Pleasing the Masses at Holiday Dinner aka Baked Ziti Rocks the Dining Room September 10, 2013

Filed Under: food chatter,italian seasoning - Sue Fuirst @ 8:37 pm
Tags: , ,

Not everyone I know says, “Yay, Sue is cooking!”   Some add a bit more sarcasm to their “yay”.  This is often the case with my holiday dinners. Not everyone I know appreciates artisanal ingredients and the deglazing of pans.  Some even find my cooking a bit highfalutin.  So, how do I keep from repeatedly alienating them?  This year I gave my family a High Holiday surprise.  Amid the good china and fine crystal, the expensive appetizer, traditional brisket and kugel, just as everyone was ready to groan, expecting showy salmon or boring chicken, I brought out baked ziti.  Yes, baked ziti.  There were audible cheers from the kids and sighs of relief from the less ambitious eaters.

A few things to note: 1.  Don’t try this at home if you keep kosher – duh.  2.  This will not, I repeat, not, become an annual tradition. 3.  No, I didn’t “ruin” the ziti this time, as my children claim I frequently do, by adding spinach, mushrooms, broccoli or any other nutritionally redeeming ingredient.

Simple baked ziti pleasing the masses.


baked ziti


2 28-ounce cans crushed or chopped tomatoes

2 Tablespoons Basics Fuirst Italian Seasoning

24 ounces ricotta cheese

4 cups shredded mozzarella cheese

½ cup grated Parmesan chesse

1 egg, lightly beaten

16-oz ziti, cooked as per directions on box

Preheat oven to 350º. Grease a large casserole dish.

Place tomatoes in a large saucepan over a medium flame.  Add 1½ tablespoons Basics Fuirst Italian Seasoning.  Bring to a simmer and let cook, uncovered, for 30 minutes.

In the meantime, in a very large bowl mix together ricotta, 3 cups mozzarella, ¼ cup parmesan, egg and remaining ½ tablespoon (equal to 1 ½ teaspoons) Basics Fuirst Italian Seasoning.  Add 4 cups simmered sauce and cooked ziti.  Mix to combine.

Pour into prepared casserole dish.  Top with remaining mozzarella and Parmesan.  Bake for 45 minutes, until top browns slightly.

Serves 8.




Have a Schmaltzy Good Time September 4, 2013

Filed Under: Cassoulet seasoning - Sue Fuirst @ 3:57 pm
Tags: , ,

Rosh Hashana is here, the Jewish New Year, and boy is it early!  Brisket schmisket, how about firing up the grill?  Just kidding, I’m doing my holiday dinner like in the old country – schmaltz and all.  My only Basics Fuirst twist will be the pinch of Cassoulet Seasoning in my chopped liver.  I’m also adding a splash of this wonderful Fig Brandy I stumbled upon  (I am so grateful that my local wine shop was able to track it down for me – thanks Chappaqua Wines and Spirits!)

Not jewish or don’t want traditional jewish chopped liver?  Add to my recipe a full teaspoon of Cassoulet Seasoning, 3 tablespoons of heavy cream and substitute vegetable oil for the schmaltz.  Pulse this in your food processor until smooth and you’ve got a wonderful pate.

Schmaltzy Chopped Liver

1 medium onion, sliced

2 generous tablespoons schmaltz aka chicken fat

1 lb chicken liver

2 tablespoons calvados (apple brandy), optional

2 hardboiled eggs

¼ tsp Cassoulet Seasoning

Kosher salt and ground white pepper

Heat schmaltz over medium heat in a sauté or fry pan.  Add onions and cook, stirring frequently, 15-20 minutes, until onions begin to caramelize.  Add chicken liver to pan. Season with the Cassoulet Seasoning and salt and pepper. Cook until liver begins to brown on the outside, but still tender, about 15 minutes.  Raise heat and add brandy.  Cook 2 minutes until liquid evaporates, stirring occasionally.  Remove from heat and let cool slightly.

Using a meat grinder, feed contents of pan into mouth of grinder.  Alternate liver, egg, liver, egg.  Gently mix and check seasoning.  Moisten with schmatlz and add more salt and pepper, if needed. Serve.

Alternately, a food processor or knife and chopping bowl may be used.

Food Processor:  Coarsely chop liver and hardboiled eggs.  Place them in the bowl of the food processor and pulse until desired consistency.  Do not over pulse.  Chopped liver shouldn’t be completely smooth; you want texture.

Chopping Bowl:  place all in wooden bowl and chop, chop, chop.