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

1. Sunday - Beth Archives

March 28, 2010

Crostini Bianchi-Ricotta and Anchovy Canapes

I am so lucky to have this as the first recipe of the project. I have been dreading this blogging idea because I may be a pretty fair cook, but I don’t consider myself a good writer. So, I ask your sufferance with my style and understand that the point is just the food.

I haven’t posted my bio yet, so I thought I would give you a little background. My husband and I have been married 22 years and for the first 15 people were always telling us that we should open a restaurant. We finally did. It is a unique place for our area. We have a deli, Italian grocery, and a café. We also do a lot of catering. There are 3 owners, Michael, Becky and myself. Michael, my husband, is the people person. He is the one everyone comes to see. Becky, my sister, handles all of the financials and most of the management pieces. I am responsible for all of the recipes and a lot of the computer work. We all have our strengths and weaknesses, but we balance out pretty well.

With this recipe the hardest part was not changing anything. When I am creating a recipe for the store, I always start with 4 or 5 that sound promising and then I combine the parts until I end up with something that I really like. When I first read the recipe, I saw that it called for 8 anchovies. I started to cut it back, but realized that I had to be true to Marcella’s recipe, so I followed it exactly. We have a new brand of anchovies that we just started carrying at the store. The brand is Agostino Recca. I am so glad that I had these. They are so mellow compared to other brands that I have used. When I combined all of the ingredients I was amazed at how good it tasted. The ingredients are simple, ricotta, butter, anchovies, EVOO, and freshly ground black pepper. The quality of the ingredients really shine in this recipe. I toasted the bread (Fazio’s Italian sliced bread, for those of you in the St. Louis area). I then sliced off the crusts, cut the slices in half and then half again, and then covered them with the ricotta mixture. My only regret when making these was that we didn’t have any company over to eat them.
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Okay, so this wasn’t so hard, maybe I will get used to it!

April 4, 2010

Tomatoes Stuffed with Shrimp

I am so glad that Deborah invited me to be a part of this adventure! I had always taken shortcuts in recipes where I didn’t think it would make a difference in the final taste of the food. That is why I had never made my own mayonnaise before. Boy, was I missing out. The difference was amazing. I have to say that since my background is science, I couldn’t feel good about playing with the salmonella factor, so I did buy whole pasteurized eggs. I was a little worried that this would change the eggs ability to work in the recipe, but it didn’t.

I do wish that I could have been making this recipe during July or August, because most of the tomatoes that are available in the stores now are not so great. I did find some “on the vine” tomatoes that looked good, so I decided to go with them. I can’t wait until this summer to make this with the delicious heirloom tomatoes that I can get from the farmers market!

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The recipe is simple, but the combination of flavors is powerful. Michael and I ate this immediately after making, but I think that if I had let the flavors marinate for a few hours it would have been even better. Michael loves capers, so he was in heaven with this dish.


This is such a beautiful way to serve shrimp. I almost felt like one of the “ladies who lunch”.

April 11, 2010

Poached Tuna and Potato Roll

Well, sometimes I am reminded that cooking can be a lot like a science experiment. We have a saying at the lab, be wary of things that work perfectly the first time, because they may never work that well again. Today I learned the same lesson at home. I didn’t have any problems making the mayo the first time however, today… it just didn’t work. I thought I had done everything correctly, but I should have known that Marcella would have the answer and she did. The second time around I heated the bowl and beaters before starting and I left the egg to warm up for about 30 minutes before I started. This made all of the difference in the world. It set up perfectly the second time. I used a mixture of half EVOO and half vegetable oil with the pasteurized egg yolk, of course. I added the lemon, chopped anchovy and capers and it tasted great.

I wish I could be as enthusiastic about the tuna and potato roll. I love tuna and eat it all the time. However, I don’t think I am a fan of poached fish. The tuna, potato, parmesan and egg mixture seemed appealing before I poached it. As a matter of fact I had to stop myself from sampling it at that point. The poaching liquid was pretty basic. Lots of veggies and white wine, you can’t go wrong there! It smelled great at first. The longer it cooked though, the fish smell got stronger. I poached it for the 45 minutes that the recipe calls for and then unrolled it. I let it cool and then cut and plated it. I then took the mayo mixture and piped it onto the slices of tuna roll and then added the slivers of Kalamata Olives.

Marcella recommended overlapping the tuna slices and then piping the mayo on top. My slices were a little tender, so it was easier for me to reshape them flat on the plate. I think it looks pretty good. This challenge will definitely make me better at the arrangement of the food on the plate. In the past I was more worried about the taste of the food instead of about how it looked, but this is really teaching me to take more time with the appearance.

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So, for what it is worth this is the first recipe that I have tried that I probably wouldn’t make again. I think for people who like poached fish it would be great. However, that just isn’t me.

April 18, 2010

Grilled Mussels and Clams on the Half Shell

This was a recipe that I was looking forward to making, so I was really upset to have it this week. That’s because my two young nieces and I all were all battling a stomach bug this week. I won’t go into details, but suffice it to say that seafood of any type was not on my menu. Once again, my husband Michael came to my rescue and served as the taster. I ran it over to him at our restaurant at the end of the night and he shared it with a couple of our regulars. It got rave reviews all around! I will definitely need to repeat this when I can enjoy it too.

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I had never worked with fresh mussels and clams before so I was a little nervous. I found some great ones at Whole Foods. Pricey, but I figured that they would be fresh. I stored them overnight in my fridge covered with a damp paper towel. It was intriguing to see them open up when I first put them into the water. I washed and scrubbed them about 4 times until they were clean. I then put them into a stock pot and turned the heat on high. It didn’t take long before they started popping open. I was wondering how I would know when they opened because the lid was supposed to be on the pot. It didn’t take long to figure out that they make a little clinking noise when they open, caused by the shells moving on the bottom of the pan. Marcella said to pull them out immediately after they open to keep the meat from getting tough. This must work because Michael just couldn’t get over how tender they were.

The next step was to remove the meat from the shells, saving one half of the shell for the next step. I then washed the clams in their juices to remove the last bit of sand. I did find one clam that smelled really bad at this point so I disposed of it. The others all opened and looked great. I then marinated the clams and mussels with breadcrumbs, olive oil, garlic and parsley. While they were marinating I washed the saved shells and placed them on a broiling pan. Next I peeled and seeded tomatoes and cut them into strips for the topping. I then transferred the clams and mussels back to their respective shells, put the extra breadcrumb mixture on the top, and then put a strip of tomato on top. Grilling for a few minutes until they bubbled was the last step. These looked amazing and smelled great too, which given my situation is saying a lot. Marcella has done it again.


April 25, 2010

Escarole Soup with Rice

This soup really surprised me. I had eaten escarole in soups before, but never as the main ingredient. I didn’t anticipate the amount of flavor that these simple ingredients could impart. When I was reading the recipe I was wondering why you would need to dilute the beef stock. I couldn’t imagine that you wouldn’t need the richness of the stock to compensate for the lack of other ingredients. Silly me. This is one time that I am very glad that I didn’t tinker with the recipe. Trust me I started to, but then thought, I have to be true to Marcella’s recipe, and I am so glad that I was. The magic is in the balance of flavors.

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After I chopped the escarole and got it cooking with the onions and beef broth, I thought the smell was unpleasant. I let the escarole cook for about 50 minutes until it was tender and amazingly the smell changed drastically over that course of time. It started smelling better and better. Once I added the diluted beef broth and the Arborio I knew it would be great. When it finally finished and I had shot the picture, I sat down to eat a bowl. I was so thrilled with the soup that I was tempted to eat it all! I didn’t though, Michael would never forgive me! His Zia used to make a soup like this when he was really little, so it was definitely a trip back in time for him. This soup will be a keeper for us.

May 2, 2010

Lentil Soup

Michael has certainly been looking forward to this soup. It is another one that his Zia made for him when he was little. I wish she had been alive when Michael and I were married, because I would have loved to learn to make all of these dishes from her. He sure does miss her, but for a moment he can relive those times by sharing this wonderful soup.

I have to be honest and say that I really messed up the beginning of this soup. I had a brain malfunction and somehow went from tablespoons of oil to ounces of oil. Don’t ask me how, but it made sense at the time. I started browning the onion and pancetta in the mixture of butter and oil and realized my mistake. So, I ended up scooping off the excess oil. I think I was able to get back to the right amount because the rest of the soup went together well, but it did cause me a few minutes of panic. I added the carrot and celery and then the diced tomatoes (San Marzano line) and let it cook for about a half hour. I then washed the Lentils. We had Italian Green Lentils at the store, so I chose to use them for this soup. They are very small and dainty. I drained them and then added them to the soup, with the beef broth. This cooked for about an hour. It smelled heavenly.

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When the lentils were tender, I swirled in butter and some grated Parmigano Reggiano. It was wonderful. It was storming that night and it really was comforting to have a rich hearty soup for dinner. I am especially thankful that the electricity stayed on for the whole recipe!!

May 9, 2010

Bean and Red Cabbage Soup

The first obstacle that I had to get around with this soup was the lack of the right sausage. Deborah had spotted this problem awhile ago and we have been on a mission to get the sausages made somewhere here in St. Louis. It turns out that many of the recipes coming up will need this special sausage. It is a basic sausage made with pork that only has salt and pepper added, not all of the spices and fennel that most sausages have in them these days. Michael’s family have been friends with the Volpi family for many, many years and it turns out that Armando, the patriarch, is also friends with Marcella. We were hoping that Volpi would be able to make a batch of sausage according to Marcella’s recipe. Unfortunately, they would only be able to make it in bulk, not stuffed in the casing. We have one other company here that may be able to make it for us, but the timing didn’t work out for this recipe.

This recipe took two days to finish. The first thing that I had to do was cook the pork hock for about an hour and then debone it. I then cut it into strips. Next I browned onions, garlic, the cooked hock and pancetta together. Then I added some drained San Marzano tomatoes, celery, and lots of shredded red cabbage. This cooked down for some time, and then the broth was added with some salt and pepper. I simmered this for about 3 hours the first night. I then refrigerated this overnight to allow the fat to congeal. I then scooped the fat off before starting it simmering again. I then browned some ground pork with salt and pepper, in place of the sausage. I drained this and added the meat to the soup. Next I pureed cannellini beans and mixed them in. This simmered for about fifteen minutes and then I added whole cannellini beans and simmered some more. While this was cooking, I sauted some garlic in extra virgin olive oil and added a sprig of rosemary. I strained the oil and added it to the soup.

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I have to say that the smell of cooking cabbage has never been a favorite of mine. I was prepared not to like the soup because of that. Over the lengthy simmering process the cabbage became very soft and not really cabbage like. To my surprise the combination of flavors in this soup really worked well together. My 9 year old niece was visiting and she loved the soup. I think my mom will really like it too. She has been in the hospital lately, so a bowl of home made soup might be just the ticket for her on Mother’s day. Once again, Marcella has made me love something that I never would have tried if I had chosen the recipe myself. I can’t wait to get in the right sausage for these recipes, but the substitution worked okay here.

May 16, 2010

Clam and Pea Soup

This soup was my second try with littleneck clams in this challenge. I was really looking forward to this because the base of the soup is clams, onions, garlic, clam juice and parsley. This is also the base to the linguini with clams recipe that I make, which is one of my favorite dishes. Unfortunately, the other main ingredient in this soup is peas and I mean a lot of peas. I don’t usually have a problem with peas, but this combination really didn’t appeal to me. I think I am used to having the clams with an overall savory flavor, but the peas really added a sweetness that I found overwhelming. Maybe it was the choice of peas that I used that caused the problem. I didn’t find any palatable fresh peas so I went with an organic frozen pea. I could see how that might make a difference with this recipe.

This recipe was relatively easy to put together. Washing the clams and then steaming them to start. I then filtered the clam juice and cut the clams into thirds. In the meantime, I sautéed some onions until translucent, added chopped garlic and cooked until golden brown, then added parsley and diced Nina tomatoes in their juices. This cooked for about 10 minutes. I then added the clam juice and peas and cooked this until the peas were done. I added salt and fresh ground pepper. The last addition was the chopped clams. This cooked for a short time and was then served with crostini.

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Marcella’s crostini is made by frying bread in vegetable oil. I used a small loaf of rosemary olive oil bread. This was a great choice and even my son, the pickiest eater around loved it.

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I have to say one of my favorite parts of every new recipe that I make is actually reading the recipe. Marcella spends so much time making sure that we know how to do every thing the right way. In this recipe she walked us through how to know which clams to use, how many times to scrub them, and the ins and outs of why we need to do each step. It is very refreshing. I am learning more every day. I thought I was a reasonably knowledgeable cook, but I have learned more in the last 8 weeks than I care to admit!!

May 23, 2010

Tomato Sauce with Garlic and Basil

Heavenly! That is all that I need to say about this sauce. Amazing aroma, and mouth watering flavor. It is such a simple sauce to make and definitely one of my favorites.

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I started out with canned San Marzano tomatoes, because the local tomatoes are not yet at their peak of flavor. I simmered these with some good extra virgin olive oil, five minced cloves of garlic, salt and some freshly ground black pepper for about a half hour. When the oil had started to come to the top, I removed it from the heat and mixed in some basil leaves that I had torn into small pieces. I served this with spaghettini. Since Marcella didn’t specifically mention topping this with parmesan I tried it first without it just to get the authentic flavor and it was great. Of course, I am so used to topping my sauces with cheese, I did add some when I sat down to eat. Michael was oohing and ahhing over this one. This sauce will be a staple in our house from here on out.

May 30, 2010

Peas, Bacon, and Ricotta Sauce

When my husband, Michael heard that I would be making a pasta dish with ricotta, peas and bacon he nearly swooned. He is addicted to good ricotta and will eat it in any number of dishes, some of which I haven’t been willing to try. This one sounded great, though, and it turned out to be my new favorite.

This was such a simple recipe, but the flavor was incredible. I cooked bacon in a small skillet until it was brown but not crisp. I then added the peas and cooked them for a couple of minutes. I then set this aside. In a bowl I added the ricotta and crumbled it up with some butter. I then drained the pasta and mixed it directly into the bowl with the ricotta. Then I mixed in the peas and bacon. Finally, I topped this with grated parmigiano-reggiano and enjoyed! Michael practically licked his plate.

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Oh, and as you can tell by the picture the pasta that I used is a campanelle noodle. This is one of my favorite cuts, but that isn’t the reason I ended up using it. There is an old story that the wife of the handy man always has a house in need of repair, the wife of the plumber has faucets that drip incessantly, and in my case the wife of the Italian grocer never has the right cut of pasta at home. This recipe called for conchiglie, fusilli, or rigatoni. You would have thought that I would have one of those here, but no. The good news is that it turned out wonderful and the little curves of the noodle held the pieces of ricotta nicely

June 6, 2010

“Aio e Oio”-Roman Garlic and Oil Sauce

Oh, it feels good to finally have drawn a recipe that has been a staple in our family for years and years. This is a simple recipe with tons of flavor. Just garlic and red pepper sautéed in a good extra virgin olive oil and then mixed with some spaghetti and fresh parsley. Nothing fancy, but nothing better. I do usually add some anchovy, but it is not necessary.

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When I first tried this recipe, Michael’s cousin made it for me. I was helping her in the kitchen that day and I kept questioning her about what other ingredients that we needed for the dish. I couldn’t believe that this could work. Well, it blew me away then and still does today. Comfort food at its finest!


June 13, 2010

Pesto with Ricotta

I was so glad that the timing of this recipe worked out to correspond with my first basil harvest of the year. Over the years I have given up growing anything except some herbs. Now, I have basil, rosemary, thyme, Italian parsley, and marjoram. Oh, and I guess you can include nasturtiums. I love to include the blooms in a salad. The last time I grew tomatoes, I had a squirrel pick one and run up to the ledge across from my back door. He then proceeded to look me in the eye while he took the first bite. I couldn’t believe it. If you are going to steal my produce at least have the decency to take it and run. Anyway, I digress.

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This is a new take on my normal pesto recipe. I usually use just romano cheese and certainly not any butter. Over the years I have tried just about every permutation that you can imagine. I have tried toasted pine nuts, walnuts, parsley, sundried tomatoes, and arugula. All of these had strong points, but I have to say the mixture of the butter and the ricotta seemed to bring out the flavors of the pesto better than anything else that I have tried. I don’t know if it just coated the pasta strands better or if it just deepened the overall flavor, but I was really impressed with the result. Another winner! I can’t wait to have the leftovers for lunch tomorrow.

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Now, I just have to figure out where to find 2 pounds of fish heads here in the city for my next recipe!!

June 20, 2010

Fish Sauce

Well, we all have a recipe on our list that we are not looking forward to making. This week was mine. It is fish sauce made from whole fish heads. I had a bad experience in college when I was taking a class in fish biology. Suffice it to say that the idea of dealing with a whole fish was not something that I wanted to tackle again, but for this challenge I put aside my reservations and went for it.

The first problem that I had to overcome, was actually finding the fish heads. In some areas of the country this may be easy to accomplish, but not so much here in St. Louis. After much discussion with my friends, I decided to try a store that I hadn’t shopped at before. It is called Olive Farmers Market. My friends had said that it was one of the best places to get whole fish.

This was a very unique shopping experience. The outside of the store advertised it to be a Chinese/Mexican store. When I walked in the front door, the store looked pretty typical, cash registers to my right and lots of items on the shelves to my left. That is when the smell hit me. I had to stop for a minute and wait to see if my stomach was going to let me continue. As I made my way through the store the fish smell kept getting stronger and stronger. When I finally got to the seafood section of the store, the reason for the smell became apparent. They had large tanks containing live catfish, bass, turtles, frogs, lobsters, and crayfish. They also had a long tray stacked with all kinds of iced fish from red snapper to octopus. Some of the selections look pretty questionable, but the red snapper looked good. Since that was one of the selections that Marcella had recommended that is what I choose. I ended up having to purchase the whole fish and then I froze the rest of the fish to use later.

The sauce itself wasn’t hard to make. The fish heads are cooked with olive oil, onions, and garlic until cooked through. Then the meat is taken off of the bones and the soft pieces forced through a food mill. The rest of the sauce consists of San Marzano tomatoes and some dry white wine.

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I was really impressed with the final product. The pasta that I chose for this sauce was a new cut that we have just added at the store. It is called Garganelli Emiliani. It is similar to Penne Rigate which is one of the choices that Marcella gave in the recipe, but different. I really liked it. It held the sauce nicely and had a good flavor just by itself. The sauce itself was very rich. Michael loved it. He thought it tasted almost like crabmeat. To my surprise I really liked it. I just tried not to think about the fish eyes looking at me as they cooked!! Now that I have overcome my fear of cooking with whole fish, who knows what I will be brave enough to tackle next. I looked through the recipes and the only other one that I have trepidation about is lamb’s kidneys. I wonder what type of adventure I will have to take to find those?

June 27, 2010

Gorgonzola Sauce

This sauce was great. It was very easy to put together and it had a wonderful flavor. I started with a creamy gorgonzola that we sell at our store. Marcella is very clear that the quality of the cheese is the most important thing. I have to agree. The cheese I chose has a mild and mellow richness. This is melted into some butter and milk over a low heat and then some whipping cream added and slightly reduced. The cooked pasta is then tossed with the sauce and then some grated parmesan cheese is tossed in to melt with the pasta. Wonderful.

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The only caveat this week is that I should have made fresh fettuccine to have with this sauce, but Marcella said that the penne that I chose was a good substitute. I was planning to make it this week, but I had to take my son to his summer welcome at college. I spent two days out in the hot sun (108 heat index) walking back and forth and trying to learn everything that I am expected to do for the next four years. Yikes, I thought I was either going to melt or have my brain explode from too much information. Anyway, this delayed the pasta project and by the time I got home I was much to exhausted to begin. I promise though that fresh pasta is in my future.

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July 4, 2010

Carbonara Sauce

One of the things that I most enjoy about Marcella’s cookbook is the time that she has taken to include interesting historical references along with the recipes. With this one she mentions that Carbonara sauce may have been invented right after WWII, when the American soldiers that were stationed there wanted a sauce made with bacon and eggs. Interesting idea, but whichever way it came to be invented it is a great sauce.

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I made mine today with spaghetti noodles. Marcella says that you can make this with either bacon or pancetta, so for this first time I thought I would use pancetta. It is a simple sauce with whole cloves of garlic sautéed in olive oil and then removed after they became brown. I made the mistake of throwing them away and Michael about had an apoplectic fit. I won’t be doing that in the future! Apparently garlic is his new favorite snack! Next you brown the pancetta and add some wine to cook for a short time. In the bowl for the finished product mix eggs, grated Romano cheese, grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, and fresh parsley. I used pasteurized eggs again because I am a wimp. I know that the pasta is hot enough to cook the eggs when it is mixed together, but I always prefer to be safe where salmonella is concerned. The next step is to add the pancetta mixture into the pasta and mix well.

This was another of our late night dinners. Michael had just come home from a long day at the store, and I had been cooking all day for our 4th of July dinner. This sauce went together quickly and we managed to sit down and have a nice dinner before he collapsed for the night and I went back to clean the kitchen!


July 11, 2010

Tortelloni with Swiss Chard, Proscuitto, and Ricotta

It seems that this has been an interesting week for all of us on this project. I have really been intrigued with all of the postings. It made me feel like I was in good company today as I took on the challenge of the tortelloni.

I just purchased the pasta roller attachment for my Kitchenaid Mixer. The instructions seemed straightforward, so I was ready to begin. I made the pasta dough as laid out in the recipe and kneaded it appropriately. While I rested the dough, I started the swiss chard cooking. Marcella has given complete directions on this process. I then squeezed out all of the liquid and chopped the chard fine. I cooked the proscuitto with some onion and butter and then added the Swiss Chard. I then mixed this with ricotta, egg, and parmigiano-reggiano. The stuffing tasted incredible. I could have sat down with a spoon and made that lunch! Luckily, I remembered that I had to finish the job, so I restrained myself.

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The actual rolling out of the pasta and forming the tortellini went well. It was just time consuming. It would have been better if I had a pasta cutter, but I didn’t think about that until too late. Next time I will have all of my ducks in a row!

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I served the tortelloni with the Butter and Sage sauce. It was wonderful. This was definitely the best recipe of the book for us. Michael was so impressed. The flavors melded together, turning this into a plate full of heaven.

July 18, 2010

Cannelloni with Meat Stuffing

When I first sat down to look over this recipe, I thought I should be able to get it made in about an hour and a half. Wow, that was not even close. This ended up taking me almost 3 hours to finish. The final product was outstanding, but I am really glad that I didn’t try to make this on a weeknight for dinner. The good news is that Marcella states that this whole recipe can be made ahead and then baked off up to two days later. That would make this a great recipe for a big family dinner.

This recipe has 4 major components, the Béchamel sauce, the filling, the pasta, and the meat sauce. Ground chuck is used in the filling and the sauce. The filling also contains chopped boiled ham, onions, egg yolks, ricotta, parmigiano cheese and a little nutmeg. The sauce is mainly the ground chuck, onion and canned tomatoes. The sauce is supposed to cook down for 45 minutes, but mine went much longer than that. I think that was why it was a wee bit dry by the time that I put everything together.

Canneloni with Meat Stuffing

The pasta was made just like the last few postings, where the pasta is parboiled and then rinsed and then dried off before it is used for the dish. The recipe calls for the pasta to be rolled out to the thinnest possible layer and I did that, but I think next time I will make it a little bit thicker, because I had a hard time rolling the cannelloni without tearing them. This recipe calls for the pasta sheet to be placed on a plate containing some of the béchamel sauce, then the filling added and spread to almost cover the sheet, then the pasta is rolled up jellyroll style and placed in the pan. The béchamel on the outside of the rolls help to keep everything moist. Once all of the rolls are made then they are covered with the meat sauce and then the rest of the béchamel. This is baked for 15 minutes.

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I really enjoyed the flavors of the final product. All of the layers complimented each other nicely. I liked using the fresh pasta in this dish. It made it more time consuming to make, but the pasta was so delicate that it made the rolls melt in your mouth. Definitely a special occasion pasta!


July 25, 2010

Risotto with Porcini Mushrooms

This was my first try at making risotto with porcinis. I don’t know why I haven’t tried it before, because we sell the dried porcinis at our store. I think I was afraid that the taste would be too heavy, but I was pleasantly surprised. This recipe was a wonderful mix of savory flavors that never over powered each other.

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I prefer to use Carnaroli rice, which I find to be more forgiving than Arborio. When you are as busy as I am that is a nice trait for a rice to have. I can’t tell you how many times I have been pulled away while I am supposed to be stirring the risotto. I have never had a disaster using the Carnaroli rice, but with the Arborio I have.

This recipe has just a few ingredients. Butter, rice, onions, beef broth, parmigiano-reggiano, and the porcini mushrooms make up the list. Marcella’s directions are exquisite, from the details on rehydrating the mushrooms to the amounts of liquid to add and the timing on adding them.

This recipe is going into my keeper file because there is something very comforting about it. One thing that I am always looking for is recipe that makes me feel all warm and cozy inside. You would think that would be a bad thing for a 100 degree day, but it worked well for us today.

August 1, 2010

Risotto with Beef, Rosemary, Sage, and Barolo Wine, Alba Style

This chapter on risotto has been an exceptional experience for me. Both of the risottos that I have drawn in the recipe lotto would not have been first choices for me, but to my surprise once I made them they both have really appealed to me, so much so, that I am sure that I will be making them again and again.

This recipe started with some garlic and pancetta sautéing in some butter. Rosemary and sage were added and stirred in. Once the garlic was golden brown, ground chuck was added and browned. Then the secret ingredient is added…the Barolo wine. I am not used to cooking with a 40 dollar bottle, and I did have some trepidation about this, but once I added it and the smell filled the air, I really understood Marcella’s insistence that it had to be Barolo wine for this risotto. Once the wine had cooked down, the Carnoroli rice was added. Then the risotto was cooked as usual with beef broth until it was almost finished. At the end a small amount of wine was added and cooked in. The risotto was taken off of the heat and butter and parmigiano-reggiano was added.

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Michael’s took a bite of this and groaned in appreciation. He then said, “that is what I am talking about!” It was a complex flavor, with rosemary as the predominate top note. As we savored each bite, the other ingredients could be discerned one by one, but the totality of the experience was amazing. It was made better, by finishing off the bottle of wine while we ate. A very nice Saturday night dinner!

August 8, 2010

Gratinéed Spinach and Ricotta Gnocchi

This recipe is a variation on the Gnocchi that Jerry made yesterday. It is basically the same recipe but finished off after boiling with melted butter and grated parmesan cheese. This is then baked until the cheese melts and then served.

When I first read the recipe, I wondered how the gnocchi would hold together when it was in the boiling water. I shouldn’t have worried, because it became clear that the mixture had developed a nice elasticity when everything was mixed in together. They rolled up nicely and looked great after boiling.

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It was wonderful. I don’t think that I can add too much to Jerry’s description, because he was very eloquent, but I definitely agree with him that the gnocchi were light and delicious. The one thing that I regretted was that I didn’t make a double batch. These would be great as leftovers the next day. Not that I will get to experience that this time. Let’s just say that Michael really enjoyed these!

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August 15, 2010

Instant Polenta

Well, I drew the easy recipe this week. When I read about Palma’s valiant stirring efforts I was comforted that I just had to stir my polenta for a couple of minutes, not the marathon 45 minutes that she had to stir. I chose to use Colavita Polenta, which recommended 5 minutes cooking time, but Marcella said to cook it for a full 15 regardless of what the box said. I followed her instructions completely and was rewarded with a beautiful pot of polenta.

When I was getting ready for this weeks challenge I was debating how I should serve this polenta. Should I go for a meat dish or something different? My son has just started a low carb diet, so I have gotten tired of all of the different forms of meat, fish and eggs that I have had to fix lately. I started looking online at different recipes to try and I came across a recipe for Gorgonzola polenta with mushrooms. In the recipe they talk about Marcella’s method of making polenta and how great it is. I took that as a sign and decided to use this recipe.

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This recipe called for adding crumbled Gorgonzola to the warm polenta and stirring it in completely. The topping is made with Baby Bella mushrooms sautéed in butter and garlic. I then added a little dry red wine and let that cook down a bit. I then added some fresh lemon juice and parsley. I scooped out some of the top of my polenta dome and added the mushroom mixture. This was delicious. It would be a lovely dish to serve at a brunch.

August 22, 2010

Frittata with Asparagus

This was one recipe that I was really looking forward to making. When I was working on the recipes for our breakfast catering menu at our store, I fell in love with frittatas. I had never really made any up until that time. I had always been an omelet maker. Omelets were one of the special treats that my son, Zachary wanted most Saturdays. Needless to say I can flip one with the best. When I started making the frittatas it was a change to put the stuffing in the egg mixture and to finish it off in the oven instead of flipping it. It felt almost like cheating.

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I have a frittata that I make using asparagus, but it also has leeks, mushrooms, and fontina cheese in it, so it is much different than this one. This is very typical of Marcella’s recipes in that it is the simple ingredients that shine. Basically the frittata is eggs, asparagus, and parmesan cheese. Of course you season it with salt and pepper and cook it in a skillet with melted butter and then finish it off in the oven.

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The only dilemma that I faced in making this frittata was that the recipe called for peeling the asparagus. Asparagus is my favorite vegetable and I have eaten it in many different ways and I have never felt the need to peel it. However, in the interest of this challenge that we have taken on, I was willing to put that aside and follow the recipe exactly. Unfortunately, when I went shopping the only asparagus that they had were these very thin, little stalks. I sat staring at the stalks wondering how I was going to peel these little things. I finally gave up and didn’t do it, because I would have been left with toothpicks!

Then, the last situation that affected the outcome, was my ability to switch numbers in my head. ½ inch pieces of asparagus turned into 2 inch quite easily. When I mixed the asparagus and eggs together, I thought to myself that these pieces looked very large. I then went back to the recipe and saw my mistake, so of course I spent the next 5 minutes picking slimy asparagus out and slicing it smaller. I couldn’t get to all of them, but I made a valiant effort!

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After cooking the frittata, I sat down to try it and it was so good, I needed to have a second piece.

August 29, 2010

Grilled Shrimp, Cannocchie Style

One of the nice things about this cookbook is the stories that Marcella includes along with the recipes. Cannocchie is a distinct type of shellfish that is only available in the Adriatic Sea. They are similar to shrimp, but more flat like lobster. That is why the shrimp for this recipe have a long toothpick ran down the belly section to straighten the shrimp and make it look like it’s Adriatic counterpart. The back of the shell is also split all the way down.

This is a very simple recipe and outside of the marinating time, can be prepared rather quickly. It is just olive oil, breadcrumbs, salt and pepper. This is rubbed over the outside of the shells and stuffed in the slit in back. I marinated the shrimp for around an hour. The shrimp are then placed on a grill rack and grilled or broiled at high heat for around 2 minutes per side. They began to blacken some during this process, but according to Marcella that is part of the tradition of the dish.

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The shrimp prepared this way were tasty, but very messy to eat. If I were to make this dish again I would probably increase the oil a little, because the breadcrumbs were a tad dry, but overall the flavor was good. A good dish to serve for friends.


September 5, 2010

Halibut or Other Fish Steaks Sauced with White Wine and Anchovies

Baked halibut has always been one of my favorite fish dishes. When I was in college I was a waitress at this hotel restaurant in a small town in Missouri. The highlight of the week was the Seafood Buffet that they would have on Friday nights. It was an all you can eat meal, with the choices of fried shrimp, fried clams, fried fish and hush puppies. The only non-fried food that they served was a very large slab of halibut that had been baked and topped with butter and salt. It was delicious. I could never understand why it wasn’t the first thing to disappear every night.

After working in the restaurant all night I usually smelled like the oil that they fried all of the fish in. It was a smell that you couldn’t wash out of your hair or clothes very easily. I have to say that since then I haven’t really been a fan of fried foods, except for the occasional french fry, of course! That was why I was a little disconcerted to see that this recipe was for halibut to be pan fried in olive oil.

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The halibut is dredged in flour and cooked in hot oil for about 5 minutes on each side. In another pan onions are sautéed in olive oil until they turned golden brown. Then parsley, salt, dry white wine and anchovy paste were added. Once this has reduced some the sauce is added to the pan with the halibut and cooked with the fish for a few more minutes.

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The sauce had a very light flavor that married well with the fish and in the future, I might make this again, but without the frying. As the other team members can tell you this challenge has broadened all of our cooking horizons, but there are some things that are just hard to get beyond. Oh well, on to my next challenge-Baked Sole! I’m loving that already.

September 12, 2010

Baked Fillet of Sole with Tomato, Oregano and Hot Pepper

This recipe is a nice tomato, oregano, and caper sauce baked with Sole. The sauce starts out with onions and garlic sautéed in olive oil. Then I added some cut up San Marzano tomatoes and let this cook down for about a half an hour. Then I added some capers, fresh oregano and crushed red pepper. This cooked for just a couple of minutes and then set aside. The sole was rinsed and then dried off with paper towels. The fish was folded in two, so that the edges met, and then placed in an oven safe dish with the tomato sauce over it. This was baked for only 5 minutes, which was perfect to cook the fish completely.

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I was supposed to use two pounds of Sole for this dish, but I cut that back to one pound since it was only Michael and I. The sauce by itself tasted great, but I was worried that it would overwhelm the flavor of the fish. However, the Sole had a strong flavor so the sauce balanced it quite nicely. This is a sauce that I will definitely be making again. I may not use it on fish, but I can see it over some nice pasta.

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September 19, 2010

Squid with Potatoes, Genoa Style

I was looking forward to this week because I knew this was going to give me an excuse to try one of Deborah’s favorite shops. She had passed the word to me that Global foods has squid cleaned and cut into rings that are flash frozen and beautiful. I had never shopped there, so I was excited to try it. I was amazed. It has food from all over the world, with fresh produce that include the traditional fruits and vegetables as well as many things that I have never heard of before. Well, some of them I had heard of, but had never expected to see fresh in St. Louis. It made me excited to find new recipes to try them in. Indian bitter melon, Peruvian purple potatoes, and Durian fruit were just a few. I found the squid in the frozen foods section. I grabbed two bags and headed to the checkout with all of the other things that I couldn’t live without.

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This dish has almost the same base as the dish that Jerry posted yesterday. Garlic and parsley are sautéed in Olive oil first. The squid rings are washed, cleaned and then patted dry. They are then put into the oil and cooked until they turn a matte color. Then white wine and diced tomatoes are added. This is then cooked slowly for 45 minutes, until the squid is tender. Then the potatoes, salt and pepper are added and cooked again until the potatoes are done.

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I was a little worried while I was making this dish. Even before I opened the bags of squid I noticed a fishy odor. Once I thawed the squid the odor remained, but the squid themselves didn’t seem to be bad. They had a nice firmness to them and I just had to conclude that these particular squid would just taste more fishy than usual. In the end that was the case. The recipe made a delicious broth that was reminiscent of a Manhattan clam chowder, which I love. Michael loved it too. I tended to eat around the squid, while he devoured all of it together.

September 26, 2010

Chicken Cacciatora-New Version

I will join in the chorus exclaiming that I am glad to be in this chapter!! When I told Michael what recipe that I had for this week, he was thrilled. It would be another recipe from his childhood that we would be able to try.

This recipe uses a whole cut up chicken, skin on, that is browned in olive oil with sliced onion and garlic. In this recipe the chicken is not floured before browning. Once the chicken is golden brown on one side, they are turned, white wine added and then cooked down. The tomatoes are then added and the dish is cooked until the chicken is practically falling off the bone. I actually simmered this for over an hour during which I turned the pieces a few times to keep everything moist.

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This dish was wonderful. Michael took one bite and smiled and said, ‘Now, that’s a Cacciatora!”. We will definitely be making this one again. However, I think I would make a couple of changes to make this a bit more heart friendly. I would use chicken breasts and take the skin off of it before browning. That way this would be a dish we could indulge in more often!

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October 3, 2010

Sautéed Fillets of Breast of Chicken with Lemon and Parsley, Siena Style

Wow, with all the negativity surrounding the lowly chicken breast, I am a little afraid to make my post today. As you can tell, the chicken breast is the star of the dish I have to post about, and unlike others, I happen to appreciate the ability of this unassuming piece of meat to take on the flavors that surround it. Granted it is easy to overcook, and if enough care is not used, it can taste bland. However, if all recipes using it were as good as this one, then no one would hate the lowly breast again.

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This recipe is simple, chicken breasts have the tenderloin removed and then the rest of the breast sliced in half horizontally. The breasts are then cooked in a mixture of oil and butter until they are done, but not brown. They are then removed from the skillet and lemon juice added. The brown bits were scraped up and then parsley added. The breasts are put back into the skillet and turned a few times to soak up the wonderful sauce.

The chicken came out with a light and fresh flavor. I truly enjoyed it without reservation.

Now, on a lighter note, my husband Michael came home with a gift for me yesterday. It was so cute, I felt like I had to share it with you all.

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He said that in all of his years selling olives that he had never come across one that looked like this. I hope you all enjoyed it too.

October 10, 2010

Pan Roasted Breast of Veal

Getting the ingredients this week posed a great challenge. It seems that there is a shortage of veal breast in the Midwest. First, I started with my local grocer and they didn’t have any and couldn’t order it. I then called three different butchers, ones that I have used before and that pride themselves on carrying a wide variety of meats. None of them had any. When I failed there, one of them recommended Whole Foods. I spoke to the butcher there and they didn’t have any either, and probably wouldn’t for awhile. Next, I tried Global foods, which had come through so nicely for me with the squid. No go, either. They hadn’t been able to get any in for the last few weeks. They said that it seemed to be back ordered. I then pulled out my restaurant connections. We called our food distributors to see if any of them could deliver the breast. One of them said that they have their own butchers and getting the breast wouldn’t be a problem. I spoke to Deborah and Irene and we ended up ordering all of the veal that we needed for the chapter together. Great!! The only problem is that when the order came in all they had were top round, veal shanks, loins and scallopine. No Veal Breasts!! Lovely. Now, what could I do? Well, I emailed Marcella and Victor and found that could use the top round roast as a substitute. It wouldn’t be the same, but should work.

The question that I am left with is, where have all the breasts gone!!! Has there been a mutation in veal cattle that have left them breastless!! I am generally not a conspiracy theorist, but I am thinking that something is going on here!!

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Seriously though, the roast worked great. It is another simple recipe that has great flavor. Whole garlic cloves in Olive oil, heated until sizzling then the roast added with sprigs of fresh rosemary. The roast is browned on all sides and then white wine added. The roast is then cooked slowly until it is very tender.

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This would be a great recipe for the middle of winter, when you are home all day with a crackling fire going. The house smelled great while it was cooking. My mouth was watering so much I have to admit I snitched a few tastes as I was turning it a few times. The broth that the roast cooked in was just heavenly. I can see how the breast would have been a bit different cooked this way, but I was very happy with the substitution. And the good news is that I have my veal set up for my next three postings!!! Life is good.

October 17, 2010

Veal Scaloppine with Mozzarella

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What can I say about this veal scaloppine recipe that has not been said in the last few posts? These recipes have a lot in common in that they are cooked really quickly over high heat in butter and then a served with a quick sauce. Today’s recipe is not an exception to that rule. In this instance the veal is not floured as it has been in other posts, but it is again cooked quickly in a butter/vegetable oil mixture. The individual pieces are then topped with a slice of fresh mozzarella and heated until the cheese softens. A little salt and pepper and the veal can be moved onto a warmed platter. The wonderful brown bits in the pan are loosened with a couple of tablespoons of water and then poured over the veal.

This was a wonderful dish, very flavorful. I have to admit that I had never thought to use fresh mozzarella in this way before, but I will definitely be repeating this in the future. It added a nice texture difference with the veal, and it absorbed the flavor of the sauce, so it tasted delicious. This was, if possible, even better as leftovers. I hate to admit a penchant for midnight snacks, but when you have something this delicious waiting in the fridge it is hard to resist.

October 24, 2010

Veal Roll with Spinach and Prosciutto Stuffing

For this post, I have the best of everything. The right cut of veal and my two best friends in town to help me eat it!

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The recipe starts with a piece of top round veal. I didn’t have a flat piece so I butterflied it and then pounded it until it was the right shape. The stuffing begins with chopped prosciutto sautéed with onion in butter and oil. Then spinach is cooked down, squeezed dry, and then chopped fine. This is then added to the prosciutto and onion mixture and cooked for a short time. This mixture is then spread over the top of the veal and then rolled up. I secured the roll with oven safe silicone rubber bands. I find them to be a good alternative to tying with kitchen twine. The roll is then browned in butter and oil until it is brown on all sides. Wine is added to the pan and then the roll is cooked for an hour and a half. The roll is taken out and then cream added to the pan and cooked down.

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This dish was a hit. I served it with tagliatelle noodles topped with the Butter and Rosemary Sauce recipe from earlier in the book. It complemented the veal nicely. My friends are really good cooks, so I was glad to hear them both asking for the recipe after they practically licked their plates clean. We served it with a 2008 Santa Christina Toscana wine and enjoyed a meal filled with lots of laughter and joy. There is nothing better on a nice autumn afternoon, then to have a house filled with good friends and good food.

October 31, 2010

Skewered Veal Cubes and Pork Sausage Pan-Roasted with Sage and White Wine

Finally, I drew a recipe in which I could use the special sausage that Deborah moved heaven and earth to get made. (thanks again for including me in your haul!!) As the title states this recipe involves veal cubes and sausage on skewers. It also has large pieces of pancetta and fresh sage leaves added to round out the flavor. These are browned in oil and then white wine added to the pan and cooked for about a half an hour. It was a very simple recipe to prepare. Marcella recommended that these skewers be served with soft polenta, so that is what I did.

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Michael and I really enjoyed these. The veal cubes which had the sage leaves cooked on to them were especially delicious. I now can appreciate the difference that the simple flavor of the “special sausage” can make in a recipe. I think that if I had used the normal Italian sausage, which is loaded with spices and fennel, it would have negatively impacted the overall flavor of the dish. The beauty of this dish comes from the simple differences in the flavors and textures of the meats. Another dish to add to the make again column!

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November 7, 2010

Farsumauro-Stuffed Large Braciole, Sicilian Style

My first thought when I went to look at my recipe this week was, hurry, hurry and google what braciole means. I was convinced that I had somehow skipped ahead to the variety meats section, but no it only means a large steak cut from the center of the top or bottom round. It can also be a large flank steak. I was able to breathe a sigh of relief.

The only cut that the store had that was big enough for this dish was a flank steak so that is what I used. Marcella recommends that you sew the steak up to make a pouch in the center that you can stuff, but I didn’t have a sewing needle that was large enough for this purpose, so as an alternative she said that you could roll it up jellyroll style. Since that worked well for me a couple of weeks ago, I tried it again.

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This dish is the steak stuffed with ground pork mixed with garlic, parsley, egg and parmesan cheese. I rolled it, covered it with flour, and then browned it on all sides in butter and oil. Once it was brown, I cooked it over a low heat for a couple of hours in white wine. The house smelled incredible while it was cooking. Zach kept asking when it would be done. He didn’t want to wait, but I knew that we had to be patient. Once the time was up, I removed the meat from the pan and then cooked down the pan drippings. They were very chunky, so after they thickened a bit, I poured them through a strainer to make the sauce smooth.

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This tasted as great as it smelled. Zach, who is not one to experiment with food, loved it. Michael came home just in time to eat and he loved it too. I was feeling so happy with this dish until I went to our website and saw Palma’s post from yesterday. I can’t wait to make my next braciole that way too! So many recipes that I need to try!

November 14, 2010

Meatballs and Tomatoes

I was so looking forward to this recipe. Over the years, I have tried many different meatball recipes and am always on the lookout for another one. Most of them start with a mix of meats and then add bread, eggs and cheese. This recipe only uses ground beef, which surprised me a little, but I was up to the challenge.

This recipe calls for a good quality bread to be soaked in milk over low heat until the bread has soaked up all of the milk. Then this is mashed until it is homogeneous. I loved this part, because that gave me an excuse to have Michael bring me home a loaf of Marconi bread. Now, for those of you not from St. Louis, let me explain. Marconi Bakery is one of the small Italian bakeries on the “Hill”, which is the Italian section of St. Louis. Its bread is just wonderful. It is dense on the inside with a crust that is toasty brown and sprinkled with sesame seeds. I always take it out of the white paper bag that it comes in and I first just inhale the aroma from the bread. It is one of the best smells I have ever encountered. The crust is thick and it demands to be slathered in butter and eaten quickly. I was very glad that the soaking bread took some time before it needed my attention, because I got a chance to indulge this simple pleasure. This is the type of bread made with a few simple ingredients and meant to be indulged in on the day it is made.
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The rest of the ingredients are just onion, parsley, olive oil, and parmigiano-reggiano with nutmeg, salt and pepper. This is all mixed gently together and rolled into small balls. These are then rolled in breadcrumbs and then fried in oil until they are brown. The oil is removed from the pan and then chopped tomatoes added. This is cooked down for about a half an hour.

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These meatballs are very flavorful, but I think I would have liked to cook them with the tomatoes for a longer time. The tomatoes didn’t seem to have time to pick up as much of the flavor as I would have liked. I served this over spaghetti, but mostly I ended up just eating the meatballs and tomatoes together. This didn’t bother me very much since I more than made up my carb quotient for the day with the bread!

November 21, 2010

Pan Roasted Lamb with Juniper Berries

I haven’t had lamb in years, so I was excited to try this recipe. This uses a 2 ½ pound lamb shoulder cut into 3-4 inch pieces. The only smaller pieces that I could find were more steak-like than I would have liked, but they seemed to work fine. All of the ingredients are put into a pot, onions, celery, carrots, garlic, rosemary, white wine, and juniper berries. This is then cooked for a very long time over low heat.

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We really enjoyed this dish. I was a little worried about the juniper berries, because I had never cooked with them before. I thought that if the flavor was as strong as the smell, then it would overpower the other ingredients. I shouldn’t have worried. The house smelled great as it cooked and the flavors melded together to make a really enjoyable entrée. The meat was so tender that I had trouble getting it out of the pan without it falling apart. My son, Zachary, who never likes new things, loved this. That makes it a keeper for our house!

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November 28, 2010

Drunk Pork Roast

When I saw this recipe title I was intrigued. I have to admit that I often make beef pot roast with either beer or wine, but I have never made a pork roast with the same. This is another recipe with simple ingredients that ends up packed with flavor. I used a pork loin that I studded with pieces of carrots, floured, and then browned in butter and oil. Once it was browned on all sides I added some brandy. Then I almost covered the roast with Santa Christina wine. It is a Tuscan wine made with sangiovese grapes, which was one of Marcella’s recommendations for this dish. Then I added a couple of bay leaves, nutmeg, salt and pepper. This cooked for around 3 hours.

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When this was finished I sliced it and poured the pan juices over it. The slices on the ends with the carrot pieces were incredible. The carrots gave it a sweetness that complemented the flavor from the wine. I would have never thought to use the carrots for this purpose, but I will definitely try this again in the future. This is a great recipe to make when it is a cold day and you need something that will make the house smell great while it is cooking and then will make you feel all warm and toasty inside when you eat it. I have to apologize for the picture this week. I must have been delirious when I took it, because I could have sworn it looked better when I shot it!!

December 5, 2010

Grilled Marinated Spareribs

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Wow, this has to be one of my favorite recipes in the cookbook. I have tried a couple of different ways to make ribs in the past. Our favorite way to prepare them was to boil the ribs in water and vinegar to remove most of the fat and then grill them quickly and slather them in a sweet and smoky barbeque sauce. This left the ribs crunchy on the outside with just tender meat inside. The other way I have tried is to slow bake them in the oven for at least 3 hours at a low heat, covered with a dry rub. Both of these methods gave acceptable results, but by far this new recipe leaves them all in the dust.

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This recipe is so simple it would be easy to underestimate it. The ribs are marinated in a mixture of olive oil, chopped rosemary, and minced garlic for an hour at room temperature. Then they are grilled or broiled for 25 minutes until they are brown on the outside and tender, juicy on the inside. I personally went with the broiler this time because it was cold enough to snow outside and I wasn’t brave enough to face frozen fingers. The broiler worked well and the ribs were delicious. The combination of flavors blended and over time became greater then each by themselves. I anticipated tasting the rosemary and garlic in the meat, but what came through was a combination that was not immediately discernable as these flavors. I am struggling for words to describe the flavor because I haven’t ever tasted anything like this before. It was just incredible. I will definitely be repeating this recipe when Zach comes home for the holiday break.

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December 12, 2010

Sautéed Calf’s Liver with Lemon, Piccata Style

I have to agree with Jerry’s post yesterday, this chapter is going to get messy.

When I was contemplating the recipe for this week, I had some mild trepidation. Like most of us, my Mom forced me to eat liver and onions when I was a kid. I hated it, but when you are from a farm family, the meat in the freezer contained all of the parts of the cow that was butchered, so there inevitably came a day when liver was on the menu. I remember those dinners as being very long, because my sisters and I would delay eating the liver until the last possible moment. Not a pleasant childhood memory.

I have learned this week, that there is a big difference between beef liver and calf’s liver or as my butcher called it, veal liver. Calf liver is a very pale red, much different from what I was accustomed to as a child. This recipe is also very different. No onions, and the liver isn’t cooked until it is as tough as shoe leather. Now, don’t get me wrong, my Mom was a great cook, but once liver has been cooked and then left uneaten for a long time on your plate, it tends to get tough. That was not a problem with this recipe. This recipe calls for the liver to be floured and then quickly cooked in a mixture of butter and oil. The liver is then removed from the pan and butter and lemon is then added. The browned bits are incorporated into the sauce, and then the liver is returned to the pan to coat with sauce. The liver is then topped with parsley and served.

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Okay, I have to admit, I liked it. Not one of my favorite recipes, but definitely better than I anticipated. The lemon, butter sauce was a nice combination with the mild tasting liver. I really should have known that I would like this, because I do like a good pate, but sometimes it is hard to let those childhood memories go.

Back to the messy reference- the liver itself is really soft. Handling it while it was raw was a little disgusting. My recipe for next Sunday is lamb kidneys. I can hardly wait to dive in to those!

December 19, 2010

Sautéed Lamb Kidneys with Onion, Garlic, and White Wine

I hope that you all read Jerry’s post from yesterday, because it contains great pictures of what the kidneys look like raw, soaked, sliced and then cooked. This recipe is similar to Jerry’s in that the kidneys are soaked in a mixture of vinegar and water and then sliced. Onion is sautéed in olive oil until golden and then garlic, parsley, and the kidneys are added. Like yesterday the kidneys are quickly cooked and then removed from the pan to shed their liquid. Wine and cornstarch are then added to the pan to make a sauce and once it is thickened the kidneys, minus the juice, are added back. This is mixed together and then served.

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This recipe was a mixed blessing for me. It was an interesting exercise in dissection. I spent the time slicing the kidneys, thinking about what I remembered from biology class about the structure of the kidney. Collecting ducts, glomerulus, and distal tubules were all vaguely remembered terms. Yes, I am a science geek at heart and I really enjoyed that trip down memory lane, but overall I think I was just trying to distract myself from thinking about eating the final dish.

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I would like to say that we loved this dish, but alas, that was not the case. Michael and I tried it, but couldn’t handle eating more than a few bites. I did think that it had undertones of liver flavor with a similar texture, but we found the flavor to be very strong and overall different than anything we had ever tried before. In the past, I had always considered myself an adventurous eater, but this challenge has brought me face to face with the fact that I really am not one. Oh well, we can’t all be.

December 26, 2010

La Frittedda-Smothered Artichokes, Fava Beans, and Peas with Fennel, Palermo Style

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First of all, let me acknowledge that I was unable to make this recipe the exact way that it was supposed to be made. This recipe specifically calls for it to be made early in spring, when the vegetables are all very tender and fresh. I have been making my recipes for my posts on the week that they are posted, so I am now here in the middle of winter with a slew of vegetable postings ahead that will suffer for having to use less than perfect produce. I can’t change that now, but I will do my best to give my interpretation of how I think this has affected the quality of each dish that I post.

I have to say that this recipe, even using frozen peas, canned fava beans and canned artichokes was amazing. It starts with thinly sliced sweet onion. I used Maui onions. These are sautéed in olive oil until they are translucent. Then the chopped tops of the fennel plants were added along with the artichokes. This is cooked until the artichokes are tender. Obviously, the artichokes that I started with were tender to begin with so I cooked the mixture for about 5 minutes. Then I added the fava beans and the peas and cooked this all for about 5 more minutes. This is then salted to taste and since I hadn’t had to use any lemon on the artichokes to begin with I added a squeeze into the final dish.

I thought that I would like this dish, because I love fennel and artichokes. This turned out to be correct. I can understand how this would be even better using fresh vegetables, but even made in this manner this dish captured the essence of springtime. The combination of flavors just popped. For me personally, this was a great recipe to try on the day after Christmas, because Christmas for us is filled with rich entrees and delicious desserts. It was wonderful to have this recipe today to counteract all of the heaviness of the dishes over the last few days. I will be making this again in the springtime so I can get the full effect but even made this way, this recipe will definitely be added to my list of favorites.

January 2, 2011

Smothered Sunchokes with Tomato and Onion

Sunchokes are a new experience for me as it seems that they have been for most of the group so far. I knew what they were from seeing them in the grocery store before, but had never found a recipe that I wanted to try that used them. That is one of the most enjoyable things about this challenge. I get to try foods that I never would have before.

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This recipe starts by sautéing sliced onions in olive oil. When they were brown I added garlic, parsley and chopped tomatoes. This simmered for about five minutes and then the peeled, diced sunchokes were added. This cooked for about 45 minutes until the sunchokes were tender. I added salt and pepper to taste, which was a little difficult, since I didn’t have any idea of how they should taste. I was afraid to over salt it, so I probably erred on the light side.

I found the flavor of the sunchokes to be like a combination of a potato and a water chestnut. With this dish I didn’t get the nuttiness that others have spoken of in their posts. I assume that it is the type of preparation that changes the flavor. I thought that the sunchokes cooked slowly with the tomatoes and onion, brought out the sweetness of the tomatoes. I found it quite an interesting taste. This dish was hearty and would be a good substitute on those nights when we want a change from potatoes.

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January 9, 2011

Smothered Green Beans with Carrot Sticks and Mortadella or Ham

While I was snapping the beans for this recipe I was transported back to my childhood. My mom was one of the original organic farmers back in 60s. Since they had not yet discovered new natural pesticides to use it meant that my sisters and I became the chief bug killers for our crops. We didn’t do a great job, which meant that many of the beans that we harvested had been chewed on a bit by the wee beasties. We had to do lots of cutting away of the bad spots before we could cook any. That was not the case for the beautiful beans that I used for this recipe. Beautiful beans in January? I can only wonder from what fair clime these beans came. I don’t want to wonder how they became flawless…

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This recipe starts by cooking the beans in salted water until crisp tender. Then the beans, matchstick sized carrot sticks and chopped mortadella were cooked in butter. I am not normally a mortadella fan because the fattiness of it doesn’t appeal to me. However, in this dish it shines. The combination of flavors was incredible. Simple, but very tasty. I did use a high quality mortadella that is made here locally. Volpi, which many of you will be familiar with is made here is St. Louis and shipped all over the world. We are very proud to have them here.


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This is another great recipe. I am going to put this one up against my mom’s favorite green bean recipe this summer and see which one the family likes better!

January 16, 2011

Braised Carrots with Parmesan Cheese

Carrots! I love carrots. I thought I had tried them every way possible, but again Marcella finds a way to surprise me. This recipe manages to capture the sweetness of the carrots and almost transforms them into something completely new.

It starts with the carrots sliced and placed into a pan where they have to sit flat. Butter and water is added. This is then cooked until the water evaporates and then for the next hour small amounts of water is added and cooked off until the carrots are wrinkled and brown. Salt and a ¼ of a teaspoon of sugar are added early on in the cooking process. Finally, parmesan cheese is then mixed in prior to serving.


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When I sat down to try these carrots I couldn’t believe how sweet they were. My mom always makes sweet potatoes for thanksgiving dinner that have been cooked with brown sugar and butter. These carrots were almost as sweet as her potatoes were. I was shocked because I had added such a small amount of sugar. More than that though, cooking them this way changed the texture of the carrots to more resemble the sweet potato. They also had a wonderful nuttiness that seemed to come from the butter. Overall, this was a wonderful way to prepare the carrots.

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The only downside to this recipe is the length of cooking time and the close watch you have to keep on the carrots. It would be a great recipe to make if you knew that you would be in the kitchen making other food and could keep a close eye on them. I made a pot roast with these, which didn’t need a lot of attention, so I ended up setting the timer for 5 minutes at a time so I wouldn’t forget to go back and add more water. This worked fine and kept me on my toes. I will definitely be making these again.

January 23, 2011

Celery and Potatoes Braised in Olive Oil and Lemon Juice

This has to be one of the most deceptive recipes in the book. I looked at it and thought ho hum a recipe with celery and potatoes. How boring. Wow, was I wrong.

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This recipe starts with a bunch of celery cut into 3 inch pieces. This is cooked with olive oil, salt and water for a few minutes before quartered peeled potatoes and lemon juice are added. This is cooked until everything is tender. The water is boiled off and then it is ready to serve. As my niece would say, easy peasy!

When I took the first bite I was amazed at the flavor. The potatoes were gently flavored with the lemon and celery, with a very light taste that was wonderful. It reminded me a little of a bowl of good chicken noodle soup. I don’t know why exactly, except that it made me feel all warm and fuzzy inside. What more can you ask from a side dish??

This would be a great dish to accompany a chicken or turkey entrée. That combination would allow the character of the potatoes and celery to stand out.

January 30, 2011

Breaded Eggplant Cutlets

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When Michael and I were first married, I made fried eggplant frequently. It was one of the traditional dishes that Michael loved so much. Over time though, we changed the way that we eat and fried foods have become an infrequent treat. That is why Michael was so looking forward to this dish.

Of course, my recipe was a little different than this one. My recipe used seasoned breadcrumbs without toasting them and Marcella uses plain breadcrumbs that are toasted. The rest of the recipe is the same. Start by peeling the eggplant, salting the slices, and letting them drain in a colander for thirty minutes. Then use an egg wash, coat the slices with the toasted breadcrumbs and fry until done. Salt the cooked eggplant and then serve.

What a difference that small change made in the final product. I used the plain breadcrumbs that we sell in our store. These are made from La Bonne Bouche’s French bread and Fazio’s sliced Italian bread. I have to say that I think they are very good. Adding the toasting step, I believe added a depth of flavor to the final product that I was missing before. I thought I would miss the garlic and parsley from the seasoned breadcrumbs, but without them there, the eggplant really shines. Once again Marcella teaches us the joy of simple pleasures. I think Michael will insist that this dish gets added back into our normal dinner routine!

February 6, 2011

Sautéed Mixed Greens with Olive Oil and Garlic

One of the things that I have most liked about this cooking challenge is that it has forced me to stretch my comfort zone. When I was a little girl, my mother made sautéed greens many times for us. Since she had grown up on a farm, she knew which greens would taste good and be safe to eat. I keep looking for them but none of those that I grew up with are available in the grocery stores. Of course, now we eat a variety of salad greens such as romaine, arugula, spinach, raddichio and endive, but I haven’t added sautéed greens into our diets. After trying this dish, Michael insists that we change that.

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This dish uses savoy cabbage, spinach and a bitter green. I did have to go online to figure out what type of greens qualified as bitter. My grocery store had turnip and mustard, so I bought both. Since the mustard greens would cook as quickly as the spinach I chose to use them. The savoy cabbage is cooked in a large pot of water for about 15 minutes until it is tender. The spinach and mustard greens were cooked quickly with just a little water and lots of salt. The greens are then chopped and sautéed in olive oil with garlic.

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Michael was at work while I was cooking and when he came home, the first thing that he said was that it smelled wonderful. You’ve got to love a guy who thinks that garlic and cabbage are the best smells in the world! Anyway, we sat down to eat and he started talking about when he was a kid. He said that back then he hated this dish and couldn’t understand how all of the adults could like it so much. Well now he understands. He practically licked the platter clean.

February 13, 2011

Mushroom Timballo

This is the recipe that I have been dreading since day one of this challenge. I had looked at the title, but not the details of the recipe. All I could think was that I wasn’t brave enough to make a timballo. Now, for those of you that haven’t seen the Stanley Tucci movie, The Big Night, this may seem unreasonable, but a timballo/ timpano was the star dish in the movie, and it’s preparation was enough to drive the two brothers crazy. Their dish contained layers of meats, pasta, and sauce and needed to cook for hours. Luckily, when I finally took the time to read this recipe, I discovered that this dish, while complicated, was not insurmountable.

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This dish uses layers of fried mushrooms, fontina cheese, parmigiano-reggiano, and porcini mushrooms cooked with garlic, tomatoes and fresh parsley. All of the ingredients are layered in a soufflé pan and then baked for half an hour. Because of the need to fry the mushrooms before assembling the timballo, this dish can take quite awhile to prepare.

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The preparation was worth it though. The flavors melded together so nicely and the presentation was impressive. Michael and I tried a bit of it on the night I prepared it and we were stunned. The fresh fried mushrooms had a clean, firm texture that balanced the richness of the porcini sauce and cheeses. About the time that we finished dinner, my sister called and said that we would be having an impromptu gathering the next day. I managed to squeeze the rest of the timballo back into the soufflé pan and we reheated it for lunch the next day. Everybody loved it. I was a bit worried that it wouldn’t hold up to the reheating, but it did fine. If anything it tasted better, because the flavors had such a long time to mellow.

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So, the moral of the story is either don’t judge a recipe by its title, or Marcella Hazan can teach anyone to do the impossible. Actually, I think it might be both!

February 20, 2011

Baked Potatoes, Onion, and Tomatoes, Apulian Style

This is another very simple recipe with an amazing amount of flavor in the final product. This starts with sliced potatoes, peeled tomatoes, and thinly sliced onions. This is mixed with grated romano, oregano, salt and pepper. This is all put into a 13 x 9 baking dish and then extra virgin olive oil is poured over. This is then baked for an hour at 400 degrees.

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This comes out of the oven with tender, lightly browned potatoes with the sweetness of the onions and tomatoes as a nice counterbalance to the savoriness imparted by the romano cheese. Because of the strong flavors in this dish it would be a great side dish to serve with a beef roast or any other full flavored meat dish.


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I have to admit that I was looking for the leftovers for breakfast this morning. When I was a girl our family used to have a family reunion every summer at a campground with a swimming hole. The only thing that would get me out of the sleeping bag in the morning, after staying up most of the night laughing with my cousins, was the smell of the camp potatoes that my aunts made. It would be a big skillet filled with fried potatoes with onions. I don’t know why, but that smell brings back all of the good times associated with those trips. It was really nice to relive those days while waiting for this to finish in the oven.

February 27, 2011

Oven-Browned Tomatoes

This is the one recipe I was able to prepare ahead last summer. I knew that I would never be able to find good quality tomatoes in February, so I made this in August at the peak of tomato season.

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With this recipe you start with good tomatoes, sliced in half and then layered in an oven proof dish. Sprinkle on chopped parsley, garlic, salt and pepper and then drizzle on extra virgin olive oil. This is then baked for at least an hour until the tomatoes condense down. For me this took much longer than the hour. I cooked it for almost 2 hours and it probably could have gone longer, but I was afraid to overcook it. I think I must have started with extremely juicy tomatoes.
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The tomatoes came out of the oven so tasty. They were warm and delectable and the combination of flavors was wonderful. Michael came home from work a couple of hours later and before I could warm them up, he was eating them out of the serving dish. Well, Marcella said they could be served at room temperature, so I guess this worked out okay.


March 6, 2011

Zucchini with Tomato and Basil

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As we are continuing the zucchini portion of this chapter, this recipe is somewhat similar to the last post. It starts with onion and garlic sautéed in olive oil in an oven safe dish. Once they are golden brown, parsley and tomatoes are added. This is cooked for around a half an hour. The sliced zucchini is then added and the pot is moved to the oven to cook until the zucchini is tender. Fresh basil is then added to top the dish and then it is served.

The combination of flavors was wonderful. The sweetness of the tomatoes fused with the mellowness of the zucchini and the sharp bite of the fresh basil made an amalgam that worked well.

This has to one of Michael’s favorite recipes in the book. Of course, there are quite a few of these. Any recipe that takes him back to his childhood days in his Zia’s kitchen, is a winner to him. I have really enjoyed helping him remember all of those good days. We all need to be reminded of those sometime.

March 13, 2011

Garlic-Scented Tomato Salad

This is a variation on the main dish that Michael and I live on all summer long. We are crazy about fresh mozzarella, tomatoes, and basil. In good years I manage to grow my own tomatoes and basil. On the years that the squirrels steal all of my tomatoes then I still have fresh homegrown basil. We usually dress this with balsamic vinegar, garlic, a good extra virgin olive oil, and salt and pepper. On those days when we want a variation on the theme we use a great balsamic vinegar that we have that has a dark cherry flavor and then leave out the garlic. Anyway, I was excited to try this recipe since I knew we would love it.

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This recipe starts with marinating crushed garlic and salt with red wine vinegar for about a half an hour. Then you peel the tomatoes, slice them thinly, and arrange on a platter. Add fresh basil to the top. Strain the garlic out of the vinegar and then pour the garlic flavored vinegar on the tomatoes. Drizzle on the extra virgin olive oil and then serve.


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Our local grocery has just started carrying heirloom tomatoes all year round. I love the different flavors and textures that the varieties have. They also are very high quality, which is unusual for tomatoes in our area at this time of year. Most of the tomatoes that we get are mealy and tasteless. I was glad that I could try this recipe with tomatoes that were exceptional.

Okay, you know what I am going to say next. I love this recipe. I will definitely be adding this to the rotation this summer. It has a strong garlic kick, but I love garlic. The flavor combination of the tomatoes and basil just sang. Another winner.

March 20, 2011

Pinzimonio-Olive Oil, Salt, and Black Pepper Dip for Raw Vegetables

This recipe again demonstrates the strength of Marcella’s cookbooks. The recipe is very simple. It is just fresh vegetables that are arranged pleasingly and then served with a saucer of good olive oil with some freshly ground salt and black pepper sprinkled on top. If I was writing the recipe down, that is about what I would have written. However, Marcella is never content to leave it at that. She brought in the history of the dish, as well as the name. Did you know that pinzimonio is a combination of the Italian words for pinching (pinzare) and marrying (matrimonio)? The reason that these two words are used is because you pinch the vegetable as you hold it and then it is married to the olive oil when it is dipped in. I love knowing that. If I ever make it to Jeopardy! I hope that there is a “little known facts of Italian cooking” category because after spending this time with the cookbook I think I could win that one! Of course if any of the other pomodori were up against me then it would be a toss up because we have all learned so much this year.

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This had a beautiful presentation. It is another example of the power of simplicity. I really enjoyed all of the vegetables served this way, but I especially loved the fennel with the olive oil mixture.

March 27, 2011

Beet Tops Salad

I love finding a new recipe that lets me enjoy something that I usually discard. In the past I would just cut off the tops of the beets, toss them in the trash, and either roast or boil the beets. What a waste that was. It just never occurred to me to save and cook the tops. I am so glad that I now know better.

This is another simple salad which allows us to savor the individual ingredients. It starts with the stems of the beet. They are snapped and boiled for about eight minutes before the leaves are added into the water. Once the leaves are tender, everything is drained and then mixed with good extra virgin olive oil, salt, and lemon. That’s it. You can serve it along with the cooked beets, but you don’t have to.

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I found the flavor to be incredible. It was somewhat similar to spinach, but it had an intensity that I really liked. Another lesson learned on this incredible journey that we are all on.

April 3, 2011

Seafood Salad

It's me, the sub again. This time I'm filling in for Beth. Personally, I think Beth took one look at all the steps involved in this recipe and ran for the hills (only kidding Beth ;D).

Today, I'm making the Seafood Salad. I'm a big fan of seafood, but unfortunately, on a cold, rainy day in the northeast, I was in the mood more for a chowder then a room temperature salad, but oh well.

First, I started off with a call to Whole Foods, to make sure they had all the necessary ingredients before I made the 25 minute trek in the rain (I was really most concerned that they had whole calamari aka squid). I chose to use Whole Food's seafood section over our local fish store because since Mat, the previous owner, sold it several years ago, I just haven't found the quality of the seafood up to snuff.

So off I went to Whole Foods to gather my ingredients, whole squid (which luckily came already cleaned), shrimp, clams, mussels and scallops. The recipe also called for octopus but we were in no danger of getting that today or really any day (I'm just not a big fan) and since Marcella gave me the option to skip it, I did.

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Once home, everything went into the fridge. By the way, when you by mussels and clams, you should be aware that they're still alive so you never want to put them in the fridge in a sealed container - they need to breathe.

About 5ish we started to work (I forced Chris to help - he cleaned the clams and mussels - I'm never very good at that). It's not a complicated recipe but it's a long recipe - why? Because you need to cook the squid in a pot (by the way, I overcooked them - they cook really quick and if you go even a minute too long, well, they're tough). You have to cook the shrimp in a pot. You have to cook the scallops in another pot. You have to cook the clams and mussels in a broad pan (I did them together but the mussels cooked quicker, fyi). So that's 3 pots and another pan of some sort and if you had the octopus, well that would be 5 pots/pans total! That's a lot of cleanup.

Then, what's that all done, you skin a pepper (not sure why), smash some garlic and mix it all together (after the mussels and clams have rested). Then you douse it all with some olive oil and lemon juice (don't be stingy) as well as salt and some grounds of pepper. Then it sits on the counter for 30 minutes to let the flavors meld.

I think we finally ate around 7:15 - 7:30 or so.

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Here's what I thought - I'm not sure I'd make it again unless I get a better fish monger with the absolute freshest seafood ingredients. Even then it's a lot of work for something I can't prep ahead of time and refrigerate and serve later (Marcella is adamant about making sure this salad doesn't see the inside of a fridge. I can understand that - chilled would probably dull the natural flavors). Though, perhaps some variation might show up this summer, sans calamari, and with some crushed red pepper thrown in somewhere.

April 10, 2011

Sbricciolona-Ferrara’s Crumbly Cake

This is a simple recipe that really lets you get your hands dirty. It starts with a mixture of ground almonds, cornmeal, flour, sugar, and lemon peel. Then egg yolks are mixed in with your fingers until small pellets are formed. A stick of butter is softened and then blended in, again using your hands, until everything is evenly mixed and holds loosely together. This is then crumbled into a buttered 12 inch cake pan and then baked for 40 minutes. I didn’t have a 12 inch pan so I substituted a 10 inch springform pan, which worked great. I cut this about 5 minutes after it came out of the oven, because I wanted nice even pieces. You have to cut it when it is warm, or it will break into irregular pieces when it is cold.

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This smelled great while it was cooking, so waiting for it to cool completely was torture. Its texture and taste reminded me of a scone, with a little extra crunchiness from the cornmeal. This recipe is listed in the dessert chapter, but for our house it should be listed in the breakfast chapter. Michael has developed the habit, which was handed down by his Grandmother, of eating light flavored biscotti or cookies with his coffee in the morning. I can always tell when we have those in the house, because his coffee cup ends up with a layer of crumbs in the bottom. I suspect that tomorrow morning the cup will have its fair share of evidence waiting for me to find when I load the dishwasher. I’m sure this recipe will become his new favorite to dunk. I have a feeling that I will be getting my hands dirty repeating this recipe a lot in the future.

April 24, 2011

Brutti Ma Buoni-Piedmontese Almond Cookies

One of the Italian bakeries “on the hill” here in town, Missouri Bakery, makes these cookies. These are always my favorite from among the many different types that they sell. I just knew them as macaroons, but now I know the real name for them. Marcella says the words mean ugly, but good and I can vouch for the good taste. Honestly, they don’t even seem ugly to me, but that may be because I know how good they really are.

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These are very simple to make. Blanched, shelled, almonds are ground with sugar first. Then you whip egg whites until the stiff peak stage. Next, you fold the almond mixture and vanilla into the egg whites. Then you bake them for 30 minutes on a cookie pan covered in butter. Next time I will really slather on the butter, because even coating it liberally, I still had some cookies stick. Oh well, more butter can’t be a bad thing, right?

It was torture waiting for a full 30 minutes to see if I had made them correctly. The house filled with that wonderful toasted almond smell as I watched the timer slowly click down. When I opened the oven door and took them out I knew that I had a new recipe to add to my cookie repertoire.

May 1, 2011

Italian Chocolate Mousse

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Chocolate Mousse is one of my son’s favorite recipes and I was very glad to draw this one. Unfortunately, he doesn’t get home from college for a few days, so we won’t have his opinion on the taste of this recipe until long after this is posted. The good news is that Marcella says that this will keep for a few days without much change which means he will be able to try it when he does get home. That will make a nice homecoming treat for him.

In the past I have tried many different mousse recipes and one thing that they all had in common was a thick base made from whipping cream. This recipe was different in that the cream is not whipped very long. It is just whisked until it stiffened. It is then folded into the mixture of melted semi sweet chocolate, espresso, dark rum, egg yolks and sugar. The lightness in this recipe comes from the egg whites which are whipped until the stiff peak stage and then folded into the mixture.

This mousse is so light and airy. I thought that given the strong flavors from the chocolate, coffee and rum that the mousse itself would be heavy, but by adding the whipping cream and egg whites, the final product is almost like tasting a cloud. This will be a wonderful finale to our dinner this evening.

May 8, 2011

Macedonia-Macerated Mixed Fresh Fruit

We serve fresh fruit in some form for every meal at our house. The reason for this is that Zachary, our son, decided as soon as he could speak, that vegetables were not something that he would eat willingly. After many years of battling this, the pediatrician and I decided that we would compensate for this by greatly increasing his fruit intake and making sure that he always had his vitamins. Over time he has added back some vegetables into his diet, but the habit of the fresh fruit has stayed.

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I was so looking forward to this recipe, because I have never made fruit this way. I found this to be such a refreshing dessert for a very warm Saturday in May. It starts with freshly squeezed orange and lemon juice. You add in peeled apples, pears and bananas. You then can play with whatever fruits are seasonal. I added grapes, blueberries, and watermelon. I took the optional choice of adding Maraschino liqueur into the mix. This is then chilled for at least 4 hours. I added in strawberries at the end, mixed it well and then served.

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The Maraschino liqueur was a great addition to this mix. I was expecting something cherry flavored, but it actually had flavors of honey and almond with a slight sweetness. I had to look it up to see how it is made and found out that it is made from Marasca cherries, but the pits are also used and that it what gives it the almond tones. Very nice. I have to say that I was not the only one confused by this liqueur. When Michael ordered this the first time from our liquor distributor, he actually sent Cherry liqueur. Michael had to send it back and set the guy straight. Luckily, we were able to get the right thing in time to make the recipe.

May 15, 2011

Banana and Rum Gelato

This week’s recipe sounded wonderful and I was so excited to try it. I thought this would give me an excuse to buy an ice cream maker, because that is one gadget that I don’t have in my kitchen. I was talking to my sister and mentioned the recipe and she said that she had an ice cream maker that she had gotten as a wedding present (her oldest daughter is 12) and only used once, but I was welcome to borrow it. I thought this would be a great way to see if I would like using one of the machines and then I could buy one if I thought I would use it frequently.

Becky gave me the machine last night and said that all I had to do was freeze the inner container, put in the mix, and turn on the machine and I would have gelato. Well, the unfortunate thing about wedding presents that are not used frequently, is that sometimes all of the pieces aren’t together when you need to use them. Since I had never used one of these before I thought everything was great. Process about 1 pound of ripe bananas then add in sugar, milk and rum. Mix well and then put into the ice cream maker. Turn on and then wait. The machine started turning and I thought this is great. In about 10 minutes I noticed that the outer rim of the mixture was freezing onto the container. At that point the middle of the mixture was still room temperature. That is when I started worrying. To make a long story short, I ended up manually being the paddle for the rest of the churning time. It seems that these machines won’t work right without one. Imagine that!

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The good news is that even though the gelato was not as firm as I think it should have been, due to the machine malfunction, the flavor was wonderful. Zachary and I couldn’t wait until dessert to try it, so we actually had it for a late afternoon snack and we both loved it. Now, I will be looking for a machine to buy and trust me I will be checking for the paddle before I take it out of the store!

May 22, 2011

Basic Pizza Dough

I feel so lucky this week. Since this recipe is the first in the pizza series, all that was required of me was to make the pizza dough according to the directions and then top with whatever I wanted. My first choice was fresh mozzarella, tomato and basil, but that is one of the next recipes in the book, so that I couldn’t do that. I decided to try a recipe from epicurious.com. It is a gorgonzola, proscuitto, fig, and arugula pizza. Yum.

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I have to say that I don’t usually make my own pizza dough, because I have been spoiled by Missouri Bakery. They are an Italian bakery “on the hill” that makes really wonderful baked goods. They also make one of the best pizza doughs that I have ever had. We sell it in our store frozen, and all you have to do is thaw it, roll it out, and then top it. Since my son is addicted to pizza, we make it at least once a week when he is home. I was so excited to finally be able to try my hand at making the dough from scratch. The pizza dough came together really easily. I let it rise for about three hours, divided it into 2 balls and rolled out the dough to make the pizza. I did try the hand tossing method, but I was afraid that I was going to drop it, and I needed both crusts for the night, so I didn’t toss it very high. I finally just used the rolling pin to thin it and then my fingers to form it.

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The final products tasted great. I made a pepperoni pizza for Zach and then the gorgonzola pizza for Michael and me. My dough came out much softer than the Missouri Bakery dough which made for a crust that was crisp, yet tender. The Missouri Bakery dough bakes up to be a thicker crust that is chewier. Both of these crusts are very good and I like having the option of each.

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May 29, 2011

Mantovana-Olive Oil Bread

The closest that I have ever been to making bread in the past is by using a bread machine. I didn’t really like the consistency of the bread that it made, so I stopped using it. Why should I make inferior bread when we are so lucky here in St. Louis to have so many great Italian bakeries. I certainly didn’t want to waste my time trying to make bread that would be surpassed by the bread that they make. Well, I don’t have to worry about that anymore. This recipe makes the most delicious dense, crusty bread that is on a par with our bakeries.

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Actually, Marconi Bakery, makes a very similar bread to this, and I know it well, since my husband makes a special trip down to pick up bread from them every Saturday to sell in our store. When he unloads his van, the bread is still warm, and it is a treat to smell the aroma wafting up from the warm loaves. Michael has admitted that the smell is so enticing that many Saturdays he doesn’t make it back to the store without cracking open a loaf and eating some on the way back. When my son was younger, he would have friends stay over on Saturday nights for sleepovers. There were many Sunday mornings that we would come downstairs and find two loaves of bread decimated by the boys late night cravings. You know it has to be good for adolescent boys to prefer bread and butter over chips or popcorn.

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When I started this bread my fear was that I would mess up the recipe and I certainly didn’t have time for it not to work. I shouldn’t have feared because Marcella has made the process so easy, that if you just follow her direction closely, the bread will come out nicely. I really enjoyed the process although I have to admit, I almost beaned my son with the dough as I was picking it up by the end and forcefully banging it on the counter. Apparently I was a little aggressive and he almost got caught in my backswing! Not to worry though, we made it through injury free. When the bread came out of the oven, the first thing that I said was “I have made Marconi bread”. I was so happy. Finally a bread recipe that I know will be worth the time to make and my family will love. Actually, Michael said that this was better than Marconi bread. Now, in this family praise doesn’t come much higher than that.

June 5, 2011

I Ripieni Fritti-Fried Stuffed Dumplings

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This is my last recipe post for this adventure. Also it is the last recipe in the book. Isn’t that the saddest thing that you have ever heard? I won’t wax poetic at this point, but I will surely miss this.

This recipe is simple to make, but very hearty. A simple dough of flour, water, salt, baking powder and olive oil is kneaded together and then rolled out. 3 inch squares are cut out and then filled with a variety of items. The recipe in the book gives two types. One is tomato, caper and anchovy and the other is a combination of savory and mild cheeses. I chose to use the combination of ricotta and gorgonzola. These are then sealed and deep fried until they turn brown.

Michael helped me with rolling the dough out. I found it funny that for the last post he would actually be around to help. Of course, this doesn’t include helping to eat all of the recipes, because you know that he has always been there for that part. This time he also saved my dumplings from burning, because I foolishly thought I could fry and finish stuffing them at the same time. Bad Idea! Anyway, when we finished frying them he couldn’t wait to try them and had wonderful things to say about them. I really liked them too. The combination of flavors was tasty. I think this would be great to use for appetizers maybe with both types of fillings for variety.

June 12, 2011

Beth’s Final Thoughts

This has been an incredible journey for me. My background is in science. I have worked in a research lab for the last 24 years. I think that is why my writing style tends to be on the dry side. After being a straight line thinker for all of these years it is tough to change! That was my biggest fear when Deborah talked me into helping out with this. I figured I have been cooking for years so the cooking wouldn’t be that big of a challenge, but the writing scared the living heck out of me. Well, like all things that scare you I have learned if you just attack it bit by bit you can handle anything. Little would I know that the cooking would turn out to be the bigger challenge.

As Deborah laid out in her final blog, one of our commandments that we all swore to live by, was to follow the recipes exactly. We were not allowed to change anything. I really hadn’t realized before how much I tinker with every recipe that I make. When I started to make my first recipe, I had to stop myself multiple times from adding or subtracting ingredients. I even had the sneaky thought that as long as it wouldn’t show up in the picture who would know! I then stepped back and realized that the challenge is about working outside of our comfort zone. I needed to conform to the rules.

This was so much harder than it sounded. You have to understand that one of my jobs for our business is to come up with the recipes for the café. The way I normally do that is to find a few recipes that have aspects that I like and then combine them until I come up with a recipe that works. This was quite a hard habit to break. I did it though, even when it just seemed wrong to me. I found out that when I did exactly as Marcella said, the results were amazing.

The recipes that I loved the most were ones that stretched my cooking skills to the limit. I had never made my own pasta so I was especially proud of how my Tortelloni with Swiss Chard and the Gratineed Spinach and Ricotta Gnocchi turned out. My mouth waters just thinking about them. My favorite meat recipe was the Veal Roll with Spinach and Proscuitto Stuffing.

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I have made this a couple of times now and it is always a hit. I found a lot of recipes to love in this book, so it is hard to narrow down my favorites, but I think these would be my top three.

I want to thank all of the other Pomodori for their wonderful stories that they have posted during this process. It is my habit to read the blog every morning after checking my email. I will dearly miss this. Even on those days when I didn’t feel great something in the post would make me laugh. I also felt connected to these other people that were going through this process with me. That was a very special feeling. I did not comment on many of the posts, but there were so many that touched me greatly. I will also miss Marcella’s comments to all of us. They made me realize, even more, how much thought and care that she had put into every recipe in the book. I really want to thank Deborah for including me in this process. It has been a great learning and growing experience. I will miss it.


This page contains an archive of all entries posted to Pomodori e Vino in the 1. Sunday - Beth category. They are listed from oldest to newest.

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