About Beth

Beth
Beth, along with her husband, Mike, is co-owner of two Italian Deli/Markets in St. Louis - Viviano’s Festa Italiano. When not creating yummy new menu items for the deli, she’s the pediatric research lab supervisor at Washington University School of Medicine. Read more out about Viviano’s Festa Italiano.

About Irene

Irene
Irene loves to think, read and dream about food. She enjoys cooking & eating in general. Although she demures about her talents, Irene has a finely-tuned palate that her friends envy. She bakes on occasion. The rest of the time she's creating memories with her family and friends. . . or she's learning a new needlecraft technique.

About Deborah

Deborah
Deborah is a wife, mother, grandmother, traveler, bootlegger, and a very poor speller! As Victor Hazan so eloquently puts it, Deborah has chosen Umbria to be the home of her soul. When she can’t be there in body, she spends her free time cooking & reading about Italy. She blogs mostly about food and about trips – past and future – here: Old Shoes New Trip.

About Doug

Doug
Doug lives in Eastern Ontario in a farmhouse built in 1903. He is a retired teacher with four adult children, a wife, a son-in-law, two Irish step-grandchildren and one grandson who he is lucky to hang with a lot. He has way too many books. Doug also blogs at To Slow Time Down.

About Cindy

Cindy
Cindy lives in Eagle River, Alaska where her freezer is always full of salmon, halibut & shrimp. Cindy participates in several regular cooking challenges. You can read more about her cooking and life in the last frontier on her blog, Baked Alaska.

About Sandi

Sandi
Sandi is a true Southerner, but a traveler & Italian cook at heart. She lives in Alabama and knows more about fried green tomatoes than fricassees. Her family owned the WhistleStop Café for many years. Sandi also blogs at Whistlestop Cafe Cooking.

About Jan

Jan
Jan, a serious home cook, has owned “Essentials” since 1992. She is passionate about all things Italian, especially the cuisine & the language. Jan blogs about her travels (next trip Italy May/June of 2010) at: Keep your Feet in the Street.

About Jerry

Jerry
Jerry is a food obsessed Canadian. He learned to love Italian food as a child while eating the meals prepared by his Napolitano uncle. He learned to cook Italian foods by watching his uncle cook these feasts for the family. This love of Italian food has been honed through serious personal experimentation in eating and cooking. Willing to try most anything once, Jerry isn't so sure about tripe! Jerry also blogs at Jerry's Thoughts, Musings, and Rants!

About Palma

Palma
Palma is a Marriage & Family Therapist in Palm Desert, CA. She’s an Italian-American with a passion for cooking, entertaining, & travel to Italy. She’s always planning her next culinary adventure to Italia on her blog, Palmabella's Passions

About Kim

Kim
Kim is our permanent sub and the image above gives you a good idea of the look on her face when she realized she was drafted. Kim loves to eat, drink, travel and cook - probably in that order. When she's not here, you can find her organizing and leading food, wine and beer tours in Europe as co-owner and operator of GrapeHops or blogging at What I Really Think.

Main

2. Monday - Irene Archives

March 29, 2010

Hard-Boiled Eggs with Green Sauce

In my family it is a well established fact that I do not eat eggs. I have suffered brunch after brunch dealing with this unfortunate reality. No, I am not allergic but the reaction is absolute. As luck would have it, my first recipe of the food challenge is an egg appetizer. Blat!

I reviewed the recipe and decided that organic eggs were the only way to go. This cold appetizer is the Italian cousin to another egg dish, Deviled Eggs. Go to any American bridal shower, potluck or picnic and 9 times out of 10 you can find them there. I wonder if the same is true for this recipe somewhere in Italy. The process is the same: boil eggs, mix cooked yolks with ingredients, spoon atop egg whites. The ingredients are not. Italian pantry staples of capers, anchovies, and extra virgin olive oil are the supporting ingredients in this dish.

Thinking about my brothers and sisters in Christ preparing to celebrate miracles this week, I prepared the recipe with hope in my heart. Hope that a teeny tiny miracle could be bestowed upon me. I want to eat eggs. You can’t always get what you want. So just in case:

I, Irene, promise to taste every single food item I prepare during this Italian food challenge. I will do so with a cheerful palate and disregard to food aversions or unfamiliar ingredients. Because food is fun and all is well when you are among friends.

Hard-Boiled Eggs with Green Sauce
Hard-Boiled Eggs with Green Sauce

I was surprised to find the green sauce was not that green. Sadly, no egg eating miracles where performed. I gave myself a pat on the back and a glass of white wine anyway. I’ll try eggs again in August.

Hard-Boiled Egg with Green Sauce
Another view


©2010 Irene D. Ericson

April 5, 2010

Tomatoes Stuffed with Tuna

Tuna, Tuna my dear old friend.
We meet weekly I can’t pretend.
Sweet and flaky that’s what you are.
I love you as salad; my favorite by far.


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Tomatoes Stuffed with Tuna


I was excited to see that I would once again try to make homemade mayonnaise. My first attempt eight years ago was a disaster. So much so I have not tried to make it again. My excitement quickly fizzed after several attempts this past week including two tries this morning resulting in nothing even close to resembling mayo. I was pressed for time and needed to post this blog while it was still Monday so I substituted commercially prepared mayo. No boos please.


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Mayo refusing to emulsify


This recipe is a tuna salad made with mayonnaise, Dijon mustard and capers stuffed inside a tomato. Over the years I have always eaten canned tuna packed in water. This is the first time I’ve had canned tuna packed in oil. Marcella was right. It has more flavor. The results are simple and delicious with a slightly salty bite.

©2010 Irene D. Ericson

April 12, 2010

Poached Tuna and Spinach Roll

At first this week's recipe seemed unusual to me. Why would someone want to poach canned tuna? After the first bite I understood. My taste buds danced and my mind wandered to a scene from my favorite movie, Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory. It was like I was Violet Beauregarde with the multi-course piece of gum. With every chew she savored a delicious surprise. The same was true for me while I enjoyed my forkful of this delight. As I continued chewing I could taste every ingredient as if I had taken a bite of each one individually. Yay!


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Recipe Summary:
Oil packed canned tuna is mixed with fresh spinach (gently cooked & moisture removed), anchovy fillets, eggs, bread crumbs, a generous amount of parmigiano-reggiano cheese and bread that has been soaked in milk. Next, the mixture is formed into a log and rolled up in a dampened cheese cloth for containment during a little simmer in a white wine and vegetable poaching liquid. Cool, slice, drizzle with extra virgin olive oil & lemon juice, garnish and serve.

©2010 Irene D. Ericson

April 19, 2010

Sautéed Scallops with Garlic and Parsley

This week the star ingredient is bay scallops. I have enjoyed these sweet little nibbles for years. I love them simply prepared with only a splash of oil, salt and pepper. I refuse to eat them any other way. Well except for today.

This dish is very easy to make. The scallops are quickly sautéed with garlic and extra virgin olive oil. Next they are combined with parsley, capers, roasted red peppers and bread crumbs. The instructions say to distribute the dish among four scallop shells for serving. I looked high and low but I could not find scallop shells nor could I find small gratin dishes. So one large gratin dish was used and it worked out just fine. The scallops are placed under the broiler for a minute to lightly brown. How do they taste? Marcella says it best, “They are both tender and savory.”


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Sautéed Scallops with Garlic and Parsley


©2010 Irene D. Ericson

April 26, 2010

Risi e Bisi - Rice and Peas

April 25 is the Feast Day for the patron saint of Venice, St. Mark. As a forward to the recipe, Marcella mentions how this soup was enjoyed on this day of celebration. The anniversary of the 1945 fall of Mussolini's Italian Social Republic, Italy’s Liberation, falls on the same day.

I will admit I was not excited to make this recipe. I do not like peas. My lack of enthusiasm worsened as I began to shell the peas. Shelling peas is absolutely my least favorite culinary activity. Well enough about me. Let’s talk about this soup, Rice and Peas. I followed the recipe carefully. This simple soup is a combination of fresh young peas, butter, onion, Arborio rice, and homemade beef broth. I tried hard to stir up some excitement as I stirred the pot. The smell that perfumed the air as it simmered helped a great deal. The soup was ready in about 30 minutes. A little parmigiano-reggiano cheese was mixed in before ladling up a bowl for lunch.

I liked it. Yes, I could taste the peas. But the wonderful undertone of the broth with the slight saltiness of the cheese and chewiness of the rice made it worth eating.


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Rice and Peas Soup


©2010 Irene D. Ericson

May 3, 2010

Lentil Soup with Pasta, Bacon, and Garlic

When I hear the word lentil my mind immediately thinks of the Mediterranean. I have visions of sunny skies, blue horizons and life of all forms. Emotion sweeps over me. The reaction is the same if I run across the word in a recipe. I am happy and humbled at the same time. I feel a deep sense of connection to past and present, near and far, abundance and wanting. It’s a powerful experience evoked by this ancient pulse.

Today with gratitude I made Lentil Soup with Pasta, Bacon and Garlic. It was a family affair. As I prepared ingredients, my husband and I chatted about how we’ll make it to Europe one day. My 2 ½ year old son was unofficial sous-chef. That’s his hand in the photo adjusting the parsley. It was great to eat altogether. Our schedules have made shared meals a luxury.


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The soup is flavorful, earthy and very filling. The pungency of the Pecorino was too much for my husband but my son enjoyed it quite well. He even asked for seconds. I will definitely make this again. I’ll just hold the cheese to the side as a stir in.


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Lentil Soup with Pasta, Bacon, and Garlic


©2010 Irene D. Ericson

May 10, 2010

Chick Pea Soup

Here I am with my second to last recipe in the soup section and it still amazes me how a few ingredients can turn into a bowl of yummy goodness. I’m really enjoying making these soups. I think I will continue to make soup every week as a new tradition. This way I can extend this wonderful experience and hone my skills at the same time.

The process of making this soup is simple with each step coaxing the flavor out of the ingredients. First, whole cloves of garlic are cooked in oil olive until “light nut brown”. Remove the cloves then add the rosemary (fresh sprig or dried) and chopped tomatoes. I chose dried rosemary which Marcella says to crush to nearly a fine powder. I couldn’t resist the opportunity to use my mortal and pestle. This simmered for 20 minutes. Next, I added the canned chick peas (yes, she approves) cooking for a few minutes. Lastly, I stirred in the broth. Fifteen minutes later the soup was ready.

The end result is a thick, rich tomato broth reminiscent of sun dried tomatoes filled with tender, creamy chick peas. I was surprised how the rosemary became a mellow herby undertone instead of its usual distinctive stand out self. Variations of this soup can be made with the addition of rice or pasta. Perhaps I will choose one and covert my leftovers.


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Chick Pea Soup


©2010 Irene D. Ericson

May 17, 2010

Mussel Soup

Mussel Soup is my last recipe for the soup section. I’ve had this dish many times before but did not know it was considered a soup. This is also the first time I’ve had it prepared without wine. In the Midwest, finding fresh mussels can be a challenge. Fortunately for me local grocers had them in abundance in time for this recipe.

Garlic is sautéed in oil then simmered with parsley, chili pepper and tomatoes for a while before adding the mussels. They are cooked just until the shells have opened. The soup is served ladled over a slice of garlic rubbed toasted bread. The bread soaks up the juices and becomes a delicious accompaniment.


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Mussel Soup


©2010 Irene D. Ericson

May 24, 2010

Amatriciana – Tomato Sauce with Pancetta and Chili Pepper

I have been the repeated victim of many awful Italian-American dishes. With each cook, waiter or “chef” saying, “You are going to love this dish. It’s delicious.” Two forkfuls later I say a prayer that God will have mercy upon them and heal their taste buds. Of all the chapters in the cookbook, this was the one I was most excited about. I’m going to learn how to make pasta and sauces! I was tickled to see that the next nine weeks would not involve Marinara or Alfredo.

Making this recipe has three firsts for me: imported pasta, making homemade pasta sauce, a new pasta shape. For this dish I needed bucatini - thick, hollow spaghetti. I saved myself some anguish and went directly to the closest Italian market, Viviano's Festa Italiano. There was two sizes available, so I went with the bigger must be better approach and purchased the last package of size 14.


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Bucatini No. 14

The ingredient list was not at all intimidating. The title pretty much says it all. My biggest challenge was getting my old electric stove to retain a gentle simmer. The pasta cooked up bigger than I estimated, but I loved the shape and the way it wiggles. I had lots of fun trying to suck up air through a few naked strands. I tossed the pasta with the sauce then tossed in both Parmigiano-Reggiano and Romano cheeses.

Mmmm.


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Amatriciana – Tomato Sauce with Pancetta and Chili Pepper


©2010 Irene D. Ericson

May 31, 2010

Peas, Peppers, and Prosciutto Sauce with Cream

The recommended pasta for this sauce is Garganelli which is a handmade, grooved tubular pasta. Not to brag but this dish turned out restaurant quality. I have definitely moved up a notch on the ability scale.


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Flour and Egg Well

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Smooth, Kneaded Pasta Dough


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Pasta Machine


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Sheets of Pasta


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Pasta Shaping Tools


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Garganelli


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Sauce Reducing


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Peas, Peppers, and Prosciutto Sauce with Cream

June 7, 2010

Cauliflower Sauce with Garlic, Oil and Chili Pepper

Today’s pasta sauce was made with an ingredient you might not ordinarily think of as sauce material, Cauliflower. I was a little surprised when I read it. I enjoy the vegetable so I was ready to see what this sauce had to offer.

The cauliflower is boiled until tender and drained. Olive oil and garlic are cooked until golden brown. Next, chopped anchovy fillets are stirred into the oil and mashed to make a paste. This step took a little bit of work. Not a complaint but worth noting. The cauliflower was added coating and breaking up the pieces as you stir. Penne pasta is tossed with the sauce and chopped parsley.

This pasta dish has a very subtle flavor. The pasta is the first taste. Then the tastes of garlic, cauliflower, and parsley unfold. I was a little to conservative with the chili pepper. I know this is an Italian dish, but the undertones taste more Asian to me.

While not a favorite for me at this time, I would consider making it again. After turning up the heat a bit I could see it served with a white fleshed fish or grilled shrimp.


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©2010 Irene D. Ericson

June 14, 2010

Black Truffle Sauce

Truffles are highly prized fungi that grow underground near the roots of trees (usually oak but also hazel, beech and a few others). Harvested in Italy and France with the help of trained dogs, they are one of the most expensive foods in the world. Fresh black truffles can cost $600 or more per pound.


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Black Truffles


Since fresh truffles are so expensive and hard to come by in the Midwest, I settled for canned truffles. To my surprise finding them in a can was a challenge in itself. Not even the upscale specialty markets in St. Louis had them. All of the online sites I visited were sold out. In my pursuit, I had many conversations with grocery managers and foodies about their expense and unique aroma. Truffle oil I found everywhere. I even came across one can of truffle juice. It was 12 ounces and looked like it had been on the shelf a very long time. It was $99 but they were willing to mark it down to $59 just to get rid of it. I passed and pushed forward. I lucked out while sampling a decadently creamy imported cheese at one market. As I rolled my eyes in delight, I caught a glimpse of the label in my peripheral. It was a jar of black truffles hidden in a dinky corner near the cheeses. I was so happy to find them I didn’t care about the $25 per ounce price tag.

Many advised me to skip the dish since nothing compares to having truffles fresh. I’ll admit trying truffles was an experience I was saving for when I visited Europe. But today’s culinary adventure will be its own unique event. Tasting them fresh in Italy, France or New York sometime in the future will still be very exciting and special.

Spaghettini, thin spaghetti, is tossed in the sauce made of olive oil, garlic, anchovy, and black truffles. Marcella mentions this dish is best savored a due, in the company of just one other. As food is one of my true loves and my husband does not eat mushrooms or anything that reminds him of mushrooms, that’s kind of what I did. It was just me and the truffle sauce. I lit a candle, poured a glass of white wine and listened to Puccini as I savored this sexy pasta.


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Spaghettini with Black Truffle Sauce


This dish is full of flirtation. Each forkful like a wink, kiss or gentle brush of the hand. The flavor of the sauce is well balanced. Not too garlicky nor too rich or earthy. All the ingredients work in harmony for a great overall sensation. It’s as if each taste bud is whispering for you to fall in love.


©2010 Irene D. Ericson

June 21, 2010

Sicilian Sardine Sauce

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This week’s ingredient list is eclectic. The star ingredient is sardines which I will admit I was less than enthusiastic about. Fennel tops, raisins, onion, anchovy fillets, pine nuts, saffron, tomato paste, and bread crumbs round out the supporting ingredients. This is going to be something. I reminded myself about the pledge I took and started cooking.

After a series of food preparation steps and cooking techniques the sauce was ready. With all of the independently flavorful foods present only the raisins and sardines seemed to shine through. The small amount of raisins didn’t taste like raisins at all but gave all their sweetness to the sauce. Beyond that it just tasted fishy to me. Yes, I know it was made with fresh sardines and anchovies but the result was more powerful than I expected. The fennel used was extremely fragrant but you would never guess it was in there. I tasted it repeatedly to look for more distinction but found none. I had hoped to eat a whole serving since it was tossed with my beloved bucatini. I tried to like it…I could not. This is a recipe I will not make again. However, I would taste it once more if prepared by someone that is good at preparing Sicilian cuisine so I can compare the two experiences.


©2010 Irene D. Ericson

June 28, 2010

Mushroom, Ham, and Cream Sauce

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This pasta dish was a big hit for dinner tonight. My husband even had a big bowl and repeatedly commenting on how good it was. In between his grunts and lip smacks, I was tempted to remind him he did not like mushrooms. I kept quite. I’m glad delicious food is forcing him out of his box.

This is easy to make. I loved it. What’s not to love with sautéed cremini mushrooms, ham, cream, and parmigiano-reggiano cheese? Homemade fettuccine was the suggested pasta. So I made a batch of each “straw and hay”, yellow and green fettuccine. I made my fresh pasta right before I cooked the sauce. If you make it ahead and dry your fresh pasta you could save even more time. Prep to plate in 15 minutes.


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Yellow and Green Fettuccine


The sauce is very flavorful. It’s rich and creamy but not heavy. The ham adds nice texture. The two colors of pasta are a feast for the eyes. This is a great dish to make when you have company over. You’ll get rave reviews with little effort.


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©2010 Irene D. Ericson

July 5, 2010

Bolognese Meat Sauce

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This is a meat sauce unlike any other that I’ve made. It has ground beef chuck, tomatoes, milk and white wine to name a few of the ingredients. As with previous recipes, Marcella has given detailed instructions to guide you along the way. Please buy the cookbook if you have not already. It is worth every penny for this pasta section alone but the real value lies with Marcella's explanations for the cooking techniques and historical tidbits.

The sauce does require a watchful eye in the beginning of the cooking process. Then it basically takes care of itself as it simmers gently for at least 3 hours. My sauce was ready at 4 hours. Tagliatelle, a homemade pasta similar too but slightly wider than fettuccini, was recommended for this sauce. I was not in a pasta making mood so I decided to use one of the suggested dried box pasta shapes. I picked rigatoni because of my new found obsession with cylinders. The sauce is slightly sweet with a soft texture that does a good job coating the pasta.

July 12, 2010

Cappellacci – Ravioli Filled with Sweet Potatoes

I love sweet potatoes! I’ve been eating them for as long as I can remember. I enjoy them in a variety of sweet or savory dishes. No matter how they are prepared they always taste yummy. So I was delighted to see my recipe for this week.

The sweet potatoes are baked and then the flesh removed and combined with crushed amaretti cookies, prosciutto, grated parmigiano-reggiano, parsley, egg and a pinch of nutmeg. Next, homemade yellow pasta is stuffed and cut into two inch square ravioli shapes. The pasta is boiled and tossed with sauce.

Two pasta sauces were suggested. I chose Butter and Parmesan Cheese Sauce. I wanted to make sure I could taste the ravioli filling. The sauce is very simple as the title would suggest. The raviolis are tossed repeatedly alternating parmigiano-reggiano and butter. The pasta has a nice chew while on the inside smooth, light sweet potato with a surprising layer of depth from the nutmeg and prosciutto. I’m sure the other sauce, Cream and Butter, which you may know as Alfredo would take this to another level.

This pasta reminds me of a dish my mother has been making since I was a very little. We call it Macaroni and Cheese and Sweet Potato. She makes it for Christmas and by special request for me or my cousins when we are in town for a visit. It is a totally different recipe but the combination of flavors is similar. The taste of sweet potatoes, cheese and pasta together is always very comforting to me.


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Ravioli Filled with Sweet Potatoes

July 19, 2010

Sliced Pasta Roll with Spinach and Ham Filling

SAUCE, FILLING, PASTA, ROLL, SAUCE, LAYER, BAKE
That’s what I kept repeating to myself has I gathered all the ingredients to make this pasta dish.

• make Tomato Sauce with Onion and Butter
• make spinach and ham filling (spinach, prosciutto, ricotta, parmesan, nutmeg, onion, egg)
• make yellow pasta sheets
• spread filling over pasta, roll up and cut into 3/4” slices
• make Béchamel Sauce
• layer pasta slices in dish, cover with combined sauces
• bake

There are a few steps to make this but none of them are difficult. It is well worth the work for the yummy outcome. It tastes similar to vegetable lasagna but more sophisticated. This dish would be great for a potluck.


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Layered pasta before being topped with sauce and cheese


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Hot out of the oven


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Sliced Pasta Roll with Spinach and Ham Filling


July 26, 2010

Risotto with Asparagus

Risotto is another dish I hoped to first try in Italy. Over the years I’ve watched Lidia, Mario, and Giada make risotto on television with great ease. All the same I wanted to make sure my first taste would be authentic. So, I have opted not to prepare it before now. This week I approached the recipe with great hope for a positive result.

I made the risotto with imported Carnaroli rice. This dish is also made with a wonderful homemade meat broth. The broth has a light golden color and a taste I cannot accurately describe with words. I was delighted with every ladle I added to the rice. The aroma was so wonderful I daydreamed of a heat-proof bodysuit and magic powers to shrink myself to three inches tall so I could backstroke in the pan.

While everything smelled wonderful, I felt like I might be doing something wrong. Surely, this does not take this long to cook I wondered often. I stirred and stirred waiting impatiently for the rice to soften. I was so glad Marcella gave such detailed instructions. I leaned on them through my doubt.

The risotto is studded with pieces of asparagus. The finishing touch is mixing in butter and parmigiano-reggiano cheese. It is creamy and tender but not mushy with each grain having a firm center. It tasted great also. I was so pleased with the result I topped it with a "V" for victory.


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Risotto with Asparagus

©2010 Irene D. Ericson

August 2, 2010

Risotto with Bolognese Meat Sauce

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I was more confident making the risotto this week. During the pasta section, I made a double batch of Bolognese Sauce. I froze the remainder for use in today’s recipe. After the sauce was defrosted, I heated it gently in a saucepan. Once warm it looked like I had just made it. Lovely. This time around I used Arborio rice. I added it to the sauce, stirred well to coat the grains and began the risotto making process.

Funny how quickly time passes when you are relaxed. It was ready to eat in what seemed like no time. If you love Bolognese Meat Sauce this is another great way to try it. I can imagine eating this for dinner on a chilly, fall evening.

August 9, 2010

Baked Semolina Gnocchi

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I was excited to try this dish because I love gnocchi. I’m not sure why. There isn’t much to them but they make me very happy. This recipe is for gnocchi in a very different way than I am a custom to seeing. First off the dish is baked. I have only had gnocchi boiled. Second, the gnocchi is made with semolina. I have only enjoyed them made with potatoes.

After reviewing the recipe, I felt a certain satisfaction when I realized I already had all the ingredients in my pantry and refrigerator. A couple of weeks ago I purchased semolina flour for a bread recipe I wanted to try. Finally, a recipe I can complete without making a special trip to the market. My excitement was short lived because the semolina I have is very fine powdery flour. Dang it! So off I go on yet another ingredient hunting expedition. A few stores later I found the required coarsely ground semolina.

My excitement quickly returned as I examined the semolina closely. It looked very similar to farina. I love farina. As a young girl I loved to eat farina for breakfast or after an early evening of playing in the snow. Even now on a day when the world seems crueler than usual I soothe myself with a big bowl topped with a little sugar, milk and a pat of butter. If semolina gnocchi is half as good I will be happy.

The preparation calls for cooking the semolina over low heat in milk until a thick mass emerges. Then egg yolks, butter, parmesan cheese are mixed in. The mixture is then spread out on a counter to cool completely before being cut into discs. The discs are arranged shingle style in a buttered dish and topped with bacon or boiled ham and more parmesan. I used ham. Bake, cool slightly and serve.

While the gnocchi was baking I decided to look up the difference between farina and semolina. As defined by The New Food Lover’s Companion:

Semolina – Durum wheat that is more coarsely ground than normal wheat flours, a result that is often obtained by sifting out the finer flour.

Farina – 1) Made from cereal grains, farina is a bland tasting flour or meal that, when cooked in boiling water, makes a hot breakfast cereal. 2) Italian for “flour”

Obviously, this writer does not enjoy farina. That’s okay I learned something new today.

There is a fine line with foods as far as my palate is concerned. For example, tuna salad is good. Tuna casserole is not. Meringue is edible. Egg as egg in any other form is not. Farina is good. Semolina as pasta is good. Grits are not good. I do not like grits. And will only eat them if literally there is nothing else available and the hope of accessing appealing food may take days. Basically I will only eat them in an emergency. Or, if prepared and offered to me by a gentle, kind senior citizen. For them I will force down a no thank you helping. I do have some manners. Anyone younger than seventy will get a resounding, “NO THANK YOU!”


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Why I am I blabbing on and on about this? This dish’s flavor straddles or should I say crosses the line. Semolina gnocchi tastes like grits. Cheese grits with ham to be exact. Perhaps this is appealing to others out there. It is not appealing to me. I was disappointed. Oh, well. The texture of the gnocchi is firm but still soft at the same time. The taste is slight creaminess followed by a salty bite from the ham and cheese. I opted out of trying the suggested fritters made from the semolina trimmings.


Herbst, Sharon Tyler. The New Food Lover’s Companion. New York: Barron’s, 2001.

© 2010 Irene D. Ericson


August 16, 2010

Baked Polenta with Bolognese Meat Sauce

This recipe has four ingredients: Béchamel Sauce, Polenta, Bolognese Meat Sauce and parmesan cheese. Once the three main components are made the dish comes together in no time. It is layered in a fashion similar to lasagna. However, instead of pasta it has sliced polenta. Each layer alternates polenta, the sauces (mixed together) and cheese. The whole thing is baked for about 15 minutes. If you’re a fan of Ragù and enjoy the comforting taste of polenta, this dish is for you.


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Loaf of instant polenta chilled and ready for slicing


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First layer covered in sauce and cheese


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Baked and ready to be served


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Baked Polenta with Bolognese Meat Sauce

August 23, 2010

Frittata with Green Beans / Frittata with Pan-Fried Onions and Potatoes


Thanks to a typo I've been given two chances to try eggs again this week. I’m egg-cited. [smile] An opportunity like this does not come around everyday! Hang in there with me…I’m trying to build momentum for myself. My very first post explains my egg dilemma. (http://www.slowtrav.com/blog/pomodori_e_vino/monday_irene/)

I decided to make the potato & onion frittata on the stove top and the green bean frittata in the oven.

Pan-Fried Onion and Potato

The first step for this recipe is to cook diced potatoes in two stages until they are nicely browned. While the potatoes cool you cook the onion. Mix both ingredients with the eggs, salt and pepper then add to the prepared skillet.

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Green Bean
For this recipe the fresh green beans are cooked in salted water until tender but still firm. Eggs, beans, salt, pepper, parmesan are mixed together and poured into a buttered dish. Bake.


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They both smell wonderful. Better than any egg dishes I’ve cooked before. I am a bit surprised with the results. I was able to eat an entire slice of potato/onion frittata. It was just like eating fried potatoes and sweet caramelized onions held together with a soft mystery ingredient. The mystery here is that it did not taste like eggs.


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I managed to eat a little over half a slice of the green bean frittata before my gag reflex started to quiver. I had to stop eating but not before noting the perfectly cooked green beans and surprisingly mild flavor of the cheese. I could taste the eggs more here but it was dare I say…tasty.


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No food will be wasted today. I live with two egg lovers who are enjoying them as I type. I’ll take the glistening lips and rapid chewing as thumbs up. Wow! I cannot believe it. I was able to eat a cooked egg dish without my usual unpleasant reaction. Hooray for me! I have to go call my mother. She’s not going to believe this.

August 30, 2010

Shrimp Fried in Leavened Batter

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I have fried shrimp many times over the years. I tend to stick with a commercial batter since the results are consistent. My attempts to make homemade batters have always resulted in coatings that are too thick and bread like for my taste.

The hardest part of making this week's recipe was finding the small shrimp. The recipe calls for shrimp "as small as possible". Visiting the grocery stores I discovered that most small shrimp are precooked. This is something I never noticed before since I have a favorite shrimp size that I use most times. After a little searching, I was able to find 70-80 count raw shrimp.

The shrimp are dipped in a batter made of yeast, water, eggs, flour and salt before frying. Once mixed together this leavened batter has a consistency of very thin, pancake batter. I skewered a few shrimp with the optional toothpick for ease of dipping. I managed just fine without the toothpick also. Frying the shrimp was a little scary. The oil did more popping then usual due to the high water content of the batter. No worries. I used a skillet this time. Next time I will use my deep fryer.


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Each shrimp was golden brown with a very light, extremely crisp coating. I love how the batter did not mask the taste of the shrimp. I was eating them so quickly I almost forgot I needed a few for pictures. Only one thing would make this recipe better...letting someone else cook them so I could focus all my attention on enjoying each and every one.


September 6, 2010

Sautéed Swordfish Steaks with Capers and Vinegar, Stimpirata Style

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This dish was quick and easy to make. My swordfish steaks were about an inch thick so I even added a few minutes to the cooking time. The final result was delicious. My husband, who only likes fried catfish and his sister Laura’s tilapia, said it was delicious. He gave me a literal thumbs up and four, “Good Job, Honey!” before he let his fork rest.

I liked how the onions and celery knocks of some the vinegar’s pungency. The flesh of the fish was tender but meaty with a mild sweetness that played well against the caper dotted sauce. We give it two thumbs up. Ha- Ha! I couldn’t resist.

September 13, 2010

My Father's Fish Soup

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I was able to find the best looking whole fish I have ever seen at the supermarket. It’s a yellow tailed snapper. The picture does not do it justice. I was amazed at the clearness of the eyes. Yes, I know that is a sign of freshness. Living in the Missouri away from large bodies of fresh or sea water means most of fish I buy is frozen. When I do buy fresh fish it has already been cut into fillets or steaks.


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Each week I approach the recipe with an open minded and acknowledgment of any “baggage” I have regarding the ingredients. With every recipe there is an opportunity to like a food I once did not or think about a favorite in a new way. In the past I have not liked clam chowder –Manhattan or New England. Because of this I have avoided other fish soups.


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Rockfish, Sea Bass, Halibut, Shrimp, Clams, Mussels and Squid (not pictured)


There are several steps you must carefully execute to create this dish. In addition to the snapper, I used the seafood listed above. I felt a little sad when had to cut of my fishes head. This head and two others were cooked, meat removed, bones picked and then mashed through a food mill. Dry white wine, garlic, EVOO, parsley and tomatoes are the remaining ingredients. There are quite a few steps to this recipe. The entire recipe dish about 2 1/2 hour including prep. Marcella said it was more of a stew than soup and it was. I used a fork to eat it.


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This soup has bold fish flavor. I should have guessed since it gave off a fairly strong aroma while cooking. My palette is not sophisticated enough to appreciate this soup at this time. I can’t say that I’m surprised. However, I am surprised the ingredients for this dish surpassed the cost of the Black Truffle Pasta I made in June. This is the most expense recipe I will prepare during this cooking challenge.

September 20, 2010

Stuffed Whole Squid Braised with Tomatoes and White Wine

I cooked this in advance. I took pictures and wrote about the recipe also. I cannot find my post. I still have the pictures but the details about the way this tasted are fuzzy. This is what I do remember:

• My pointer finger is the best tool to get stuffing down into a squid sac.
• I never imagined myself using a needle and thread to stitch squid close.
• Squid are slippery.
• Tastes mild but rich at the same time.
• Texture of the cooked squid was not tough (A surprise to me, I was expecting rubbery.)
• This would make a nice appetizer too.
• I would eat this again.

I saw my friend’s husband sneak another piece when he thought no one was looking. That is the ultimate seal of approval for me. He does not consider himself a “squid person”.

Main Ingredient: squid
Stuffing Ingredients: egg, olive oil, parsley, garlic, parmesan cheese, bread crumbs, salt and pepper
Braising Ingredients: olive oil, garlic, tomatoes, white wine


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slicing the squid


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squid topped with braising sauce


September 27, 2010

Chicken Fricassee with Porcini Mushrooms, White Wine, and Tomatoes

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This recipe was simple to make. The chicken is lightly browned in a skillet. Wine is then added to the pan and the yummy bits are scraped up and stirred with a spoon. Next, chopped reconstituted Porcini mushrooms, tomatoes, and the filtered soaking water from the mushrooms are added to the pan. The chicken simmers over low heat until the dark meat is tender. The whole dish cooks down and makes a sauce/gravy with a great consistency. A little butter is swirled into the sauce/gravy for the finishing touch. If you are a fan of smothered chicken, try this Italian version for a change of pace. The Porcini's add a nice earthiness to the sauce/gravy without overpowering the chicken.

October 4, 2010

Pan-Roasted Whole Boned Chicken with Beef and Parmesan Stuffing

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Raw Whole Chicken with Bones

I have never boned a chicken before. I purposely avoided trying this technique so I could continue to deny all the requests I receive to make a Turducken. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Turducken) I always thought stuffing a chicken in to a duck in to a turkey was gluttonous. I did not want to try it. Every offer comes with a fair share of begging. I have always been able to say I do not know how to bone poultry. Well, I cannot use that excuse any longer.

Marcella did an excellent job describing the entire process in the cookbook. The step by step instructions are fool proof. I was able to bone the whole chicken without damaging the skin. Sadly, I was a little distracted and did not photograph my boned raw chicken. :( Silly I know but nevertheless too late. Now that all the bones (except from wings) were removed from the chicken it was time to stuff it.

The stuffing is a mixture of ground beef chuck, parmesan cheese, parsley and garlic. As instructed, I filled in the leg cavities first then formed the remaining stuffing into oval like lump for the center of the chicken. I just realized I did not photograph this step either. Sorry, I am totally lame this week. Then the bird is stitched close. I did take a picture of the raw chicken sewn closed. I’m getting pretty good with a needle and thread in the kitchen.

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Back of Boned Stuffed Chicken

The stuffed chicken is browned on all sides in a pan with oil and butter. I managed to rotate the chicken in the pan without tearing it up. White wine is added before covering the pan. The chicken is cooked on the stove top over low heat.

I turned the chicken half way through the cooking process. The skin near one drumstick ripped and a little stuffing oozed out. I was very disappointed. I had to give myself a timeout. Ten minutes later I laughed at how upset I was. It’s just food. I let the chicken rest a bit before slicing it.


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Cooked Chicken


This tasted like mildly flavored meatballs and chicken. The meat combination was not for me. I've learned I do not like eating chicken and ground beef together. However, I am going to use this technique again. I have thought up all kinds of delicious stuffing to try.


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Pan-Roasted Whole Boned Chicken with Beef and Parmesan Stuffing


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Close-up of leg


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Close-up of Breast section

October 11, 2010

Ossobuco - Braised Veal Shanks, Milanese Style

How can you go wrong with braised meat? You can’t. This method is one of the easiest and tastiest ways to cook. I love how braising extracts very drop of flavor and tenderizing tougher pieces of meat. That is exactly what you need for cooking sections of a calf’s leg. I’ve never made this dish before but I have been in many great conversations about which restaurant makes the best version. This was another one of the dishes I was waiting to try first in Italy. With nothing but positive expectations, I proceed with the recipe.

I dusted the shanks in flour and browned them on all sides. Next, I cooked onions, carrots, celery, and lemon zest until they softened. In a heavy pot (I used enameled cast iron) stack the shanks on top of the veggies. Add some of Marcella’s glorious homemade meat broth, chopped Italian tomatoes, sprigs of parsley and spices before popping the pot in to the oven. There it will slow cook to perfection for a couple of hours.

All the ingredients cook down to fall of the bone tender veal resting in a rich, flavorful sauce. Yummy, Yummy! This was good. I’ve said it before and I will say it again… buy the cookbook. Meals like this are the reason why I will never become a vegetarian. This dish of comfort food just soothed my soul.


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Ossobuco with Saffron Risotto


**I was so excited to taste the Ossobuco I forgot to use the Gremolada.

October 18, 2010

Veal Scaloppine with Tomato, Oregano, and Capers

It's Monday. Normally you would see Irene's post here. Or, you would see Kim fulfilling her pinch-hitter roll. But, an unplanned, last minute trip for Irene meant she was unable to make her post this week. It was too late to ask Kim to take the day because Kim was in Venice (Lucky Kim).

So Deborah and Dan are "forced" to eat veal two nights in a row. Taking one for the team. Darn!

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Tomatoes, capers, and oregano are the stereotypical flavor profile of Sicily that Americans have come to expect. And Sicily (or generally the southern part of Italy) is the predominant ancestral home of most of our St. Louis Italian community. One of the two ubiquitous veal dishes on almost every menu (the other, Veal Piccata) is Veal Parmesan.

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The basic ingredients may be the same, but today's veal dish is as far removed from Veal Parmesan as Parma is from Palermo.

Veal Parmesan, at least the typical Italian-American restaurant version, tends to be heavy and rich. This dish, thanks to Marcella's steadfast refusal to add a single unnecessary ingredient to any of her recipes, is light and fresh - and delicious!

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October 25, 2010

Sauteed Breaded Veal Chops - Milanese Style

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I butterflied veal chops and pounded them until thin. The chops are dipped in egg, rolled in plain bread crumbs, then fried until golden brown. Simple and delicious.

November 1, 2010

Vitello Tonnato – Cold Sliced Veal with Tuna Sauce

I’m glad I was able to get a veal roast. After making this, I cannot imagine using any one of the substitutions. Thanks Beth!

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This is a simple but sophisticated recipe. The first step is to poach the veal in a broth of vegetables and water. While that is cooling I prepare the sauce. After 32 weeks of cooking, I was finally able to make mayo. About time! The tuna sauce for this dish is a blend of homemade mayo, tuna, anchovies, capers, olive oil and lemon juice. The sauce is spread on a platter and layered repeatedly with the cooled, thinly sliced veal. The dish is then refrigerated for 24 hours. It is brought to room temperature before serving.


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first layer


This dish was a success. I liked it but I cannot explain why. I can definitely see this being served at a dinner party. With each bite I can taste the sweet, tender veal and all of the ingredients in the tuna sauce. My palette recognizes all the flavors but I’m not sure I am appreciating them fully in this combination. Perhaps the right wine pairing would make this all come together. I’m not sure what would be a choice. Please leave me a comment if you have a vino suggestion.


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serving of Vitello Tonnato

November 8, 2010

Beef Rolls with Red Cabbage and Chianti Wine

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I work weekends in a retail store. This weekend gave me a sampling of the busy shopping season that is coming in the weeks ahead. It is Sunday night and I am tired. As I settled into my fuzzy slippers and blow on my hot cup of tea, I realized I did not get the cheese. My quiet moment will have to wait.

I decided to go to the closest high end grocery store. I was fairly sure they would carry Fontina. They did. Well, sort of. I found a beautifully crafted label a top a wedge of Wisconsin “Fontina” cheese. This cheese was as white as cream cheese and I’m sure just as tasteless. After the day I’ve had, I was not willing to drive the 64 miles round trip to the store I absolutely knew would have imported Italian Fontina. I picked out a substitute. I am not a cheese connoisseur. I chose a nice pale yellow, creamy looking wedge of imported Jarlsberg because of the buttery and nutty description.

At home I thinly sliced my red cabbage before sautéing it with olive oil and garlic. I let the cabbage cook down as instructed. My beef slices were thin but I gave them a few poundings before rolling them with the boiled ham and Jarlsberg. When I tasted the cabbage to check for softness I was surprised how delicious it was. I could have eaten the whole skillet for dinner by myself. Normally, I eat red cabbage raw and use green cabbage for cooking. I browned the beef rolls. The cabbage was added to the pan then I poured in the wine. Smells yummy!

The beef and cabbage is done after ten more minutes of cooking. This is a hearty but not heavy meal full of wonderful flavor. The wine adds a layer of fruitiness. The Jalrsberg worked out fine. The rich, nutty profile played well against the saltiness of the ham and sweetness of the beef. I enjoyed it and so did my family.


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November 15, 2010

Winter Meatballs with Savoy Cabbage

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November 22, 2010

Thin Lamb Chops Fried in Parmesan Batter

I thought about it for a while and I could not recall a time I have had lamb fried or battered. I usually have it grilled, roasted, or braised slowly. I really like lamb so making this week’s recipe would be a treat.


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Two small imported lamb lion chops. One on the right was pounded.


This meat dish is made similarly to breaded veal chops. The main difference is a coating of parmesan cheese before dipping the thinly pounded chops in the egg. After the egg they take a roll in bread crumbs before briefly frying in vegetable oil. This is where the batter comes in. As the cheese, egg and bread crumb coating cooks in the hot oil a batter forms and puffs up from the meat like they were originally dipped in a liquid batter. The end result is a tender, sweet piece of lamb covered in a crisp and slightly tangy crust. Very good. I will definitely make this again. My oil was a little too hot so the edges are extra golden brown. Cheers to all things fried! LOL


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Thin Lamb Chops Fried in Parmesan Battter

November 29, 2010

Braised Pork Chops with Tomatoes, Cream, and Porcini Mushrooms

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Thick cut pork chops are browned then slowly simmered in a sauce of tomatoes, white wine, porcini and white button mushrooms and cream.

This dish was a great dinner for the cold, rainy weather we had today in St. Louis. All the ingredients meld together for a sauce that is not too thick or rich but a nice compliment to the tender pork. I served this pork dish on top of a pile of smashed potatoes. It was a satisfying meal. Everyone asked for seconds. Once again we have simple techniques creating wonderful flavors.

Question: If Italians taught the French how to cook, why did the French make the process so complicated?


December 6, 2010

Pork Sausages with Red Cabbage

The recipe title says it all with this dish. The cabbage and sausages are cooked in seperate pans until nearly done. Then they are combined and cooked until the cabbage is soft. The mild pork sausage came from the special batch Deborah special ordered months ago. It is mildly seasoned with only salt and pepper. This was the first time I have eaten such a mildly flavored sausage. My brain must have thought my eyes were playing tricks. I'm so use to eating sausage seasoned with fennel or hot peppers that with every bite I kept thinking I forgot to add something. I'm glad there was a little garlic cooked with the cabbage for that extra layer of subtle flavor. Everyone cleaned their plate so all was well.


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December 13, 2010

Sautéed Calf’s Liver and Onions, Venetian Style

I hate liver! This was the only recipe in the entire book I was concerned about. I have never liked liver or liver dishes. Growing up my mother forced me to eat liver with methods I'm convinced were borderline abusive. I recently shared my horror story with Dan, Deborah’s husband, and he laughed. I’ll telling you those old liver dinner days were no laughing matter.

No Foie Gras. No Rumaki. No Pâté. I just say no to liver. Yes, I have tried each one of these foods. Some I have even tried twice. This week I must again remember my pledge and enjoy the cooking process. I will also cut the recipe in half.

Sautéed Calf’s Liver and Onions prepared Venetian Style is very easy to cook. Just two ingredients--Liver and Onions. Thinly sliced onions are sautéed until brown. Then the liver quickly cooked over high heat. Salt, pepper, done.

The liver looked delicious. This is the first time I have seen cooked liver be flexible. When pressed with my finger the texture was slightly springy like a cake ready to come out of the oven. I took a deep breath, cut a small piece, and took a bite. It still tastes like liver. The texture was moist which was a surprise, but even topped with all those delicious onions I have to pass.

Shortly after Steve and I were married, we made a promise to never cook liver in our home or feed it to our future children. He has his own horror story. I had to be very persuasive to get him taste the end result. Why should I be the only deal breaker? [grin] His feelings remain unchanged also. Oh well, I can’t like everything.


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December 20, 2010

Fried Calf's Brains

Back in March when Cindy graciously organized our recipe assignment, I did a double take as I read through the “Variety Meat” section. Did that say calf brain? I immediately grabbed my newly purchased cookbook to make sure this was not a typo. Sure enough there it was –Fried Calf’s Brain. I have to admit I was excited. I have looked forward to making this recipe since then. My only concern was would I be able to find a calf brain.

The first step I took was looking on the United States Food and Drug Administration website. Thanks to a Mad Cow Disease indecent a few years ago I was not sure I could even buy beef brain in the United States. The guidelines clearly state that the sale or purchase was not prohibited if the listed guidelines were met. Good news but were can I make the purchase.

I called every grocery store and nearby butcher in the area. I e-mailed several organic farms in Missouri and not one of them was kind enough to respond. No luck. I even spoke with the meat purchasing managers at Whole Foods and Global Foods. Both said they were not allowed to order brains because it was illegal and the company did not want to deal with any liability issues. The truth was really the latter.

Then one afternoon after visiting my in-laws, I drove past a butcher shop I had not called. This little place by the railroad tracks looked like its heyday was a couple of decades ago. I walk in and looked around at the many cases of fresh and frozen meats. There was so much meat in there it smelled like a meat locker. I half heartedly asked the man behind the counter if he could order calf brain for me. He replied, “I have some right over there in the freezer.” I was shocked and quickly hurried over to grab the Cryovac package. He told me he had a good relationship with the farm where it came from. He also mentioned how sad the two of them were because she may not be able to continue providing brains in the future because of pressure from the government.

Now let’s fast forward a few months until last Monday. Deborah and I visited Schubert’s Packing Company. The first thing I noticed when I walked in was the smell. There was not much of one at all. The only thing I small was a little smoke. As I looked around I realized the smoke smell was from their house made sausages. I took several deep breaths. This butcher shop had that fresh non- smell that indicated cleanliness. I had a great time chatting with Larry and his helpers and sampling sausages. I could not believe I was standing in front of a case of freshly slaughter meat. This is the way it should always be. Larry learned all about our variety meat section. I mentioned I would have to make calf brains soon. He said they have them from time to time.

I could not get the smell or lack there of the new butcher shop out of my mind. Maybe I had made a mistake buying from the other place. My frozen package looked like dark chopped up meat bits not brains. How old was it? Was it safe to eat? I wondered if it was too late to find calf brain somewhere else. For two whole days I pondered if I should use what I had or try to get more. I only had five days left. I could not rest so I called Schubert’s to ask when they would have calf brain again. The lady on the other end remembered my visit and said we have some now. We just slaughtered this morning. She offered to put it aside for me. I hung up the phone and shouted, “Road Trip!” My husband, son and I piled in the car and traveled to Illinois to pick up order. I walked in the butcher shop, gave my name at the counter, and they gave me this:

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HOW COOL IS THIS! Who would have thought I would get to buy a whole brain. First of all this dish violates my innards policy but for some reason I did not care. I felt like a mad scientist as I prepared the brain for poaching. After soaking in cold water the membrane and outer blood vessels are removed. The membrane is extremely thin. The flesh of the brain is very delicate. One must use patience and tender care to remove the membrane without tearing up the brain. I learned this with the first section I prepared.

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Top Side -membrane removed

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Underside - membrane removed

The texture of the raw flesh was wonderful. It was soft and almost silky. I could not stop rubbing it. I realized right then that cleaning chicken was much grosser than cleaning calf brain. At one point I stopped to sniff the brain so I could remember the smell. I wanted to be completely present during this process. To my surprise it smelled very faintly like beef. In a blind smell test I would not be able to guess what it was. The poaching liquid was water with carrot, onion, celery and salt added. I slipped the clean brain into the liquid and gently simmered it for twenty minutes.

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Poached brain draining and cooling. Now it looks like gray matter.

The brain is placed in the refrigerator to cool until firm. Next it is frying time. The chilled brain is sliced into 1/2 inch pieces, dipped in egg and rolled in plain bread crumb. I fried the pieces in vegetable oil until golden brown and served immediately.

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Pile O' Fried Brain

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One piece cut in half

The brain must contain a lot of fat because it has a creamy smooth, rich taste. In fact it reminded me of the fatty bits you get on cold water fish. The texture was like a cross between hard boiled egg whites and soft tofu. It was firm enough to cut through but still soft and slightly spongy when squeezed. These little bites don’t really have a lot of taste. This is my best description:

Imagine you took a bit of very high quality pate. After you chewed and swallow it you take a drink. You start to chat for a couple of minutes with one of your friends. The flavors that linger in your mouth are what this tasted like to me. No, it does not taste like liver or beef. It has a unique taste I have never had before but at the same time it seemed familiar. I liked it better with a squeeze of lemon. The acid cut through the richness and provided a nice citrus kick to the crunchy coating.

My husband could not get past seeing me prepare the brain. He was adamant about not tasting this dish but I insisted. I’m sure he only complied to have some peace. I should have taken a picture of his face as he bite down. You would have thought he was eating an unripe kumquat. I know he really could not tell what he tasted because he was having a mental block about what he was eating.

This is the most exotic thing I will probably ever cook and possible eat. Who knows? Given the right fresh ingredient, good company and a glass of wine…the possibilities are endless.

December 27, 2010

Crisp-Fried Artichoke Wedges

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I think I may have the most fried recipes during this challenge. This week I fried artichoke wedges. Marcella's notes said this is a perfect time to use frozen artichokes. So that is exactly what I did. They were already cut in half so all I needed to do was thaw, bread and fry.

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I could not recall eating fried artichokes in the past. I was surprised by how much the hearts softened. The inside was moist and the outer layer was crisp. I like artichokes so this new texture with their usual flavor was nice.

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January 3, 2011

Braised Sunchokes and Scallions

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This dish is simple to make. Fortunately this is the season for sunchokes. I was able to locate some without difficulty. After removing their skins I sliced them thinly. The scallions are cut in half and cooked in melted butter before adding the sunchokes, salt and pepper and little water.

The sunchokes tasted like a cross between potatoes and turnips. The texture was tender but not mushy. The scallions added a great depth of flavor and a little sweetness. My husband enjoyed eating this vegetable dish.

January 10, 2011

Green Beans and Potato Pie, Genoa Style

This week I made a savory pie. Green beans are boiled then chopped very fine. The potatoes are boiled then passed through a food mill or potato ricer. Both vegetables are combined with eggs, parmigiano-reggiano cheese, salt, pepper. The recipe also called for marjoram. I realized after mixing all the ingredients together that I did not prepare properly. I did not have marjoram in my spice cabinet. I substituted savory.

A round cake pan is prepared by oiling with olive oil and sprinkling with bread crumbs. After the filling is added to the pan. An addition layer of bread crumbs and drizzle of oil goes on top of the filling. Bake for 1 hour and serve hot or at room temperature. This was supposed to be inverted on a plated but I could not get it out of the pan.

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My assumption about this pie before beginning was that it would taste like a baked frittata. I was wrong. It has less eggs so the the flavors of the fresh vegetables, cheese and herbs really shine through. The bread crumbs add a nice crunch to each bite of soft filling. This vegetable pie is tasty. I would make it again.

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January 17, 2011

Braised Carrots with Capers

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January 24, 2011

Braised Celery Stalks with Onion, Pancetta and Tomatoes

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January 31, 2011

Eggplant Cubes, Al Funghetto

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February 7, 2011

Braised Leeks with Parmesan Cheese

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February 14, 2011

Sweet and Sour Onions

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February 21, 2011

Sliced Potatoes Baked with Porcini and Fresh Cultivated Mushrooms, Riviera Style

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March 7, 2011

Baked Zucchini Stuffed wtih Ham and Cheese

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March 14, 2011

Shredded Carrot Salad

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This salad is nothing like the mayonnaise laden, raisin studded buffet fixture. This is easy to make with few ingredients: carrots, lemon juice, salt and olive oil. The salad tastes like carrots but the lemon juice and salt brightens the flavor a bit. It’s simple and nutritious.

March 21, 2011

Panzanella - Bread Salad

Panzanella is a salad made with toasted bread and vegetables tossed in vinegar & oil based dressing. This recipe included yellow sweet bell pepper, cucumber, onion, salt, garlic, black pepper, capers, anchovies and tomatoes. I made this recipe last summer when tomatoes were at their peak. In addition to the bright red slicing tomato, I was able to find two heirloom tomatoes. The first was a red one the color of fresh meat. The second was the color of champagne. Once the skin was removed both were translucent like stained glass.

The best way to describe this salad is balance. It has the right mix of salty, sweet and pungent. The texture was a balance of soft & chewy, and crisp & crunchy. It tastes like the Summer’s essence. The only thing that would have made this better is a warm breeze from across the salty sea.


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March 28, 2011

Warm Cauliflower Salad

This salad is very simple to prepare. First a head of Cauliflower boiled in water until tender. Next, the water is drained and the florets separated. The Cauliflower is immediately tossed with salt, olive oil, and red wine vinegar. The warm florets absorb the flavors well. If you are looking to give this mild tasting vegetable a little zest this is the recipe for you.


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April 4, 2011

Rice and Chicken Salad

The salad I made today is a meal in itself. It is a colorful mix of the following flavorful ingredients.

Long grain white rice
Salt
Dijon Mustard
Red Wine Vinegar
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Fontina Cheese
Black Greek Olives
Green Olives
Red Sweet Bell Pepper
Cornichons (sour cucumber pickles)
Boiled Chicken Breast

The rice is cooked, rinsed and drained. The next four ingredients are mixed together before being tossed with the remaining diced ingredients. Done.

The final result is a hearty salad with a nice blend of elements. Each forkful provides a sweet, nutty, tangy and salty flavor combination. Easy to make and full of texture, this room temperature salad would make a good choice for a picnic or buffet.


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April 11, 2011

Sweet Pastry Fritters

Fried dough sprinkled with sugar. What’s not to love?

The key ingredient of this dessert is lard. It has been many years since I’ve cooked with lard. However, I managed to find some in Mexican foods section of the grocery store.


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The lard is mixed together with flour, a little sugar, white wine, salt, and one egg. This all comes together loosely before being kneaded until smooth. This step is very similar to making pie crust.


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dough before resting 15 minutes


Next, the dough is rolled out to 1/8 thickness and cut into strips of 5” by 1/2”. I will admit I was a little confused about how to twist and shape this small strip of dough into a bow. I decided to just twist and make a crisscross.


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Each fritter is fried in hot lard until golden brown.


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first round draining


A sprinkling of confectioner’s sugar is the finishing touch. On the left you will see a sprinkle. I wondered what a thicker coating of the sugar would taste like so I was more liberal with the fritters on the right. Both versions tasted good. The fritter turns out light, crisp and slightly sweet. They were great with a cup of hot tea. I’m going to make them again using the lard substitutes (butter & vegetable oil) so I can compare the taste.


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I thought we consumed the entire batch. I latter discovered my husband stashed some in a bowl marked with his initial. I had a big laugh. In nine years he has never marked his food. I take that as a compliment.


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April 18, 2011

Almond Cake

I was very excited to make this cake. I love almonds and almond desserts. This dessert is made with ground almonds, sugar, lemon zest, whipped egg whites and just 3/8 cup of flour. All of the ingredients are gently folded into the egg whites. The batter is spread in a buttered springform pan and baked. The cake is served completely cooled.

The cake was light, moist, sweet, and lemony. However, it did not taste like almonds at all. It only tasted like lemon. I could tell the almonds are in there because it is a little chewy. It reminds me of a macaroon. I’m not sure why the almond flavor is drowned out by the lemon peel. I bought a fresh bag of almonds from a store with high turnover. I tasted them before using. I did get raw almonds. Perhaps I should have toasted them before grinding. I would not call this cake a failure but I would not call it a success either.

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April 25, 2011

Calabresi - Almond and Lemon Cookies

Okay, I have been totally defeated by almonds. This is my 2nd almond dessert recipe in as many weeks. I am again not happy with the final result. This time I made cookies. Marcella gives instruction for making them by hand or in the food processor. I chose the latter.

Blanched almonds are pulverized with sugar. Then egg yolks, salt, flour and lemon peel and juice are added. This is all mixed until a smooth lump forms. Here was my first challenge. My dough did not combine. It was like loose coarse crumbs. When I pinched it between my fingers it would not hold together. I was not sure what else I should add. I feared more lemon juice would mask the almond flavor. I thought about adding water but decided to add another egg yolk. My yolks seemed smaller than usual for large eggs. I assumed this was the problem. The third yolk was added, dough processed and lump was formed.

The dough is rolled out, cut into rounds, brushed with egg wash and baked. Here was my second challenge. They did not brown. Assuming I rolled them a little thicker than 1/4”, I cooked them for three more minutes. The bottoms were starting to brown but the tops were blond. I removed them from the oven. Isn’t egg wash supposed to help with browning?

After the cookies cooled, I tasted them. This was the final challenge. As with the last recipe I could not taste the almond. The lemon flavor was present but not overpowering. The cookies are lightly sweetened. My best guess is these are close but not quite.

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May 2, 2011

Ricotta and Coffee Cream

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I lovingly refer to this dessert as an adult pudding cocktail. No, it does not taste like pudding. The color and texture reminds me of the childhood treat. This treat, my friends, is for adults.

My ingredients gave this recipe a bit of international flair. I used Brazilian Sugar, Italian Espresso & Ricotta, and Virgin Island Rum.

I actually made this last fall when I was fortunate to locate imported fresh ricotta. Italians sure know how to handle dairy products. The ricotta has a bright, clean, milky taste. Yummy!

The recipe comes together very quickly. I chose to mix it in a food processor for a creamy consistency. The blended mixture is then poured into individual serving cups and refrigerated overnight. Next time I will beat the mixture with 2 forks for a firmer texture. Garnish with espresso beans before serving. This is a wonderful blend of coffee and rum with a delicious creaminess. I loved it!

May 9, 2011

Mangoes and Strawberries in Sweet White Wine

Deborah is happy and more than willing to serve as Irene's taste tester for this dish.

Happy for the reason Irene isn't tasting it for herself. And happy to not only taste it, but to consume the entire bowl.

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Deborah will be making this again in early August when the white peaches at Eckart's are ripe for the picking. And she will be serving it to Irene.

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May 16, 2011

Egg Custard Gelato / The Chimney Sweep's Gelato

Ingredients: Egg yolks, sugar, milk, orange peel and a tablespoon of Grand Marnier.

The base for this recipe comes together easier than other ice cream recipes I have made. The hardest part was waiting for the mixture to cool completely before freezing. This custard has a lighter texture than most homemade frozen custards. It is sweet but not too sweet with a nice orange undertone. I was surprised how creamy it turned out since it was made with whole milk. I found this to be tasty and refreshing.


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Egg Custard Gelato


The Chimney’s Sweep Gelato is a way to enhance an already delicious treat. A tablespoon of Bourbon is poured over a scoop of egg custard gelato. Then espresso is sprinkled on top. I could not eat this recipe so I enlisted Deborah as my taste tester. “This is really good” she said as her eyes rolled. “You have to taste it. Just stick your finger in it. That won’t do any harm.” Deborah can be very persuasive.

I have started a count down until I can make this again. I cannot wait to enjoy my own bowl. I love and miss Bourbon and espresso. Having both swirl and mingle with the creamy gelato was delightful. That was the best pinky fingertip sized taste I’ve ever had.

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The Chimney Sweep's Gelato

May 23, 2011

Pizza with Margherita Topping: Tomatoes, Mozzarella, Basil and Parmesan Cheese

I’m originally from the northern Midwest. I like my pizza with hand tossed crust. I have been known on a few occasions to have deep dish crust but I’m not from Chicago so I can live without it. My introduction to thin crust pizza was the summer after I moved to Saint Louis almost ten years ago.

Saint Louis is known for thin crust pizza. Well, that’s what St. Louisans believe anyway. They are in love with this soggy cracker like thin crust pizza covered in Provel cheese. This cheese is a horrible hybrid of Cheddar, Provolone and Swiss cheeses. It in no way resembles the wonderful cheeses it is made from and has the desirability of wet American cheese. I have been on a quest to find wonderful thin crust pizza every since. I have even tried to create it at home without success. Until now…


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Pizza with Margherita Topping: Tomatoes, Mozzarella, Basil and Parmesan Cheese

Imagine my delight when this beauty came out of the oven. This is the best pizza I have ever made. The aroma is intoxicating. My first bite I closed my eyes while chewing and imagined it was the middle of summer. I am walking through a garden pulling ripe tomatoes off the vine and picking fresh basil from the stem. Mmmm.

The crust is thin and crisp. The canned San Marzano tomatoes I cooked down for the sauce have an intense tomato flavor. The imported buffalo-milk mozzarella is rich, creamy with a slight hint of salt. Fresh fragrant basil, a splash of olive oil and a little parmigiano- reggiano add to the joy. This pizza has a perfect ratio of ingredients. Delicious!

May 30, 2011

Pane Integrale - Whole Wheat Bread

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I was planning to make this after work yesterday but with temperatures over 90 degrees the last thing I wanted to think about was baking bread. Yes, I do have air conditioning but I refuse to turn it on this early in the year. So I decided to pretend I was a baker and make it overnight after the temperature dropped a bit.

All the instructions and ingredients are the same as Beth’s Olive Oil Bread from yesterday except the flour proportions are different. In this recipe you use a combination of stone-ground whole wheat flour and unbleached flour. The steps are not difficult but the process takes a while because of all the rising time.

This is the first time I have made a loaf of bread. I think it turned out very well. The loaf has a sturdy crust with a nice crumb. I enjoyed it with butter and orange marmalade. Fresh bread for breakfast could turn into an addiction.


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June 6, 2011

Irene's Final Thoughts

I grew up around African Americans, Polish immigrants and Middle Eastern immigrants from various countries. I had met a few Italian Americans but they did not center their conversations around their culture or its food as so many have done here in Saint Louis and other cities I have visited.

For me, the allure of Italian food was a myth. Italian cuisine was Lasagna, Minestrone Soup, Pizza and Marinara Sauce. Needless to say my exposure to Italian cuisine was limited. It would take years before I learned all Italian food was not red. Thank goodness for television and a certain red haired Italian chef.

When discussions about this project began, I was not very interested. I do not consider myself a foodie. Second, my experience with Italian food left much to be desired. Third, I enjoy cooking occasionally. I would not say it is one of my favorite activities. Honestly, I was thinking what is the big deal? My friend, Deborah, has a very persuasive nature. She immediately highlighted why this should and would be a big deal. The group experience changed my mind. I also realized it might be a fun way to move past the Italian food stereotypes. I signed up for Mondays which at the time was my least busy day of the week.

So, what have I learned?
• A cookbook with tested recipes and well written instructions does not need color photos.
• Italian dairy products are superior.
• Simple does not mean tasteless.
• Italian grown imported San Marzano tomatoes are fruits of the Gods.
• Tuna packed in Olive Oil is not oily and gross.
• Quality food ingredients are hard to find in my country and especially in the Midwest region. What should be the agricultural standard is offered to us at a premium. Thank goodness for food and wine imports.
• I’m a better cook than I thought.

I have enjoyed many of the recipes I have made. Several have made it into special categories. I look forward to exploring the rest of this cookbook.

Recipes I’m most proud of completing
Peas, Peppers and Prosciutto Sauce with Cream tossed with handmade Garganelli
Pan-Roasted Whole Boned Chicken with Beef and Parmesan Stuffing
Fried Calf’s Brains


Recipe I want to eat most often
Mushroom, Ham, and Cream Sauce with yellow and green fettuccine


Recipe I’m most proud of eating
Frittata with Pan-Fried Onions and Potatoes


Favorite photo
Bolognese Meat Sauce


Recipe I was surprised to enjoy
Stuffed Whole Stuffed Squid Braised with Tomatoes and White Wine


Recipes so good I dream about them
Panzanella – Bread Salad
The Chimney Sweep’s Gelato
Pizza with Margherita Topping


Recipes my husband enjoyed the most
Tomatoes Stuffed with Tuna
Poached Tuna and Spinach Roll
Vitello Tonnato- Cold Sliced Veal with Tuna Sauce
Chicken Fricassee with Porcini Mushrooms, White Wine and Tomatoes
Potatoes Baked with Porcini and Fresh Cultivated Mushrooms, Riviera Style
Sweet Pastry Fritters
This is very interesting because he says he does not like tuna or mushrooms. This food challenge has expanded his palate even if he will not admit it.


Special thanks to:

Thank you to all of the Pomodori e Vino followers.

Mindy - For being the first person I did not know to post a comment. I was nervous thinking no one would show interest. That post helped me breathe a sigh of relief. Your bravo’s, rah rah’s and continued support have been greatly appreciated.

Susie L. – For being my most frequent commenter. I’m glad you took the time to show your support. Thank you.

Kim – Thank you for all the technical support. This blog would not exist without you.

Viviano’s Market – Thanks for procuring some of the ingredients I have used. My veal posts would not have been possible without you.

Beth, Deborah, Doug, Cindy, Sandi, Jan, Jerry and Palma – I really appreciate the encouragement you have provided, the safe place to vent, and laughs. Your combined culinary knowledge and travel experience is very impressive. I am very fortunate to have met each of you. I wish you many successes in the future.

Marcella,

Thank you for the privilege to interpret your art using my humble skills. You have forever changed how I view Italian cuisine. I noticed The Classic Italian Cook Book was originally published in 1973. I was born December of the same year. How serendipitous to make your recipes many years later with you and Victor as chaperones.

Many times through out this cooking challenge I have felt this cookbook was written just for me. The level of detail you have given on regions of Italy, food ingredients and the precision of your instructions have made cooking a very enjoyable experience. Instead of spending thousands of dollars on a culinary institute or trip abroad, I have upgraded my culinary skills from the comfort of my own kitchen. Often times with fine restaurant quality results.

Seeing our endeavor as an event worthy of your time has been a tremendous honor. Your personal stories, assistance, constructive criticism and kind words have enriched this project tremendously. The last 63 weeks have been a once in a lifetime experience I will never forget. I send a big hug to both of you.

Warmest Regards and Deepest Gratitude,
Irene


This page contains an archive of all entries posted to Pomodori e Vino in the 2. Monday - Irene category. They are listed from oldest to newest.

Sunday - Beth is the previous category.

Tuesday - Deborah is the next category.

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