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Sunday, January 25, 2009

Almost like Grandma Used to Make: Recipe (Part I)

My husband's grandmother, on his mom's side, used to make a dish on Christmas Eve that the whole family loved. While she has only just recently passed, the family has been recreating the dish for years - with her guidance. For the past two or three years, my husband has been interested in having me make the dish, which they call Binolatte (I've never found a recipe with this name or a name close to it and since I'm not Italian, I'm not sure that's how it's spelled or even what it means).

I have always loved the idea of the Binolatte - what's not to love? So naturally when he asked that I try to make it, I agreed to do so. This post is "Part I" because I'm keenly aware of the fact that it will take me several tries to get it right. And, just as I suspected, I was able to replicate the filling pretty easily (as my husband described the way his grandmother used to make it) in terms of taste and texture but the dough would prove to be more of a challenge. And sure enough, it was.

For this first effort, I opted to focus on the filling. Ultimately, I know I'll need to make my own dough for the outside but I wanted to be sure I could master the inside. My husband said it was so close to the way his grandmother made it -an excellent compliment. The only change? A bit more spinach, he said. That's easy! However, I'll keep working on slight variations so as to conjure up the most vivid memory for my husband.

For the outside, I used a Pillsbury pizza dough - the thin crust style. We felt that the whole torpedo looked beautiful - really authentic - but we both agreed the dough tasted like...a Pillsbury crescent roll. It had that distinct flavor and it wasn't right. Next I will try purchased pizza dough and see how I feel about that. You know that I'm one to find time-saving measures that still give you great quality so I'll try a frozen pizza dough - what do I have to lose?

The perfected version of this doesn't need to be ready until Christmas Eve 2009 - a long, long, way off. However, it's worth taking the time now to get it right so I can make a whole bunch of them for the whole family - just like they do for us.

Italian-Spinach and Sausage Torpedo
10 oz. frozen chopped spinach, thawed and ready to use according the box directions
2 Tbsp. Highest quality Olive Oil + 2 Tsp.
1 medium-large onion, minced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 lb. sweet sausage, casings removed and meat crumbled
1 tsp. dried oregano
1/3 lb. ground beef
1 shake, nutmeg
1/4 cup Pecorino Romano cheese
1/3 cup Oil cured olives, pits removed and chopped
11 oz. thin pizza dough (Pillsbury)

Thaw and cook the spinach as directed. Be sure to squeeze all water from the spinach and reserve.

Preheat the oven to 400.

In a large frying pan, heat 2 Tbsp. olive oil over medium high heat and add the onions. Saute, lowering the flame if they begin to get too hot, about 10 minutes or until the onions are really soft. Raise the heat and add the sausage. Cook the sausage through about 15 minutes or until it is no longer pink. Add the oregano and stir well. Next add the garlic and saute another 3 minutes, stirring often.

Remove the pan from the heat and pour entire contents into a food processor. Pulse the sausage mixture about 3-5 times to ensure all pieces are broken up. Reserve in a large mixing bowl.

Place the pan back onto the stove and heat 2 tsp. of oil over medium-high heat. Add the ground beef and cook until it is no longer pink. Sprinkle with nutmeg and continue to cook. Mash the pieces of beef with the back of your fork, often, to break up the pieces. Mix the beef with the pork sausage and stir well. Add the spinach to the mixture along with the cheese and stir well. Next add in the olives and stir, again.

Prepare a large cookie sheet by spraying it with Pam cooking spray. Roll out the dough, as directed, and place about 3 1/2 - 4 cups of filling into the center of the dough, on a diagonal. Fold into the center the left and right pieces of dough and fold into the center the bottom piece of dough. Next fold the top piece of dough into the center and with your hands, even out the torpedo's insides.

Bake 20 minutes or until the dough becomes golden brown. Allow it to cool about 5 minutes before serving.

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