very evident to me that Dwayne was enjoying every moment at the grill in spite of the 90º temperature outside. Their generosity extended to me a sampling of their chicken drumsticks and I was hooked! The chicken was grilled to perfection, full of spicy flavor, and very moist. Like many accomplished cooks, Sylvia uses a little of this and a little of that until the taste is just the way they like it. Thanks so much to Sylvia & Dwayne for sharing your good nature, spice rub ingredients, and chicken with me. I love it!
Sylvia Pearce's Spicy Dry Rub for Chicken
- Small mixing bowl or plastic zip-lock bag
- Measuring spoons
- 3 tbsp garlic powder
- 1 tbsp sweet or smoked paprika
- 1 tbsp Adobe seasoning
- 1 packet Sazon seasoning
- 1 1/2 tsp jerk seasoning (if using jerk in a jar, omit the brown sugar)
- 1 tbsp brown sugar
- 1/2 tsp cayene pepper
- 1 pinch black pepper
- Mix all of the above ingredients and blend well.
- Using paper towels, pat dry your chicken, then generously rub the spicy dry rub on both sides.
- Heat your grill to medium-high then lightly oil the grates.
- Place the chicken on the grill and grill for about 10 minutes on each side or until the chicken reaches an internal temperature of 165 degrees for dark meat or 160 degrees for white meat.
- Rest at least 5 minutes before serving.
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As children, we knew it was Sunday just by waking to the aromas permeating throughout the house! The onions & garlic sauteing, the browning of the sausages, pork pieces, braciole, and meatballs. On the counter were the cans of tomatoes waiting to be added to bring together our family’s Sunday meat sauce…brings back the best childhood memories of our family’s ritual of making the Sunday sauce or gravy as our Neopolitan Mom and Grandma Florence called it.
It was a time for the whole family to sit down together, enjoy delicious food while catching up with everyone’s life, and we always laughed a lot. With some of us moving to different parts of the country we miss that weekly gathering. To this day, we still make our sauce the very same way. Like any family favorites, we think ours is the Best! So when family members come to visit we recreate those special Sunday dinners and we all just love being together again.
Twiins Family Favorite Sunday Meat Sauce & Pasta Dinner
- 8-qt stockpot, or larger
- 12" frying pan for meatballs, or larger
- large bowl to mix meatball mixture
- small bowl to soak bread for meatballs
- Large platter to serve meat
- Large Pasta Bowl
- 3 (28 oz cans) San Marzano Whole Tomatoes
- 1 (24.5 oz jar) Mutti Tomato Puree
- 2 (6 oz cans) Hunt's Tomato Paste with basil, garlic & oregano
- 2 Tablespoons EVOO
- 1 large Onion, diced
- 12 large Garlic cloves, minced the more the better
- 1 lb. Italian Hot Sausage links about 5 links
- 1 lb. Italian Sweet Sausage links about 5 links
- 4 Country Ribs
- 1/2 tsp Dried Oregano
- 4-5 Fresh Basil Leaves
- 36 Meatballs see The Best Napoletana Meatballs recipe
- 1 loaf Italian Bread warmed
- Pecorino Romano Cheese optional
- Whole Milk Ricotta optional
- Fresh Basil Leaves chopped or ribbons for garnish, optional
- Add a drizzle of EVOO to 8 qt stock pot and brown all sausages & ribs (it may take 2 batches to complete).
- Once browned, remove meat and place in a deep bowl. Set aside.
- Add 2 Tablespoons EVOO to the already hot remaining oil & fond in the stockpot (fond is all the wonderful browned pieces of meat that stick to the bottom of the pot). Once the EVOO is hot enough, add diced onion & saute on medium-low heat until they start to carmelize.
- Add the minced garlic, fresh basil leaves, 1/2 tsp dried oregano, and stir. Saute until fragrant, about 1 minute.
- Add the 2 cans of Hunt's tomato paste. Mix well and cook for about 1 minute. Add the San Marzano Whole Tomatoes. Break up the tomatoes with a fork. The tomatoes will cook down after 4 hours. Add the bottle of Mutti tomato puree then combine well.
- Add the sausages and country ribs to the sauce and stir well. Continue cooking sauce on a low simmer for 3-4 hours until ribs and sausages are very tender or start to fall apart.
- Prepare the meatball mixture (The Best Napoletana Meatballs recipe). Shape mixture into 1 ½-inch round meatballs (or whatever size you prefer). In a large frying pan pour in enough canola oil to a depth of 1/2-inch. Heat the oil until hot. Add the meatballs and brown on both sides on medium heat. Remove and place in a bowl until 20 minutes before the sauce is done. Don't worry if there are too many meatballs for one dinner. They can be cooked and frozen for another meal or make some delicious meatball parm heroes the next day.
- 20 minutes before the sauce is done, add the meatballs and stir gently. Continue on a low simmer for 20 minutes.
- Once you add the meatballs to the sauce, bring a large pot of water to a boil, add a good amount of salt to the boiling water, then add the pasta and cook according to package directions.
- In the meantime, remove all the meat from the saucepot once the meatballs have simmered for 20 minutes in the sauce. Place in a large bowl or platter. After cooking the sauce for 4 hours (or more) the whole tomatoes break down however you can use an immersion blender to smooth it out if you don't like tiny pieces of tomato in your sauce.
- Drain the pasta and pour a ladle or two of the sauce on top. Place pasta in a large, deep bowl. Portion out the pasta on individual plates with a meatball, sausage, or piece of rib meat (or all three!)
- In our family, we top each plate with a dollop of whole milk ricotta, grated Pecorino Romano cheese, and some chopped fresh basil leaves. Serve with warmed crusty sesame seed Italian bread & butter.
After making this delicious dinner many, many times we decided to add some Kalamata olives for a little extra color. What a wonderful addition! Not only did it add color but the olives added a little brininess to the Mediterranean flavor! Below is the original posting now with the addition of the olives. See Notes below for Gluten-free options.
While relaxing on my front porch after repotting some plants today, Teresa pulled up with some cod for tonight’s dinner. Cod is one of those fish that takes on the flavor of whatever you season it with making a Mediterranean-style dinner absolutely delicious. We were wondering what we had on hand to make with it and I found a half-full jar of pearl couscous! We had some grape tomatoes, plenty of garlic, onions, & feta cheese, along with a garden full of fresh herbs. We set about making dinner. We’ve said this before and it’s very true…some of the best dinners we make are thrown together with what we have on hand. This dinner turned out fabulous…we were counting on leftovers but NONE were to be had!
Mediterranean-Style Cod over Couscous
- Large deep skillet with cover
- Large rimmed baking sheet
- Large skillet with cover
- 2½ pounds fresh cod fillets
- salt & pepper to taste
- garlic powder to sprinkle lightly over fish
- 1 sprig fresh greek oregano chopped (approximately 1 Tablespoon)
- 2- pint cherry or grape tomatoes
- 6-8 large cloves of garlic peeled and left whole
- EVOO to drizzle over fish and tomatoes & garlic
- 3 ounces Kalamata Olives pitted & cut in half
- 1¾ cups pearl couscous also known as Israeli couscous
- 2¾ cup chicken broth
- 1 large sweet onion roughly chopped
- 6-8 large cloves garlic peeled & minced
- 10 oz fresh baby spinach a few large handfuls
- salt & pepper to taste
- 6 ounces Feta cheese we use President's Chunk
- In a large skillet add the Israeli/pearl couscous to a dry, hot skillet. Gently stir to prevent burning. After a few minutes, the couscous will start to brown. Do not burn. Not all the couscous will brown & that's ok.
- Add the chicken stock, cover, lower heat, and simmer about 15-18 minutes until liquid is absorbed. Remove from heat, cover, and set aside.
- In a large, deep skillet, saute the onions until they start to caramelize then add garlic & cook another minute. Add the spinach and cook until wilted. Sprinkle with salt & pepper.
- Add the cooked onions, garlic, & spinach to the couscous. Stir well. Cover and set aside until fish is done.
- Line a large rimmed baking sheet with a piece of parchment paper or aluminum foil. Turn oven to broil. Once hot, reduce the oven temperature to 425º.
- Wash tomatoes then coat them along with the whole cloves of garlic (skin on) with 1-2 Tablespoons of EVOO. Sprinkle with salt. Combine well. Place on a lined baking sheet.
- Place baking sheet on the top oven rack and bake for 15-20 minutes at 425ºF, until tomatoes blister & garlic is soft.
- Remove from the oven when done. Using a fork or a wooden spoon, smash the garlic. Take half the tomatoes plus the juice and garlic then add to couscous, mixing well.
- Just before serving, crumble & add the Feta cheese & Kalamata olives to the couscous and combine.
- Using the same rimmed baking sheet, drizzle EVOO and arrange the pieces of cod on the sheet. Sprinkle with garlic powder, salt & pepper, chopped fresh greek oregano. Drizzle lightly with EVOO and place on center rack of 425º oven.
- Cook 10-16 minutes, depending on the thickness of cod until it's opaque & flakes.
- To serve, place cooked couscous mixture on a serving platter and top with fish fillets. Sprinkle with remaining blistered tomatoes & garlic. Garnish with sprigs of fresh oregano or thyme.
Clear Soup with Mushrooms & Scallions
- 8 quart stockpot
- 2 tsp toasted sesame oil
- 8 cups chicken broth
- 4 cups beef broth
- 4 cups water
- 2 large sweet onions cut into 12 wedges
- 4-5 large garlic cloves smashed
- 3 inch piece fresh ginger sliced
- 4-5 whole scallions (green onions) sliced thin (green & white parts)
- 10-12 Baby Bella mushrooms sliced very thin
- salt to taste
- French's fried onion pieces
- Heat a large 8 quart stock pot until water makes a "pish" sound. The pot is then hot enough to add the sesame oil.
- When the sesame oil is hot enough it will show striations on the bottom surface. Add the onion wedges, ginger slices and carrot chunks until all surfaces are lightly charred. Add the garlic and cook additional 1 minute but don't burn.
- Add the chicken, beef broths and water. Bring to a boil then simmer on low for about an hour.
- Use a strainer to remove the vegetables and toss them or use elsewhere; however, they will be very soft.
- Serve into individual soup bowls with a ladle or two of hot broth. Add some thinly sliced mushroms and scallions. Top with a few fried onions and enjoy!
Spaghetti Squash Beef Lasagna - Twiins Style - Gluten-Free
You will not believe this healthy lasagna is as satisfying as the traditional one made with lasagna noodles, but it definitely is! It is filled with a blend of creamy ricotta, mozzarella, Pecorino Romano, basil & is layered with ground beef as well as our homemade tomato sauce. You build the layers just like traditional lasagna only replace the noodles with cooked & seasoned spaghetti squash & topped with sliced mozzarella. This dish has it all...can be made ahead, freezer friendly and perfect for a crowd. Our family loves it and so will yours. Enjoy!
- 2 med to large spaghetti squash (cut lengthwise and seeded)
- light drizzle of EVOO over each half of the squash before seasoning & baking.
- dried oregano to sprinkle over squash before baking
- salt & pepper to sprinkle over squash before baking
- garlic powder to sprinkle over squash before baking
- 2 lbs. ground beef (85/15 or leaner)
- 1/2 onion, diced
- 4-6 large cloves garlic, smashed
- 32 ounces whole milk ricotta
- 3/4 cup grated Locatelli cheese (Pecorino Romano)
- 16 ounces whole milk mozzarella, shredded or leave some slices for top layer
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- 2 Tablespoons fresh basil, chopped (or 2 tsp dried)
- 2-3 cups prepared tomato sauce
- Preheat oven to 425ºF.
- Cut spaghetti squash in half, lengthwise & remove seeds.
- Lightly drizzle each half with EVOO then season with salt, pepper, dried oregano & garlic powder (the more the tastier). Place each half face down onto foiled baking sheet and bake until soft when touched (about 30-40 minutes)
- While the squash is baking, heat a large skillet. When the pan is hot add the ground beef and brown. Add the smashed garlic and onions and cook until softened.
- Drain fat and set aside in a medium bowl.
- In a large bowl, combine ricotta, half the shredded mozzarella, 1/2 cup grated Pecorino Romano cheese, salt & pepper and 1 tsp garlic powder. Mix well then add chopped basil. combine and set aside.
- Removed the squash from the oven when soft and let cool. Once cool use 2 forks to shred it then add to a colander to drain excess liquid. Set aside until ready to layer your lasagna.
- Lower oven temperature to 350ºF.
- In a lasagna pan or casserole dish, place a light layering of tomato sauce. Take enough forkfuls of shredded squash and place on top of sauce. Spready evenly. Sprinkle with some grated Pecorino Romano.
- Layer half of the ricotta mixture and spread evenly.
- Layer with cooked ground beef mixture. Sprinkle with grated Pecorino Romano.
- Add tomato sauce to cover lightly. Sprinkle with grated Pecorino Romano.
- Repeat for the second layer and top with remaining shredded or sliced mozzarella.
- Sprinkle with Locatelli cheese, then a try light drizzle of EVOO on top.
- Bake about 30 minutes or until cheese melts.
- Best served with a nice Italian salad on the side.
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Creamy Chicken Florentine with Garlic & Mushrooms - Twiins Style
Our family went wild over this meal! They loved it so much not a morsel was left, not even a single strand of linguine! This amazing dinner is a quick and easy, one-skillet meal that you'll have on the table in less than 30 minutes. Your family or guests will think you slaved all day in the kitchen just for them. It's a win-win for sure. Using pre-sliced gourmet blends of mushrooms makes preparation a snap. The silky smooth creamy sauce will have your family requesting it every week. Buon Appetito!
- 4 boneless chicken thighs, skinless
- 8 chicken tenders
- 2-4 Tablespoons EVOO
- salt & pepper (season chicken)
- garlic powder (season chicken)
- 12 ounces fresh sliced gourmet blend mushrooms (shitake, oyster, & baby Bella)
- 6 Tablespoons butter
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 1½ Tablespoons flour (we used Gluten-free)
- 3/4 cups chicken broth
- 1¼ cups half & half
- 3/4 cups grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
- 1/4 cup grated Pecorino Romano
- 1/2 tsp dried tarragon
- 10-20 ounces fresh baby spinach (use a minimum of 10-oz)
- 1/2 tsp garlic powder
- 1/4 tsp black pepper
- 1/2 tsp salt
- Reserve 1 cup cooked pasta water
- If you are serving over pasta now is the time to fill your pot with water & bring it to a boil, then add salt to the water.
- Season both sides of chicken pieces with salt, pepper, & garlic powder to taste.
- In a large skillet heat the EVOO on medium heat. Add the chicken thighs and brown on both sides until the chicken is cooked and no longer pink. Remove from skillet & set aside. Add the chicken tenderloins and brown on both sides until no longer pink. Remove from skillet & add to plate of cooked chicken thighs.
- Add mushrooms to skillet & cook until softened, about 3-5 minutes. Stir several times. Remove from skillet & set aside.
- Melt the butter in the skillet add minced garlic & tarragon. Saute for 1 minute.
- Using a whisk add the flour to the skillet & whisk continuously until starts to thicken.
- Add chicken broth, half & half, & both grated cheeses. Stir well.
- Add the baby spinach and cook until wilted & sauce thickens.
- Add back the mushrooms & all chicken, cover & low simmer for about 5-10 minutes.
- Remove chicken to a platter. Don’t drain the pasta…using a pasta ladle or tongs simply scoop all the pasta from the pot of water into the sauce & mix well. If needed add an additional 1/4 – 1/2 cup of the reserved pasta water to the sauce.
- Serve or over your favorite pasta with a side salad. Buon Appetito!
Note: Chicken cutlets may be used in place of tenders & thighs.
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Baked Stuffed Eggplant & Sardines
Not everyone likes sardines but Teresa and I love them! To be honest, when my husband & son heard I was making sardines & eggplant they made some weird faces. I told them that's what I was cooking so they could either join me or cook for themselves! The combination of eggplant, sardines, garlic, onions, and tomatoes was making my mouth water. This dish doesn't have a strong 'fishy' taste at all but the flavor is reminiscent of Sicilian cuisine. My son had one request; please add some tomato sauce to it. Since I didn't have any made I whipped up a quick sauce using Italian stewed tomatoes, tomato paste, garlic & oil. At first, their faces were very skeptical and then they took their first bites. I'm pretty sure they didn't want to say they liked it, but those weird faces turned to smiles and both wanted to split the 4th eggplant, which I immediately said 'NO', it's mine and Teresa's lunch for tomorrow! Moral of the story: never be afraid to cook what comes into your head because it just might be a new family favorite...you never know. Enjoy!
- 2 (4.375 oz) cans skinless boneless sardines in olive oil, drained and flaked
- 2 large eggplants, cut in half lengthwise (leave stems on)
- 1/3 cup EVOO
- 1 Tablespoon EVOO
- 1 ½ large sweet onions, diced
- 4-6 large cloves garlic, minced
- 1 (14 ounce) cans Hunt’s Italian style diced tomatoes
- 1 Tablespoons Hunt’s Italian style tomato paste with garlic & basil
- 2 Tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
- 1 Tablespoon dried oregano (more or less to taste, fresh oregano may be substituted.)
- 1/4 cup grated Locatelli cheese (Pecorino Romano)
- 8 ounces mozzarella cheese, shredded
- 1 cup Quick Tomato Sauce (any homemade or jar sauce is fine) more if you are serving with pasta
- Preheat oven to 375ºF.
- Cut eggplants in half, lengthwise with the stem attached. Score the flesh in a criss-cross pattern being careful not to cut through the skins.
- In a large skillet on medium heat, heat 1/3 cup oil then lower heat. Add the eggplant, flesh down. Cover and cook until completely softened but not falling apart. About 10 minutes. Carefully flip over and cook until soft, about 5 minutes more. You may have to do this in 2 batches if your skillet isn’t large enough.
- When done, let cool in a separate dish. Once cooled, leaving a 1/8-inch border, gently scoop eggplant flesh into a bowl and chop. Lightly drizzle some EVOO on the bottom of a baking dish and place the eggplant shells gently inside, close to each other to support them from flattening.
- In the same pan, add the 1 Tablespoon EVOO and saute onions for about 6-7 minutes on medium heat. Add all remaining ingredients including the chopped eggplant & flaked sardines, except the grated Locatelli and mozzarella cheeses. Remove from heat and combine well.
- Sprinkle with Locatelli cheese, shredded mozzarella cheese then top with 1 or 2 spoonfuls of quick sauce down the middle, again sprinkle with shredded mozzarella cheese again. Bake about 5-10 minutes or until cheese melts.
- Serve by itself or over your favorite pasta!
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Quick Tomato Sauce - Twiins Style
Don’t have time to make a pot of tomato sauce? This quick and easy sauce can be made in no time at all with staple ingredients from your pantry.
- 1 (14.5 ounce) can Italian stewed tomatoes
- 1 Tablespoon EVOO
- 2 frozen Dorot garlic cubes
- 2 Tablespoons Hunt’s Italian style tomato paste with garlic & basil
- 1/2 tsp dried Italian seasoning (more or less to taste)
- Immersion blender
- In a small saucepan on medium heat, heat the oil and add the garlic cubes. Sauté until fragrant, about a minute.
- Add tomato paste and stir well for a minute. Add the stewed tomatoes and stir well until the tomato paste is blended.
- Add 1/2 tsp dried Italian seasoning and simmer for 10 minutes. Using an immersion blender right in the saucepan, purée the tomato mixture and simmer another 5-10 minutes.
Note: Makes enough sauce for our Baked Stuffed Eggplant & Sardines (4) plus a few spoonfuls to top spaghetti.
Pantry & Freezer Staples:
2 cans stewed tomatoes, plain or Italian style, preferably Hunt’s
2 cans diced tomatoes, plain or Italian style, preferably Hunt’s
2 cans tomato paste, preferably Hunt’s with garlic & basil
1 tray Dorot’s frozen garlic cubes (you can get these at Target and most Harris Teeter grocery stores)
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Orecchiette with Veal Chorizo
This recipe was actually a wonderful accident. I defrosted a pound of ground veal only to realize when I started to cook it that it was ground veal chorizo (quite spicy) Well it turned out pretty good and my family enjoyed it so here it is. Enjoy!
- 1 lb ground veal chorizo (spicy and gives a nice reddish color to the sauce)
- 2 tablespoons EVOO
- 1 large onion, finely minced
- 1 large clove garlic, minced
- salt & pepper to taste
- 1 ½ cups chicken stock
- 1/2 cup dry white wine
- 2 Tablespoons capers (optional)
- 1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
- 1 tsp chopped thyme
- 1/2 tsp rosemary, chopped
- 1/2 tsp fresh parsley, chopped
- 12 ounces orecchiette pasta
- 2 Tablespoons butter
- In a large deep skillet, heat EVOO. Add the onion and minced garlic. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring frequently, until soft, about 4-6 minutes.
- Raise heat to high. Add the ground veal then season with salt & pepper. Cook until veal is fully cooked and no longer pink, about 7-8 minutes. Any juices from the veal should be evaporated.
- Add the white wine. Bring to a boil. Boil until almost evaporated, about 4-5 minutes. Add the chicken stock, thyme, rosemary, and optional capers then simmer over medium-low heat until reduced by half, about 10 minutes.
- Cook the orecchiette according to package directions. Reserve 1/4 cup pasta liquid before draining well. Add the pasta to the skillet. Add the Parmigiano=Reggiano cheese, chopped parsley, and butter. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring frequently until the sauce is thick and creamy, about 1-2 minutes. If too dry, add a little of the reserved pasta water until the consistency desired.
- Serve right away with some crusty bread and Enjoy!
Note: You can add vegetables of your choice to make this a one-pan meal.
Recipe adapted from Quentin Bacon.