Superbowl Party Foods

This Sunday, not only will Punxatawney Phil determine how much longer we have to endure this realm of the never ending, deja-vu-Groundhog-Day-esque Arctic winter, but a little thing called the Superbowl is also happening. Which means that it’s time to party!

We could go on and on about football, Peyton Manning, Denver, Seattle, and even Omaha (huh?), but since I’m not really up on any of that we’re going to cut to the chase and give you a list of our top recipes for Superbowl Sunday. (It’s not that I don’t like football, but Tony, a.k.a. “The Lost Italian” – although lately I’ve taken to just calling him “Lost” – is a Dolphins fan, so I am never aware of what’s happening with the winning teams.)

Also, be sure to check out our Party Dip Recipes section for a ton of great recipes from last fall’s recipe contest in search of the Perfect Party Dip.

Cranberries Gone Wild Dip – This was the winner of our fall party dip recipe contest, and was ever-present on the holiday party circuit. Fresh cranberries are now out of season, but frozen will also work. Serve this with a lime margarita and lime tortilla chips to make it extra festive!

Hot Beef Taco Dip – This hearty ground beef dip is full of the classic taco flavors and will help keep you warm and happy throughout the game.

Jalapeno Popper Dip – It’s hard to believe, but this party dip tastes exactly like a jalapeno popper, and is almost embarrassingly delicious.

Cincinnati Chili – We serve this regional specialty 4-way or 5-way over spaghetti or Coney style over hot dogs, but it’s so good you can even eat it on a spoon.

Italian Sausage, Peppers & Onion “Sangwich” – Serve it up like they did in Tony’s old Toronto neighborhood. In Fargo, we like to use Mexican Bolillo rolls or Portuguese hard rolls for this sandwich, er, sangwich.

Gio’s Meatballs – Keep these Italian-style meatballs warm in a crock pot and serve with our Easy Tomato Sauce over spaghetti or in sandwich form on ciabatta rolls or a French baguette. Easy to make and mild in seasoning, this is a great recipe for kids to make and eat!

Blackened Sirloin with Horseradish Cream Sauce – Super easy to make, this sirloin is served chilled and can be prepared well in advance. Every time we serve this we get asked for the recipe – and the horseradish cream sauce is so good you’ll find yourself looking for reasons to make it. (It’s also great with bison, roast tenderloin, grilled sirloin roast, potatoes, on a spoon…you get the idea.)

Sicilian Arancini Balls – These little, fried golden orbs are filled with risotto, green peas and ground beef, and they are heavenly when served with our Easy Tomato Sauce for dipping.

Sun-Dried Tomato Pesto Crostini – We can all use a mid-winter splash of summer, and this Italian tri-colored appetizer does the trick. Forza Azzurri! (I know, I know, that only works for FUTBOL, not football, but I’m justItalian-by-Marriage after all…)

Easy Vinaigrette Potato Salad – Easy to make and always a crowd pleaser, this simple salad consists of Yukon Gold potatoes, green onions, cider vinegar, extra virgin olive oil, and salt and pepper.

Honey Gorgonzola Hearts of Romaine Salad – We love to showcase North Dakota whenever we can, and this salad is the perfect way to do it since ND is the #1 producer of honey in the nation! We also know a thing or two about football…

Basil Pesto Pasta Salad – This colorful, delicious pasta salad can be made in advance and served at room temperature. And it makes me happy to see flowers again, since I’m pretty sure this winter is never ending. Did I already say that or am I having deja vu?

Tiramisu – Because every party deserves a little Italian “pick me up.” Need we say more? (Phil, if you promise not to see your shadow on Sunday, I’ll save some tiramisu for you.)

Buttermilk Brownies – Skip the peppermint extract and festive candy cane topping for this occasion and enjoy the wonderful deliciousness of these moist and airy brownies with their incredible cooked chocolate frosting.

We hope you find this list fun, festive and helpful. We would love to know what’s on YOUR menu this Superbowl Sunday, so be sure to leave your answer in the Comments section below.

Cooking Video: Cream of Parsnip Soup

This week on North Dakota Today, Tony shares his recipe for one of our favorite winter foods: Cream of Parsnip Soup. I wrote about this soup in our weekly column a year ago, and I’ve included that post for your reading pleasure here again today.

Click HERE or on the photo below to watch Tony’s demonstration, and let us know if have any questions!

Below is the full content of our column which appeared in the Wednesday, December 12, 2012 edition of “The Forum” To view the recipe click HERE.

While we don’t often think of winter as a season of fresh produce, there are some wonderful options that spring to life this time of year. Root vegetables such as beets, carrots, and sweet potatoes have a long storage period, are an excellent source of nutrients and minerals, and can be enjoyed throughout the season. This week we’re going to share our passion for an often-overlooked and, in our opinion, underrated root vegetable: the parsnip.

“In my opinion, the parsnip has great diversity and is the tastiest root vegetable,” Tony says. “You can serve a parsnip puree instead of mashed potatoes. Or roast some parsnips in the oven to jazz up a salad. But whatever you do, keep the preparation simple and allow its flavors to be fully appreciated.”

Years ago Tony and I hosted a pre-opera dinner party for eight of our friends. I was on the board of directors at the time, and I was hoping to cultivate more supporters for the Fargo-Moorhead Opera. We had never done anything like this before, and I wanted to dazzle our guests with our food and hospitality. Everything had to perfect.

On the day of the event, Tony told me that he had changed the soup for the evening to Cream of Parsnip. At the time I wasn’t very familiar with parsnips. To say that I was skeptical about this change is an understatement. In fact, we actually argued about it. I wanted the menu to reflect foods of luxury – the main course was a duo of beef tenderloin and sea bass, after all – and in my mind, lobster bisque was the only option. The paltry parsnip was simply not up to the task.

But Tony was adamant, and I was surprised by his zealous defense of the parsnip.

“Trust me,” he said. “Everyone expects lobster bisque at a dinner like this. We need to keep it simple and focus on what’s in season. Let the food surprise our guests, and we will exceed their expectations.”

I relented, but remained a skeptic. Our guests arrived, and we cruised through the first course. The soup was up next, and I held my breath as we served the Cream of Parsnip Soup. Several of our guests commented that they had never tried parsnips in a soup before. I sat and waited for their reaction as they tasted the soup. At first, no one said anything – they were too busy eating. So I took a spoonful myself, and was immediately converted.

The parsnip soup was heavenly. Warm and comforting, the parsnip embraced me with its subtle sweetness and nutty flavor. There were tones of butterscotch, and a hint of spice, too. And, with its pretty ivory color and velvety smooth texture, the soup was naturally elegant.

True to Tony’s word, our guests were positively gushing with praise, almost giddy in the excitement of this new discovery. The Cream of Parsnip was the hit of the evening, and several of our guests continue to support the Fargo Moorhead Opera to this day.

After nineteen years of marriage, I have learned to admit when I’m wrong about something. Tony was right about the parsnip, and I’m happy to eat crow on this one. As long as it’s served with parsnip soup.

CLICK HERE for the Cream of Parsnip Soup RECIPE

Heavenly Angel Food Cake…From Scratch

Don’t tell anyone, but today is Tony’s birthday. Tony is very (very) low-key about birthdays so let’s just keep this between you and me. Still, I’m going to bake him a cake, because it’s his birthday and I love birthdays.

Ever since I’ve known him, Tony has mused that he was sent to me as an angel. In our twenty-year marriage there have been days that have definitely put that theory to the test, but we’re still married – to each other – so who knows? If Tony really is an angel, then there’s only one dessert that can rise to this occasion: Angel Food Cake.

Most people shy away from making angel food cake from scratch, wrongly believing that they are not up to the task. Sifting flour and separating egg whites might be a little fussy, but I find that angel food cake is much easier to make than sponge cake. You just need the right equipment, a little advance preparation, and patience.

Before getting started, carefully review the recipe and prepare all of your ingredients and equipment. For this recipe, you will need a ten-inch tube pan, four inches deep, with a removable base. It is possible to make angel food cake without this special pan, but if you’re going to take the time to make it from scratch, it’s worth the investment (about $12 to $15 dollars).

If you need to buy a pan, look for one that is aluminum versus non-stick. Angel food is a foam cake which receives most of its body from egg whites, and it needs to be able to climb up the walls of the pan. I have used both, and my grandmother’s old aluminum pan produces a much higher cake than my non-stick version. Your pan should also have little legs which swing out from the side so that once you remove the cake from the oven the pan can stand upside down until completely cool. (The feet from my grandmother’s pan have worn off over the ages, so I use my non-stick pan as a base to invert it over.)

After testing several different recipes over the years, my favorite is from the classic Betty Crocker Picture Cookbook. I have my grandmother’s copy from 1950, and the recipe differs from the one currently available on the Betty Crocker website, which I have not made.

Betty doesn’t call for superfine sugar in her recipe, but she does refer to angel food cake as “light as air…fluffy as a cloud,” and I think superfine sugar makes all the difference. I make my own by blending the sugar in a food processor for two minutes. Not only is this cheaper than buying pre-made superfine sugar, but I think it’s better in quality, too.

Egg whites are the main ingredient in angel food cake, and they won’t whip properly if there is any bit of yolk mixed in. As the sugar is being processed, separate the egg whites, one at a time, into a small bowl. Check to make sure there is no yolk, or shell, in the white before pouring into a measuring cup.

Sifting is the next step before combining the ingredients together, and you can use a sifter or a mesh sieve to mix the (sifted) cake flour and sugar together, three times. Don’t skip this step, as the sifting will give the cake air and help it rise better.

To serve, we keep it simple with real whipped cream and fresh berries. While not difficult to make, angel food cake is a labor of love. If you use these tips and follow the recipe’s instructions, the result should be a heavenly dessert for the angel in your life. Happy Birthday, Tony!

UPDATE: We had a terrific response to this article, with several questions being asked repeatedly by our readers. We posted our replies in a new blog post called “Angel Food Update,” which you can find by clicking HERE.

Stay up-to-date with the latest happenings at Home with The Lost Italian. Be sure to SUBSCRIBE via email on the right side of this page, and FOLLOW us on Facebook, Twitter @TheLostItalian or @SarahNasello, and Pinterest.

Angel Food Cake
Gently adapted from the 1950 Betty Crocker Picture Cookbook

1 cup sifted SOFTASILK cake flour
7/8 cups granulated sugar (200 grams), processed for 2 minutes until superfine
1 ½ cups egg whites (10 to 12 large or extra large eggs)
1 ½ teaspoons cream of tartar
¼ teaspoon salt
1 ½ teaspoon vanilla
½ teaspoon almond extract
¾ cups granulated sugar (160 grams), processed for 2 minutes until superfine

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Set out, but do not grease, a 10” tube pan, 4” deep.

Sift the cup of cake flour first, then sift it, three times, with 7/8 cups (200 grams) of the superfine sugar. Set aside.

Measure into a large mixing bowl the egg whites, cream of tartar, salt, vanilla and almond extract. Beat with a wire whip on high until foamy, then gradually add the ¾ cups of superfine sugar, 2 tablespoons at a time.

Continue beating until the meringue holds stiff, straight peaks when the wire whip is pulled up. Sift the flour-sugar mixture, 3 tablespoons at a time, over the meringue. Use a rubber spatula to cut and fold the flour in gently, until it disappears each time.

Carefully push with rubber scraper into deep tube pan, and even up surface of batter. Pull a table knife gently through the batter, in widening circles, to break any air bubbles.

Bake for 30 to 35 minutes until cake is golden brown and no imprint remains when finger lightly touches top of cake. Immediately invert the cake and let hang until cold, or overnight.

To remove from pan, use a serrated or very sharp knife and gently scrape along the sides, and then the base. Serve with real whipped cream and fresh berries.

Sarah’s Tips:

  • Any amount of egg yolk will prevent the whites from whipping. To prevent this from happening, separate the egg whites first into a small bowl before adding to the measuring cup, and discard any that have yolk in them.
  • Save the yolks to use in another recipe.
  • Room-temperature egg whites will whip better than cold ones.


Serving up Winter Comfort with Roasted Fennel Soup

Happy New Year! After a very indulgent holiday season filled with our favorite foods and sweets, we are ready to welcome 2014 with renewed intentions for clean living and eating. At least until Valentine’s Day, when the lushness of aphrodisiac food and drink lures us into decadence once again.

But, for now, we are embracing a simpler palate by seeking out foods that are rich in flavor, of the season, and somewhat on the lighter side. It doesn’t hurt if they can also be warm and comforting; Tony’s recipe for Roasted Fennel Soup hits all of these notes.

Fennel, or finocchio in Italian, is a winter vegetable rich in potassium and fiber content, and is also a good source for a multitude of vitamins and nutrients. It is high in an essential oil called anethole, which provides potent antimicrobial activity to benefit smooth digestion. In fact, fennel was a staple in Tony’s family when he was growing up, and would often be served in raw slices after a meal to relax the stomach. I just love how the Italians are so intentional with their food and diet – every ingredient seems to serve a purpose.

When served raw, fennel has a crunchy texture similar to celery but a little smoother. In flavor it is cool and refreshing, with notes of the soothing, liquorice sweetness of anise. Fennel pairs wonderfully with citrus, and is a featured ingredient in our blood orange Sicilian Winter Salad. When cut into slices, this winter vegetable is also a great addition to a crudité platter, and is the perfect dipping item for our Sicilian Bagna Caoda recipe.

But when roasted, fennel transforms into a savory, mellow vegetable, full of warmth and flavor. Roasted fennel is perfect for this soup recipe, but is also delicious on its own as a side dish for meat, poultry and seafood.

To roast, begin by removing the stock and fronds, leaving only the bulb. Cut the bulb into six wedges, then toss these lightly in olive oil, sea or kosher salt, and freshly ground black pepper. Transfer the fennel to a sheet pan lined with aluminum foil and roast at 350 degrees for about 40 minutes, until golden brown and fork tender.

For this recipe, we roast the fennel with yellow onion, a sprig of fresh rosemary and a couple garlic cloves to enhance the aromatics of the soup. Once roasted, we remove the rosemary and transfer the ingredients to a stock pot. Add the chicken stock, bring the soup to a boil, then reduce to a gentle simmer for 30 minutes.

Use an immersion blender (if you don’t have one yet, get one!), food processor or liquid blender to puree the soup until smooth. Because fennel is high in fiber, we recommend that you pour the pureed soup through a fine-mesh strainer to remove any fibrous grains and achieve a smooth consistency.  Return soup to the stock pot, add heavy cream (optional), and cook over medium heat for another five minutes. Taste the soup and season with salt and pepper according to your taste.

This simple soup is surprisingly savory, rich, elegant and comforting, and very pretty when garnished with dried cranberries and toasted hazelnuts. We have also enjoyed it with homemade croutons, crumbled sausage, and a dollop or drizzle of crème fraiche or sour cream. Serve and enjoy!

 Roasted Fennel Soup

Serves: 4 to 6

4 fennel bulbs, trimmed and cut into six wedges each
1 large yellow onion, trimmed and cut into wedges
1 large sprig rosemary
2 garlic cloves, peeled
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
Kosher salt or sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
About 4 cups low-sodium chicken stock (may substitute vegetable stock)
½ cup heavy cream (optional)

To garnish:
¼ cup dried cranberries, roughly chopped
¼ cup lightly toasted hazelnuts, roughly chopped (walnuts are good, too)

Pre-heat oven to 350°F.

This recipe begins by roasting the vegetables. Place the fennel, onions, rosemary, garlic and olive oil in a large mixing bowl and season generously with salt and pepper. Toss the vegetables well to ensure an even coating. Transfer the mixture to a baking sheet (you may wish to cover the sheet with aluminum foil or parchment paper) and roast vegetables for about 40 minutes until golden brown and fork tender. If the fennel seems to be browning too much before it is ready, cover it with aluminum foil and continue to cook until fork tender.

Remove the rosemary and transfer mixture to a stock pot. Add chicken stock and bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to a gentle simmer for 30 minutes.

Reduce heat to lowest setting and use an immersion blender to puree the mixture, making sure to keep the blade immersed in the liquid the entire time. Once a completely smooth consistency has been achieved, pour the soup through a fine-mesh strainer into another pot or bowl.

Return the pot to burner, add heavy cream (optional) and cook over medium heat for another 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste. To serve, garnish with dried cranberries and toasted hazelnuts and drizzle with a touch of olive oil.

To Store: Pour into an airtight container and refrigerate for up to one week, or freeze for up to two months.

Tony’s Tips:

  • Do not skip the straining step when making this soup – it is critical to developing the right consistency and texture.
  • Other ideas for garnish include homemade croutons, crumbled sausage, or a dollop or drizzle of crème fraiche or sour cream.