Balsamic Glazed Cipollini Onions, and a HUGE, HUGE Thanks!!

Before I get on to these cute little cipollini’s, I have to share some good news with all of you.

Last week I was contacted by a wonderful woman from the Chicago Tribune, saying that they wanted to feature me as “Blogger of the Week” on their “Chicago’s Best Blogs” website, and would I be interested!! Are you kidding me! Did you say, THE Chicago Tribune?? Needless to say I was in complete shock, I must have read the email 10 times before I responded, called every family member I have in a matter of 10 minutes, and I’ve been buzzing ever since.

I just want to say “Thank You” to the Chicago Tribune, I’m truly honored, and proud to display my badge!

And now on to these little gems!

Cipollini onions, pronounced “Cheep-oh-lee-nee” originated from Italy,but now you can find them all over the states. I’ve seen them in regular and specialty stores, and of course always at my Italian markets around here. Although they can be a little expensive at times, they’re worth the special treat. They have an intense sweet flavor that especially comes out when you roast them. Which is my favorite way to eat them.

Their flat and saucer shaped with a thin, paper like skin, just remove the skin and trim the ends.

When you roast these with balsamic, it becomes a rich, syrupy glaze that flavors and caramelizes the entire onion The taste is phenomenal!!

Place them in a hot oven around 400 degree’s, drizzle with olive oil, salt and pepper, fresh thyme and a good balsamic vinegar, roast them till tender and caramelized, if the glaze seems to be cooking down to fast, just lower the oven to 350.

Picture a nice grilled steak with these on the side, or some grilled chicken, chops, or even a roast. Either way, I’m sure you’re gonna love them!

Buon Appetito!!

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Fireworks, and Fire Up! (your grill that is!)

Barbecue season will be in full swing this weekend as the 4Th of July is quickly approaching. Many are planning a relaxing summer day with family and friends and there will be cook outs everywhere. The smell of ribs, steaks, burgers and hot dogs will permeate the air!

I thought I’d share with you a few things we like to grill ,and a couple of sides.

Pork tenderloin is great on the grill, it doesn’t take long. the meat is always tender, and if you just slice it open like a book, it can be marinated and stuffed with just about anything. In this case I made an olive tapenade, mixed it with a little Dijon mustard, spread it all over, and then rolled and tied it. Mighty Good!!

Beer Can chicken, if you’ve never tried it, please do! It may not look the most attractive, but the taste is phenomenal, crispy on the outside and super moist on the inside. Just remember to plug the top so all the moisture of the beer stays inside. As far as your choice of spice, the sky’s the limit!! Here I used, paprika, thyme, cayenne, granulated garlic, dry mustard, salt and pepper, cumin, sometimes a little brown sugar too. Mix it all up together and after coating your chicken with olive oil, slather it on.

Pasta salad is always a favorite with my family, you can make it a million different ways, this is an old stand by recipe, I just changed it up with some Cavatappi pasta. Olives, broccoli, shredded carrots, red onions, fresh basil and parsley, granulated garlic, olive oil, salt and pepper, and tons of Romano cheese. This is always a request by my daughter!

Who doesn’t like corn on the cob? Keep the heat out of your house and cook it on the grill. I like to cut the cobs smaller, it’s easier to fit on your plate.
Sometimes I like to spice it up a bit, for a change of pace.

Just melt some butter, have your spices ready, in this case I just mixed some paprika, cumin, granulated garlic, salt and pepper. Dip your corn in the butter, sprinkle with the spice, and grill!
Mmmm, it’s so good!

Cannellini Bean Salad, this is a great side that can be made ahead of time, in fact, it tastes even better as it sits. Canned beans, rinsed and drained, diced tomatoes, red and green peppers diced, a little jalapeno for some heat, crushed garlic, chopped parsley, basil, tossed in a fresh lemon and olive oil dressing.

And last but not least, I can’t take credit for this Blueberry Tart, I actually found it by way of Mile Fiori Favoriti, a blog I visit often. What appealed to me was how she made it sound and the ease of making it, go over and check her out, she has the link to the recipe. I made it last Sunday and it was a real hit!!! I WILL be making this again. Thanks Pat!!

Blueberries, almond flavor, and in my case, ( shhhh, don’t tell anyone) I used a store bought pie pastry dough, you know, the kind that’s already rolled out. Again I’m plugging Trader Joe’s, check it out in their freezer case, it taste’s outstanding.


I hope I’ve given you some inspiration for some good eats ,and good grilling, I would love to know some of your favorites for the summer and the grill.

Wishing you all lot’s of fun and food for the 4TH!!!

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Rum, Raisin, and Ricotta Danish Braid

Daring Bakers June Challenge
Danish Braid

Danish dough, or as it’s sometimes called laminated or layered dough, is a pastry technique. It’s like the beginning steps of learning puff pastry,” but not nearly as complex”, so says the author Sherry Yard of (The Secrets of Baking). By learning this technique you can create a whole slew of different recipes, of course I would be contented just getting through this one!!

Although it was time consuming, it wasn’t too difficult to do, as long as I had my directions close at hand.

Of course I had to put my Italian twist on it, so for my filling I decided to do sweetened ricotta cheese, with rum soaked, golden raisins. I soaked the raisins over night in the rum so they were definitely “drunk”!!

I wouldn’t call this “braided to perfection” by any means. I prefer to call it a, well…. a more “rustic look”.

The recipe called for Cardamon, which I didn’t own, but really wanted to try, besides, I thought that it would go well with the ricotta . I searched a few stores for the cardamon, and ended up getting it at Whole Foods, it was ground, and only $4.99, which I thought was a steal. In my search I even found it as high as $15.00 (ouch!)

I was anxious to try Cardamon, because I’ve been reading that it’s the “new Cinnamon”. I can’t say that I’m 100% sold on it yet, I’ll have to try it again in something else. I do love it in Chai tea though!

The egg wash made for a beautiful golden brown finish!

Can you see the layers? It really worked!
I have a deep respect for bakers, with their exact measuring and patience, something I am learning to do in this group!
A big “Thank You” to our host’s this month, Kelly, of Sass and Veracity, and Ben, over at What’s
Cooking, for helping me get out of my “comfort zone”. Go over and check out the complete recipe on their blogs.
Don’t forget to check out some of the other Daring Bakers braids here.

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LEMON SORBETTO BLENDED WITH MASCARPONE CHEESE

Wandering through the food blogosphere we come across so many fantastic recipes, I’m always inspired by the talent of all my fellow food bloggers. I must have a list a mile long of recipes I’ve bookmarked to try!

Sometimes I come across a concept that is so simple, and I think to myself, what a brilliant idea! I knew back in April when I saw this over at Taste With The Eyes, that it was something I was going to make, lemon with mascarpone a match made in heaven and I could not wait to make it!

What attracted me to this was how simple it was to make but yet the end result was so dreamy and decadent. In fact Lori Lynn’s own words were ” it’s embarrassingly simple”.
All you do is take 1 pint of your favorite sorbet, put it on your counter and let it defrost a little, take out your food processor, and put in the sorbet along with 6oz. of mascarpone cheese. Give it a whirl until all combined and smooth. Spoon it into a pretty glass, and refreeze it. Garnish it with whatever your heart desires, I just used some lemon peel.
The best thing about this is there was no ice cream machine needed, and no one would ever know the difference!!

Slightly defrost before you serve it because that’s when the true flavors come out, then sit down and enjoy every creamy spoonful!
My Hubby loved this so much that now he wants me to try blending an orange sorbet with the mascarpone, sort of like an upscale dreamsicle.
I think the possibilities are endless, don’t you?
Thanks Lori Lynn, for letting us all in on “your little secret”.

WARNING!!! This could become very addicting!!

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Food and a Fundraiser!

This was a busy weekend for me with not much time for blogging I was helping out in a fundraiser for my daughter and daughter in law.
The food that I’m showing is great for a crowd, especially the potatoes which are simply Idaho’s or Russets, cut in planks with the skin on, tossed in olive oil and seasoned with salt, pepper, oregano, granulated garlic, paprika, and generous amounts of grated romano cheese. Bake in a 400 degree oven till crispy.

In August, my daughter, daughter in law, and niece ,will be walking 60 miles in the Chicago Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer 3 Day. Each walker makes the commitment to raise $2,200.00, all proceeds go to benefit the ongoing research to fight this disease, and find a cure.

It’s not an easy task to come up with the money so they encourage the walkers to do some fundraising. We held a 2 day garage sale with things donated by friends, family and neighbors to help them meet their goal. They also held a big poker party that same night with some of the proceeds going towards their team. My daughter in law works in a big office and she came up with the idea ( after clearing it with human resources) that whoever donates $2.00 for the Cause, gets to wear jeans to work, I thought that was a great idea, who doesn’t want to wear jeans instead of a shirt and tie!

Walking 60 miles is no easy feat, you have to stick to their training schedule and build up your miles, otherwise you could really hurt yourself.

As of today they are all up to about 13 mile walks, but when the actual 3-Day starts, the first day they walk 22 miles, the second day is 20, and the last day is 18.

They did it once before and let me tell you my daughter had to tape her feet to finish, she had blisters like you’ve never seen before! It’s grueling! but so is this disease!!

Last time they walked we attended the opening ceremony where thousands were gathered to start this journey together, many walked all 60 miles holding pictures of loved ones, poster size pictures of mothers and sisters, aunts, cousins, friends they lost to this disease. They wore Tshirts with names on them, they held big banners with names of loved ones as they walked. It is truly an emotional event!
Along the route they walk, people drive by in cars and beep their horns, come out of their homes and offer water or just to say “Thank You”, its that encouragement that keeps them going.

We met them along the way with band aids and Advils, new socks or a change of shoes, but mostly to encourage them to finish. My Granddaughter held up a big sign as her Mom walked by that said…My Mommy Rocks!! I Love You Mommy!! My daughter burst out in tears!!

The opening ceremony is very emotional, but the closing ceremony is even more touching!!
Friends and family form a line, now mind you, there are thousands of people, this was held in Chicago on the lake front at the time and as the walkers walk in together ,they are hand and hand, arm and arm, they all take off one shoe and raise it high above their heads in honor of the survivors, all are crying, there’s not a dry eye anywhere!!!

Here are some of the survivors, many of them walked all 60 miles also, some even being pushed by family and friends in their wheel chairs, believe me it is a sight to see!

As most of you are aware of, their is a fellow food blogger who is fighting this very battle right now, her name is Bri, the name of her blog is Figs with Bri, and through the kindness of fellow bloggers and others, there is a fundraiser going on for her right now to help her seek other treatments, there is a goal to be met and although it is well on the way, it hasn’t been met yet, so any donation big or small would be so appreciated.


Please take the time to read about this courageous young women if you haven’t already done so, just click on the link above to get to know her and learn about the fundraiser going on.

Hopefully Bri will be walking among these survivors one day!!!

I just want to say “Thank You” Vanessa, Christa, and Julie, we are soooo proud of you girls for doing this!!

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AFFOGATO!!

Affogato in Italian means “drowned”, and in this case it’s cold vanilla gelato being drowned by pouring freshly brewed espresso all over it. Add a splash of Amaretto, and you have a wonderful ending to a great summer BBQ.

It’s like having your coffee and dessert all at the same time!

Simply brew up some of your favorite espresso, I happen to like these two, and would normally use either one.
But I just so happen to have one last bag of this coffee that I have been holding on to since our trip to Italy, I decided to finally open it up and use it, I just loved the look of the bag, and the fact that I bought it in Florence.

My espresso pot is a cherished gift that I got from a very special Aunt, a family heirloom that she gave to me because she knows how much I love coffee. I love it, and I thought it would be perfect to feature it in this post.
I don’t know how old it is, but I do know it makes a perfect espresso. When I first received it from her I kept it all packed up and stored away, then I thought, why? I want to enjoy it and use it, so I pulled it out and have been using it ever since!

The recipe calls for gelato, but unfortunately once you try the real thing nothing compares.
I saw this and thought I’d give it a try, sorry Ciao Bella you’re not worth the $$$$!

A good quality vanilla ice cream would work just as well.

This is definitely an “Adult” version of an ice cream float, just scoop some good ice cream in a coffee cup, splash a liqueur of your choice, “drown” it with your hot espresso, and garnish with some whip cream. (optional)
I promise that once you try this, you’ll soon be craving an Affogato!

Enjoy!!

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WINE, FOOD, FUN! …A little more of my vacation

Since I took so many pictures of my recent trip I thought I would share a little more with you.
This was a tour we took in Sonoma of the Benziger family winery, they have been written up in Wine Spectator magazine because of their Green standards. Their estate is one of only a handful of vineyards in North America to be certified Biodynamic. Biodynamics is a holistic farming approach that goes a step beyond organic farming, it requires close attention to the varied forces of nature influencing the vine, along with the elimination of all chemicals.
We took a tram tour up into the vineyards where we learned how geography and weather influence their farming practices.

The Benzingers are leaders in Biodynamic and sustainable winegrowing.

Benzinger’s 28,000 square foot wine cave that stores around 4000 barrels. We learned how different types of oak influence the aging and flavors of wines.
When the tour was over we got to sample their Biodynamic and other award-winning wines.

A visit to DEAN & DELUCA in Napa. Epicurean excellence at it’s finest!!!

Chocolate anyone??

I’ve never knew or seen, so many different kinds of salts.

Parmigiano- Reggiano! the “Queen Mother”, …. I would have loved to tuck her in my suitcase!

Rows and rows of delectable olives!

Any kind of paste you would need, pistachio and almond, the smell was amazing!

Crepes with Nutella, who wouldn’t love that!

Add some fresh strawberries and banana, sheer bliss!!

I Picked these up at a beautiful farmers market set up right on pier 39 in San Francisco. Beautiful golden red Rainier cherries, if you haven’t tried these yet, and if they are available near you, please go out and get some!!

Ruby red, sweet and delicious Bing cherries

The most gorgeous strawberries not one of them blemished!


And finally, those are seals that were sleeping all at the same time, what a sight, what a day, what a trip!

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GRILLED VEGETABLE POLENTA TART

Polenta, you either love it or hate it! I love it, but I also realize that you have to flavor the heck out of it. Please don’t ever buy those round flavorless tubes, the ones that you can cut a slice off. And on the flip side you really don’t have to stir for hours and hours to make a good polenta. (although if you have the patience it’s delicious). Me,I don’t have patience, so I like using the instant kind, it’s readily available, it’s quick, it tastes great, and it comes out nice and creamy. It cooks up in no time, and right at the end you stir in all your herbs, cheese and other goodies.

In this case, I poured the creamy mixture that was flavored with fresh basil, grated Romano cheese, (lots!), pitted kalamata olives, some olive oil, salt and pepper, into a 10′ tart pan. When it cools it moulds perfectly. You can even add sun-dried tomatoes, it’s so good but I didn’t have any on hand at the time. The key is flavor it up!
This makes a great presentation on a cake stand, and is great as a lunch, appetizer or side dish.

The sky’s the limit on what kind of veggies to put on it, whatever you have on hand, or all of your favorites, I used zucchini ribbons, portabella mushrooms, onions, and red peppers. It cuts perfectly into wedges, just finish it off with shaved Pecorino and a drizzle of your favorite EV olive oil.

Buon Appetito!!!

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GRILLED ARTICHOKES WITH LEMON AIOLI!

I confess… I’m an artichoke lover! In fact my whole family is, we can’t resist them in any way shape or form!

Give us a pan of stuffed artichokes and we are all smiles, as we sit around the table scraping each leaf working are way down to the “heart”, by the time we are finished we each have a pile of scraped and discarded leaves on our plates! Now that’s some good eating!!
But now that it’s BBQ season we enjoy eating them grilled just as much. I think the hardest thing about cooking artichokes is the prep, to prepare them for the grill you have to cut the top off,discard some outer leaves and trim up the remaining ones.

You’ll want to cut them in quarters, and remove any fuzzy center and pull out all pointy and scratchy leaves. Immediately after cutting immerse them in lemon water until ready to cook.
Place them in a pot of salted water and cook till tender.

Drain well, and gently squeeze out excess water, set aside in a bowl.

A couple of hours before they are ready to be grilled, toss them in some extra virgin olive oil, balsamic vinegar and crushed garlic, salt and pepper.

The lemon aioli is whipped up very quickly with a good store bought mayonnaise, a little crushed garlic, fresh lemon juice, along with the rind, and salt and pepper to taste. Just make sure the consistency is good for dipping.

I actually like to grill these in my indoor grill pan, I feel have more control because they are a little fragile, and besides the marinade flavor seems to not burn off. But you absolutely can put them on your grill outside, just make sure your grill is super clean, you don’t want to take on any other flavors.
These are great appetizers to start off a meal, or to have as a nice side dish.

And last but not least, I want to thank my Florida house guests that were staying with us a couple of weeks ago, they gave me this beautiful blue oval platter ( for my blog!!) I don’t think the picture does it justice you can’t see how huge it is! I thought the green artichokes would look nice on it, what do you think?
Anyway, thanks again, Angie and Pat, Diane, Donny, and of course Lindsey and Lauren.

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I’M BACK!!!!!

I’m back from my wonderful vacation! I hope I don’t bore you, but I wanted to share some pictures with all of you. In all it’s wonder the beautiful Golden Gate Bridge, fog and all!!

Boudin bakery at Fishermans Wharf, home of the famous sourdough bread. Friendly baker putting on a show for us.

He created all different shapes of bread, I bought a turtle.

We visited Muir Woods and saw the majestic redwoods!

Aren’t they beautiful?

Steaming crabs right outside on the wharf!

Yummm!!

A little clam chowder and a seafood sandwich!!

Napa Valley vineyards, looks like Italy dosen’t it?

Lots of the Italian vineyards have deli’s in them where you can buy lunch. Gourmet sandwiches, cheese, salads, and wine to be packed up an eaten right on the gorgeous grounds, we did that quite often!


Check out all the cheese!

I had that for lunch….. delicious!

A little shopping at the Le Creuset outlet! I was in heaven!


Of course I had to buy something for the blog!!! It’s being shipped.

Yummy crab cakes


Fresh halibut

Hubby ate this delicious pasta

Mumm Champagne tasting, the views were breathtaking!


I could have sat out there all day!

Can I tell you how excited I was to go here!

CIA Greystone Napa, Only 101 lucky students get to go here. Of course the big one is in New York. Chef Cat Cora was there the day before we were arrived. Many celebrity chefs visit and teach here.

If I didn’t know better I would have thought I was in Tuscany!

Viansa winery, the grounds and views were beautiful.

A view from Viansa.

Ahhhh, La Dolce Vita!!!

Back to reality! I have a lot of catching up to do with all of my blog friends, see you soon!!

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ROASTED GARLIC PESTO SALMON

As you read this I am still on vacation, I decided to set up and try Bloggers new scheduled posting. I have full confidence that it’s going to work, it’s really pretty simple, even for a non-tech person like me!
I’m posting this salmon dish because its simple, easy to do, and the flavor is so intensely good!
My Hubby was never really crazy about salmon, he would eat it because I made it, but he would never request it at all. Until…. I made it this way!! Now he craves it and wants me to make it often.
Hey, and its even good for you! Did you know that according to Web MD, a 3oz. serving of salmon has more vitamin D than 1 cup of milk? So it’s a great way for all of us to increase are calcium intake, not to mention all the other health benefits!

Have you ever tried roasted garlic basil pesto? I made this just like regular pesto, only I used roasted garlic instead. The flavor goes wonderful with the salmon.
Of course you can use your favorite jar of pesto also, there are some great ones out there that you can buy.

Simply brush the pesto all over your salmon, which is placed on a foil lined baking sheet, that’s it!! How fast is that?
Now here is the important part… Along time ago I saw Ina Garten talking about the key to cooking salmon correctly, she said always roast in a hot oven, around 500 degrees.
Roast salmon 18-20 min, or about 12 min. per inch at the thickest part. Remove it from the oven , wrap with foil and let it rest for about 15 min.

Can I tell you it comes out perfect every time! Perfect! Moist! never dried or overcooked, if you just follow her directions, I guarantee it will turn out for you.

Susan over at Food Blogga is hosting an event this month called Beautiful Bones, it’s to help bring awareness to osteoporosis, which not only affects women but men too! Please go over to her wonderful blog and read her post on this, it is filled with important information for all of us.
I am entering this salmon dish into her event because it is a calcium rich food which will help us in the fight against osteoporosis!!

Thanks Susan, for hosting such an important event!!!

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GET YOUR GRILL ON!!

And make an EGGPLANT BRUSCHETTA

Simply brush a loaf of ciabatta bread with olive oil, and grill it till crisp. In the meantime, mix together your favorite goat cheese, along with some mascapone, to even out the tang.Mix in some lemon peel and fresh herbs, I used basil and parsley, set aside.

After you have grilled your eggplant that was also brushed with olive oil, salt and pepper, lightly toss it in a balsamic vinaigrette. ( a very important step!)

Now spread that creamy mixture over that crispy ciabatta and layer your eggplant on top, oh yeah, I also grilled up some red pepper for a little color and added flavor! Serve at room temperature. I hope you eggplant lovers try this!!

GRILLED ZUCCHINI RIBBON SALAD

This recipe is adapted from Michael Chiarello. Take a mandoline or a vegetable peeler and make length wise strips of zucchini. Toss them in some olive oil and place on grill, he suggested cooking only one side, but I did both. It cooks up fast so watch it, you just want it lightly wilted with light grill marks. Place them all on a platter. In the meantime, whisk together a fresh lemon and olive oil dressing, adding some crushed garlic, just a hint! of course salt and pepper to taste.

Now add fresh basil and parsley roughly chopped and toss into the zucchini ribbons. Pour the lemon dressing all over.
Top it off with some shaved Pecorino and toasted pinenuts! Can I just say, Yumm!

LILAC’S FROM MY GARDEN

Lilac’s are popping up everywhere here in Chicagoland! They are in full bloom right now, and the smell is incredible! These were taken from a big bush I have in my backyard. Thought I’d share this bouquet with all of you.
Note to all my blog friends… I will be gone on vacation for 1 week, we are flying to sunny California, ( Napa Valley & San Francisco, Woo Hoo!!) I will be sure to come back with plenty of pictures to share, after all it is a foodie lovers dream trip! So with that being said, I won’t be around to visit you till I come back, don’t worry you are all in my reader, I’ll look forward to catching up when I get back.
See you soon,
Marie

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ROASTED TOMATO AND RICOTTA TART

This is such a great summer appetizer, side dish, or even a light lunch. Savory ricotta on flaky puff pastry that is studded with vine ripened tomato slices that have been roasted with a hint of garlic, thyme and olive oil. Now pour yourself a glass of your favorite crisp white wine, and your good to go!

Lay parchment paper on a baking sheet, add your sliced tomatoes, fresh thyme, ( you can use fresh basil also, but add it later you don’t want it to get brown) ) salt, pepper, crushed garlic, and drizzle them all with EV olive oil. Roast at 400 degrees till juices are more concentrated. These could be done ahead of time until ready to use.

Next mix up your ricotta with salt and pepper, egg and lots of grated cheese, I used Romano, because it has a more intense flavor. This also can be done ahead of time.

Place 1 sheet of puff pastry on a parchment lined baking sheet, and with a small knife form a 1″ border around the pastry and slice diagonally all around like it is shown above. Be care full not to cut through. With in the frame, poke with fork all over, and lightly brush border with olive oil.

Place ricotta mixture within the frame, now layer the roasted tomato slices all over.

Bake for around 20 minutes at 400 degreesF, till golden brown. Let it rest for a while before you cut into it. Serve warm.
Buon Appetito!!

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Hotdogs, Tamales, Italian Beef and a Wedding!!!!

Over the last few days we have had relatives from Florida staying with us to attend a family wedding, so I haven’t had much time for blogging and visiting my favorite blogs. Don’t worry, I’ll be back to normal shortly! I just wanted to share with you some of their favorite foods they crave when they come to Chicago.
One of their traditions is Portillo’s Italian beef, always consistent! perfectly spiced! Never a disappointment!

A tamale from Portillo’s. Yes, these are not traditional tamales you make wrapped up in corn husks, but there’s something about the taste of these steamed goodies!!

And of course who can resist a Chicago style hotdog? Nobody in my family can!!!

And last but not least, I wanted to share with you a picture of my precious Granddaughter who was the flower girl at the wedding.
I know I’m a little biased but isn’t she beautiful? ๐Ÿ™‚
Can’t wait to see what all of you have been up to!
Talk to you soon,
Marie

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ROSEMARY LEMONADE (SPIKED!!)

Nothing screams summer-time more to me than a nice cold glass of lemonade! It’s refreshing and it really quenches your thirst on a hot afternoon. Now, add a savory and subtle kick of rosemary, and you have a fantastic twist on this traditional drink!
We all know how good lemon and rosemary pair together in cooking, but who knew it would be just as good in a drink? So, if you like these two flavor combinations, please give this a try, one sip and you’ll be smitten!!!

But now wait! theres more! by simply adding one shot of Limoncello to this tasty lemonade you’ve now created a crisp and delicious summer cocktail fit for any special occasion, or a special treat just for yourself. ๐Ÿ˜€

You’ll need a cocktail shaker to combine the juice of 1 lemon, 4 TBL. of sugar (or less), a pinch of rosemary leaves, some ice cubes, and enough cold water to fill. If using Limoncello, pour one shot into the shaker also. Shake well and pour into a tall glass lined with thin slices of lemons.

Garnish with a fresh sprig of rosemary, and a thick slice of lemon. Serve immediately!
MAKES 1
Cin Cin!!

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PASTA SALADS!

ORZO WITH GRILLED SHRIMP AND FETA
INGREDIENTS
Grilled shrimp (marinate the shrimp in lemon peel, lemon juice, olive oil, crushed garlic, then grill)
Cooked orzo pasta
Diced and seeded English cucumber
Diced red onion
Crumbled feta
Fresh lemon and lemon peel
Mint, parsley, a little oregano
Make a vinaigrette by whisking olive oil, fresh squeezed lemon juice, a little crumbled feta, salt and pepper,and white wine vinegar, and a crushed garlic clove. Taste it to your liking either adding more or less.
Place all ingredients in a bowl, adding all the herbs, more feta, (make sure it’s in small crumbles)pour your vinaigrette over all the ingredients, taste it and make sure you have enough of everything! Adjust it to your liking.
BOWTIE CAPRESE
INGREDIENTS
Cooked bowtie pasta
Grape tomatoes sliced in half
Fresh mozzarella cut in chunks ( I used a dry pack)
Fresh basil
Place everything in your bowl and coat with good olive oil, salt and pepper
The juices will come out of the tomatoes and flavor the oil and give a great taste to the salad.

These salads are great for any party, lunch with the girls (or guys), BBQ’s, and picnic’s.
Hope you give them a try!
Buon Appetito!!

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CHEESECAKE POPS! ( Daring Bakers)

This happened to be a very timely challenge for me, because yesterday my daughter and I hosted a personal shower for my neice. I thought “what a great idea, I’ll make these for the shower!” Considering I had a bunch of other things to cook and bake for the shower, this might not have been such a good idea! Doing something new and unfamiliar, then dipping and decorating them, and of course taking pictures! Well you know what I mean!!
Thursday night I baked the cheesecake which by the way, took me 65 min. to bake. My oven is only 2 years old and very accurate, so I set the timer for the 35 to 45 min. that the recipe called for, but it just didn’t set. Other than that, I had no problems at all!

Here is the perfectly set and cooled cheesecake!

This months challenge of these DECADENT Cheesecake Pops, was hosted by two ladies, Elle, of Feeding my Enthusiasms and Deborah, at Taste and Tell. Go over to their blogs to check out the whole recipe. I have to admit these little pops were quite a hit at the shower, I got alot of “Ooooh’s” and “Ahhhh’s” A big thanks to them both!

As far as the melting of the chocolate, I did mine in the microwave, stirring every 30 seconds, it turned out nice and glossy and stuck to the frozen cheesecake balls perfectly.

I decided to decorate the lolipop stick with pipe cleaners, they were super easy to bend around, and I liked the color it added. Great for a Girlie shower!!

I got a little carried away with what I decorated them with. Here is what I used:

Mini chocolate chips

Sprinkles

Coconut

Chopped pecans

Crushed Oreo cookies

Plain chocolate

Crushed Skors toffee bar

Crushed Biscotti ( of course I had to get something Italian in there!)

These one bite wonders are perfect for any party, trust me, they’re worth it!!

Please check out some of the other Daring Bakers amazing Cheesecake Pops here.

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GRILLED CHICKEN OREGANATO

This past weekend the weather was beautiful, which prompted me to fire up my grill for dinner.
Since I was going to be grilling chicken I knew exactly how I was going to make it. I got my inspiration for this from eyeing Amy’s huge jar of Marinata Diavola, over at Familia Bencomo.
What a great idea to have this on hand in your frig during grilling season. Go over and check out her recipe here, I had to change mine up a bit because I didn’t have any fresh rosemary, so instead I used dried greek oregano, hence the title…Chicken Oreganato.

What ever herbs you use trust me it will be delicious! Its simply a mixture of fresh lemon juice, extra virgin olive oil, crushed garlic cloves, sea salt, and pepper, and cayenne pepper. ( I only had red pepper flakes). Put it all in a jar, shake it up and use it as a marinade or just brush it on grilled meats, all kinds of fish, and your favorite veggies.

I didn’t make enough, so I’ll be making lots more. I love having it readily available in my frig, and the longer it sits, the better it tastes. ๐Ÿ™‚

I even brushed it over my lemons that I grilled. If you have never grilled a lemon, you have to try it, it’s sweeter and super juicy! I squeezed it all over my chicken, mmmm was it good!!

If you haven’t had a chance to visit Amy’s blog, or gotten to know her yet, please stop by for a visit, one conversation with her and you’ll think you’ve known her for years! Really!!!
Thanks Amy!

Happy Grilling!!

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CONTORNI (SIDE DISHES)

The other day while I was visiting some of my favorite blogs, I came across a post by Peter of Kalofagas Greek Food & Beyond. He was talking about how he was going to try and feature more side dishes. He felt that sides got little attention compared to the main course, we as bloggers often feature. My thoughts exactly!!! In fact in my house we’re all about the sides! Especially with grill season starting its fun to get creative with different sides to have with your main course. Below are a few of our favorites, and as grilling season gets reved up I’ll be posting more!

VEGETABLE GIARDINIERA
Cook in salted boiling water for 3 min. cauliflower, sliced carrots,and celery. With a slotted spoon, transfer to a tray lined with paper towels. Cool vegetables.
In a large bowl add green and your favorite black olives, drained artichoke hearts, minced garlic, drained eggplant salad, chopped red onion, and all of your cooled down veggies.
Make a vinaigrette of red wine vinegar, extra virgin olive oil, season with salt and pepper, dried oregano, lemon juice, and lemon peel. Refrigerate till cool.
FRESH GREEN BEAN SALAD
Precook your green beans, make sure they still till have a bite to them. Drain and cool them down.
In a large bowl add cooled beans, kalamata olives, red onion, garbanzo beans, and chopped fresh tomato’s. Toss like a salad with red wine vinegar, extra virgin olive oil, oregano, salt and pepper, and granulated garlic. Delicious at room temp, or chilled.

STUFFED TOMATOES WITH RICE
I use the tomatoes on the vine, slice a little off the top, scoop out the pulp and place in a bowl.
arrange scooped out tomatoes on a baking tray lined with foil. Set aside.
Smash up the pulp a little, add to that your cooked risotto, parsley, basil, garlic, olive oil, and salt and pepper, mix well.
Spoon filling into prepared tomatoes, drizzle olive oil all over them, roast until tender and soft.
Depending on how big your tomatoes are it could take up to 40 min. at 400 degreesF.
Serve at room temp.
STUFFED ARTICHOKES
Prepare artichokes by trimming leaves and stems, then steam them just until the leaves pull off easy. Set aside.
In a bowl add flavored dry breadcrumbs, or fresh, add garlic, fresh chopped parsley, grated romano cheese, salt and pepper, moisten mixture with some olive oil.
Stuff each leave with the mixture, take your time go all around the artichoke. Place them in a baking dish and place them in a 375 degreeF. oven till heated through. Garnish with lemon.

Hopefully this will encourage all of you to “show your sides”! I’ll be looking forward to seeing all of your creations!

BUON APPETITO!!
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EGGPLANT TIMPANO!!

I first saw this recipe in the cookbook Cucina & Famiglia, out of that cookbook came the signature Timpano that made the movie “Big Night” famous. I’ve been making that Timpano for years, and even did a post on it here. Its huge, it feeds 16 people and great for a party.
In the same book there’s also a vegetarian version that I have been wanting to try for just as long. I think I was intimidated by the wrapping of the eggplant and all, so I just put it on my list of things I wanted to make.
Then a couple weeks ago I saw Giada De Laurentiis make this Eggplant Timbale on her show, she talked about how her Grandfather, Dino De Laurentiis, made this all the time for their family. I got inspired right then to make it, and I made it the very next day!
I sort of combined a little of both versions together, and came up with this. You can easily find her recipe by going to Food TV and put a search in for Eggplant Timbale, and it will come up.

Giada’s recipe called for 2 eggplants, that didn’t seem enough to me so I grilled about 4, and it was just enough. Depending on the size and length of each piece you definitely don’t want to run out in the middle of doing this. You want to make sure the pieces are long enough to drape over a 9″ spring form pan.

The filling is basically, 1/2 lb. of pasta cooked al’dente mixed together with a marinara, a little Marsala wine, peas, I put in some Italian sausage and a dry packed fresh mozzarella, along with grated romano, Giada used a smoked mozzarella in hers.

The spring form pan which has been lined with the grilled eggplant, filled with the pasta filling, and now folded over into a neat little package is now ready for the oven! 350 Degrees, for about 1/2 hr, till warmed through and cheese inside melts.

After you let it rest a good 10 min, release the pan. Everything molds together perfectly!


It all stayed together when I cut into it. Just use a serrated knife and gently cut it.


You don’t have to add meat to it at all, you can make this completely vegetarian.

Can I tell you, the taste was out of this world, we loved it! It was light, and the flavors of the grilled eggplant along with the Marsala wine, sausage, marinara was wonderful, and it was just as good the next day, and the next. Yes, Hubby ate it 3 days in a row he loved it that much.

Not only does it taste good, but I think it looks spectacular don’t you? Not because I made it, but just how the eggplant looks overlapped with the skin on for a little color, the grill marks and all of the above.

I would highly recommend you try this, all you need is a little salad on the side and you’re good to go!

Buon Appetito!!

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ANTIPASTI

Spring has definitely sprung here in Chicago! finally!! So long winter! See ya! Ba Bye! Arrivederci! Ciao!!

Time to open up the windows, crank up the grill, clean off the lawn furniture, and enjoy the sunshine! And thats just what we did!

Heres a couple of appetizers we enjoyed over the weekend. CAPRESE EGGPLANT TOWER

Grilled eggplant
Fresh mozzarella
Ripe and juicy tomatoes
Red onion
Fresh basil
Brush eggplant with olive oil, season with salt and pepper and grill. You can either grill the red onion slice or just keep it raw. Stack in any order you want.

Drizzle everything with your best extra virgin olive oil, and don’t forget a couple slices of good bread. I like the holes you get with a chiabatta, it’s not doughy at all. Oh, and don’t forget to open up your favorite bottle of wine to enjoy with this.

GRILLED ZUCCINI WITH PESTO AND PINENUTS

Grill your zuccini, and spread on your favorite pesto! so simple, so good!

Hope you all had a wonderful weekend! ๐Ÿ™‚

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ROASTED GARLIC AND BROCCOLI PASTA

Roasting garlic is a ritual of mine that I do often. I love to have it on hand whenever I feel like using it to enhance a dish. Who doesn’t like garlic, right? You take a few heads of garlic, cut about a third off the top, drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper,and if you want, you can throw a branch of fresh rosemary or thyme on top and wrap it up in some foil and roast for about 35 to 40 minutes, or until soft to the touch, at 400 degreesF. The end result is amazing! The texture is creamy, with a much more mellow flavor, and it makes everything taste better!! Oh, and don’t forget, garlic has many health benefits!!

I have so many things I make with it, that I’ll have to do another post on it….to be continued.

But for now, a favorite quick, midweek meal I make often is this Roasted Garlic and Broccoli Pasta. By the time the water boils and you cook your pasta al’dente, everything else will be done!


Fresh broccoli is a must, cut into floret’s,place in a saute pan with extra virgin olive oil, seasoned with salt and pepper. Squeeze as much roasted garlic in there as you want. I usually put quite a bit. Now add a couple tablespoons of water in the pan and put a lid on till the broccoli is al’dente, you want a little bite! you definitely don’t want it mushy!!
When the pasta is done, strain it and put it directly in the saute pan, and mix it all up. You might want to save a little pasta water to even out your sauce, I always put a little in.

Taste it, you might want to squeeze more garlic in, more black pepper, a little cheese, I always adjust as I cook.

Buon Appetito Everyone!!

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DARING BAKERS


PERFECT PARTY CAKE

This month’s Daring Baker challenge comes courtesy of Dorie Greenspan’s cook book called, Baking from My Home to Yours. In the exact words of Dorie herself, “The cake is snow white, with an elegant tight crumb and an easygoing nature; it always bakes up perfectly; it is delicate on the tongue but sturdy in the kitchen- no fussing when it comes to slicing the layers in half or cutting tall, beautiful wedges for serving; and it tastes just as you’d want a party cake to taste- special!!” I couldn’t have said it better myself!

Our Hostess this month, Morven, over at Food Art and Random thoughts, challenged us all to make this delicious cake.Please check out her blog to get the complete recipe.

What I liked about this challenge was that we were able to put our own stamp on it. We all had to make the basic white cake, cut it into layers, and either frost it with buttercream or fresh whipped cream, and between the layers, some kind of preserves or fresh fruit.

I chose to make mine with fresh strawberries and whipped cream, frankly, I didn’t think I could pull off the buttercream (I’ve heard some horror stories in the past) and besides my family really does prefer a whipped cream cake.

Between the layers I added strawberry preserves, fresh strawberries, and enough Amaretto to make a nice glaze. Instead of vanilla in my whipped cream, I added Amaretto to flavor it. A little toasted almonds around the whole cake added a little crunch, and went along with my almond theme.


It just so happened that the day I made this was also our friends Anniversary, so I gently packed it up, and brought it over and we all shared it together. By the way, everyone loved it!!

I would definately make this cake again, I can honestly say I had no problems with it. Hope you give it a try!!

Check out the other Daring Bakers party cakes here.

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"FESTA ITALIANA" THE ROUNDUP!!!

Our Festa Italiana, certainly was a celebration of the “sweet life”. All our amazing friends gathered with us bringing the most delicious food and drink! Our table was a true Italian feast!!!
We gathered until the wee hours of the night, talking, eating, drinking, as the music played all night long! Please take the time to browse all these wonderful blogs to see what everyone brought to our table. And thank you, thank you, to all who participated!!!
I only wish this could happen in the real world!!

Val at More Than Burnt Toast brought Wrapped Bocconcini Spiedini.

Susan at Porcini Chronicles brought Escarole and Beans.

Lori Lynn at Taste with the Eyes brought Pistachio Crusted Lamb, Pomegranate Glaze.

Linda at Milanese Masala brought Frittata Verde con Pancetta.

Gloria at Canela’s Kitchen brought Tortoni di Mandorla.

Amy at Familia Bencomo brought Cozze Italiano

Susan at Sticky, Gooey, Creamy, Chewy brought Pizza Rustica.

Laurie at Dalla Mia Cucina brought Butternut Squash Gnocchi with Crema di Fontina.

Lisa at La Mia Cucina brought Italian Chicken Wings and Potatoes.

Jenn at The Leftover Queen brought Polenta Lasagna with Fire Roasted Tomato Sauce

Haalo at Cook Almost Anything at Least Once brought Torta Meringata con Mele.

Harmony at Wholesome Feasts brought Utica Tomatoe Pie.

Lorraine at Italian Foodies brought Minestrone Soup.

Ohio Mom at Cooking in Cleveland brought Calcioni Piccanti.

Neen and Do at Post-Collegiate Cooking a’Deux brought Pasta Arrabiata with Argula.

Jenny at Picky Palate brought Double Mozzarella Turkey Burgers with an Artichoke Remoulade & Crispy Pancetta.

Anna at Morsels & Musings brought Cassata Gelata.

Jerry at Jerry’s Thoughts, Musings, and Rants brought Jamie Oliver’s Slow Cooked Duck Pasta.

Barbara at Barbarba Bakes brought Lighter Chicken Parmesan.

Claudia at Eternal Rewards brought Fettucine Alfredo.

Dellene at Cooking and The City brought Chicken Cacciatore.

Ben at What’s Cooking? brought Italian Stuffed Zucchini.

Judy at Judy’s Gross Eats brought Neopolitan Panna Cotta.

Roopa at My Kitchen Treats brought Vanilla Panna Cotta.

Katie at Thyme For Cooking brought Piccata al Marsala.

Theresa at Food Hunter’s Guide to Cuisine brought Tagliatelle Bolognese.

Anne at Cooking with Anne brought Lasagna Rolls on Sauce Bechamal.

Imma at Caffeine for 2 brought Cinnamon “Angelica”

Deeba at Passionate about Baking brought Coffee Chocolate Panna Cotta.

Wandering Chopsticks brought Penne with “Italian Sausage” and Fennel.

Kitchenetta at Got No Milk brought Peasant Polenta Pie.

Lisa at Food and Spice brought Cannellini Bean Soup with Fontina Gremolata.

Mansi Desai at Fun and Food brought Baked Rigatoni with Homemade Garlic-Basil Tomato Sauce.

Saralynn at Happy Baker brought Homemade Spaghetti Sauce, sorry a photo wasn’t included.

Sandi at Whistle Stop Cafe Cooking brought Tiramisu

Psychgrad of Equal Opportunity Kitchen brought Calzones

And finally my addition was my Braciole

I want to thank my dear friend Maryann, who hosted this event with me, it was so much fun to do it together! Please go over to her blog, Finding La Dolce Vita, to view the other half of these amazing dishes that were brought to the “Festa” If we goofed and missed your dish please let us know right away, we don’t want to forget anybody!

Thanks again, each and everyone of you!!!!

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VEGETALI ALLA MARIE!!

This is a great side dish that I make for special occasions. It is a highly requested vegetable dish, that my family loves. Every time I make it, the whole thing gets eaten up! and believe me I make a lot! I think it goes great with a ham, pork,a roast of any kind. I make it as a side with any baked pasta dish, like a lasagna, or stuffed shells, you get my point, pretty much anything you make for a special meal. I think its a combination of flavors, and the choice of veggies that makes this taste so good! This is an old family recipe that I’ve been making for years, and we never get tired of it!

Here’s the ingredients, and by the way, you use all frozen veggies!! ( Of course you can use fresh if you want to) Make as much as you want, maybe a bag or 2 of each vegetable, I’m sorry but I never measure, it all depends on how many people you are serving. I fill a huge pan and always use extra artichokes. There is no set rule, you can adjust the amount as you wish. ๐Ÿ™‚

Italian flat beans
Artichoke hearts
Asparagus
Lima beans

1/2lb. of meaty bacon (diced up small)
Garlic flavored olive oil ( a must!)

First thing you do is to take all the veggies and put them in a strainer and let them defrost.

In a large saute pan, cook your bacon until real crispy, hopefully there won’t be a lot of fat in the pan cause you bought meaty bacon,:-) but if there is, drain it off, and leave all the crispy bits. Next coat the pan with some garlic olive oil, this is a must! Then, put all the veggies in the pan all together,and on a med high heat, turn often till coated with the bacon and garlic oil, blending and scraping up the crispy bits. Salt and pepper it to taste, and you can even add a little regular extra virgin olive oil for some added flavor.
You really have to keep tasting this as it cooks, for enough salt and pepper, and enough olive oil flavor.

When everything is heated through, and all the flavors blend together, its done! There’s something about the combination of the artichokes with the lima beans and all the other ingredients that make this taste so good!!

Buon Appetito

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"MOONSTRUCK" EGGS!!

I’m a sucker for romantic comedy’s, and “Moonstruck” is one of my all time favorites! It’s a story about love, life, passion, and strong family bonds. Being Italian American I can certainly relate to many of the scenes in the movie, which make me laugh every time I watch it.

Not only do I love the music, and the characters in “Moonstruck” I also love some of the food scenes. Families sitting together sharing coffee, eating oatmeal deep in conversation. Loretta and her Mom Rose, cooking up some eggs for breakfast in the midst of discussing important life issues.

Today is March 17th, not only is it St.Patrick’s day, but it’s also my wedding anniversary! Yes, 2 Italians got married on St. Patrick’s day many “moons” ago!! Married at age 19, and still going strong!

So, for a little anniversary breakfast I decided to make some “Moonstruck eggs”. If you never cooked an egg in a little olive oil, you have to try it. The eggs take on a new dimension of flavor.
In the movie they had some red pepper on the side, I sauteed red pepper, green pepper, onions, and sliced potatoes for some nice color and flavor to go with the eggs.

Here is the recipe!

Take some good Italian bread, make a hole in the middle.
Pour a little olive oil in a pan and brown one side of bread, flip it over when browned, crack your eggs in it, and cook them like you want to. I didn’t flip them over cause I thought the picture would look messy, so I kept them sunnyside up, and placed a cover over them to cook the yoke.

It’s nice way to make a simple egg just a bit more fancy!!

Happy Anniversary “T” xxooxo!!

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BRACIOLE!!

Braciole is something I don’t make very often, except maybe for a special occasion, so therefore I thought it would be fitting that I bring this dish to our “Festa Italiana.” Please join Maryann and I, if you haven’t already done so. There’s still plenty of time to bring your favorite Italian dish or drink, you have till March 22nd. Shortly after that we will display all the wonderful things we “tasted” at the Festa! Everything looks fantastic so far!!! ( click for details on top of my blog)

I make my braciole simply with thin cut round steak.

In a bowl I mix together bread crumbs, fresh chopped parsley, chopped garlic,a little salt, lots of pepper,and a generous amount of grated cheese.(I used romano)

Layer prosciutto, (or you can use bacon) all over the round steak, then generously sprinkle the bread crumb mixture all over the prosciutto.

Roll them up and tie them so all the filling stays inside. Cook them in your favorite home made sauce, but be sure to add some red wine, it gives them a nice rich flavor. Simmer till tender.

With every bite you will taste the prosciutto, cheese, and that moist and flavorful bread crumb mixture!

I couldn’t resist stopping by my favorite Italian bakery,and picking up a tray of these for all of you to try at our Festa. Their called Zeppole, out here in Chicagoland, and they only come out for a few weeks every March, after St. Joseph’s day you won’t find them anywhere. We often have to wait in long lines to get these little gems, but believe me they are worth the wait!!

It’s a light, fresh pastry dough, filled with the most delicious custard cream, aren’t they pretty? Can’t wait till you get to try them!

Buon Appetito!!

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PIZZA DOUGH!!! UNO, DUE, TRE!

SAUSAGE BREAD

I love having pizza dough in my freezer at all times, whether I make home made, or I buy it from my local Italian grocery, which by the way makes excellent dough! All you have to do is defrost it on your counter, and let it get to room temperature and your good to go!
This recipe of sausage bread I remember way back when I was a kid, I remember my Mom making this and we would eat it slice by slice. It’s sort of like a stromboli, but we always called it sausage bread. I like using hot Italian sausage because, between the dough and the cheese, it sort of cancels out some of the heat, and leaves a lot of flavor. There are many variations but mine is simply hot sausage, Fontina cheese, and lots of grated cheese like Romano.

Roll dough out and layer all ingredients on top (pre cook sausage) roll up jelly roll style.
Make 3 slits on top, brush with olive oil and sprinkled cheese. Bake at 375 degreesF till golden about 1/2 hour.

WHITE PIZZA

Traditional pizza is always a given, but sometimes we crave this white pizza, no sauce thank you! Again, I would imagine there are a ton of different variations, but mine was made with a blending of roasted garlic, Ricotta cheese, and a grated combo of Asiago, Fontina, Provolone, and Parmesan cheese’s. Make it like you would a regular pizza. It’s out of the norm, but quite delicious!!

CALZONE

Of course you can stuff these guys with anything you want, the skys the limit!! This one I made all veggie with a little mushroom, eggplant, and artichoke, add some sauce and mozzarella, fold it up and bake like a pizza. When you bite into it all those flavors come oozing out! Mmmmm

Buon Appetito!!

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SPAGHETTI WITH OVEN BAKED CLAMS!!!

This recipe is courtesy of Tyler Florence, and all I can say is… THANK YOU TYLER! I knew this was going to be good the first time I saw him make it. I love how rustic it’s made. Every thing’s made in a huge roasting pan, the kind you’d make a turkey in. It fits 5 lbs. of clams and a pound of pasta, and everything else just fine! Plenty of room for the clams to open up and spread out!

My trip to Costco on Saturday really convinced me into making this dish. They happen to have the best littleneck clams there, flown in fresh every week from the North Atlantic ocean, and fresh they were!

RECIPE
40 littleneck clams ( 5 lbs.)
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
10 garlic clove, smashed with the back of a knife ( Yes 10!!!)
1/4 lb. pancetta, small dice
Handful of fresh basil
Red pepper flakes
1/4 cup of white wine (I used more)
2 pints of cherry tomatoes ( I bought the big container from Costco)
Lots of fresh ground pepper
1 lb. spaghetti
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. ( I raised it to 425)
Make sure clams are cleaned and discard any that are open. In the meantime get your water boiling for your spaghetti.

On top of stove put your roasting pan over 2 burners. Add oil, garlic, pancetta, red pepper, cook till pancetta renders. Add the clams, wine, tomatoes, and a good amount of pepper and toss all together. Transfer pan into the oven and roast till clams open up. The recipe said about 10 min. but it took mine about 1/2 hr. or so, maybe because of the size of the clams. The key is wait till they open!

When clams do open, throw your cooked pasta right into the same roasting pan to soak up all the good juices and intense flavors. Garnish with fresh basil leaves, lots of pepper, and an extra drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil.

Make sure you have some good crusty bread to soak up the juices too. I highly recommend this! You will not be disappointed!

Buon Appetito!
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Julia Child’s French Bread- Daring Baker Challenge # 2

Julia Child! What can I say? She’s an Icon to say the least, chef extraordinaire, the real deal, and the true Queen of food television! So it’s no wonder why our Host’s, Breadchick Mary, of The Sour Dough and Sara, over at I Like To Cook, wanted to make Julia’s french bread our next Daring Baker challenge.

I have to admit when I first saw the recipe ( by the way, you can get it in detail over at Mary’s site) I thought it was a bit overwhelming, I had to read it several times to take it all in. I kept pushing it aside, because as I said before, I have issue’s with precise and exact measuring. ( believe me, ask my family!) But heck! We’re Daring Bakers! Up for the challenge, good or bad we all learn something. Right?
That’s one thing I always admired from Julia, she was never afraid of making mistakes, she would take it in stride and move on!

So now, on to my french bread baking experience!

The dough came together with no problem at all, I did it by hand.

I did however have other problems, I wanted to make batards, but they ended up turning into baguettes, the dough didn’t fit into my pans, I rolled it out too long, so I ended up flipping my pans over and baking them on the actual bottom of the pan. It worked out well after all, but it was very hard to clean my pans for some reason.

I ended up making two plain loaves, and the other one I added sundried tomatoes with Kalamata olives.

I didn’t change the recipe at all, I just stuck them in, so I hope I stayed in the recipe guidelines as the host’s said we can top at least 1 loaf with any ingredient we wanted.

But I have to say, the plain loaf was our favorite anyway! The crust turned out crispy, crunchy, and chewy, just the way we like it, and the texture inside was the best!

Nothings better than a great loaf of bread, dipped into some very special extra virgin olive oil! Mmmm!!

As Julia would always say….Bon Appetit!

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MY 15 MINUTES OF FAME!!

This past week has been crazy and fun all at the same time. You see, I have a soon to be famous neice, who has already filmed 13 episodes for A&E which owns Bravo and the Biography channels. She will be featured in a documentary/reality show coming out in the summer. (not the wild kind!) I will give you all the details as time goes on. Anyway, to make a long story short, last Friday night they filmed part of an episode right in my house! A get together of my neice’s family and friends, a little wine, a little food. But the exciting part for me was, that I made all of the food that you see on the table for everyone! They definately shot footage of the food, which I was so excited about. There was about 25 people that came, and I served Mini Italian meat balls
Bite size sausage and peppers
Roasted veggie pasta salad
Grilled shrimp with orzo and feta pasta salad
Salami, provolone and Kalamata olives on skewers
Caprese salad
Chick pea salad
Zuccini with pesto and pine nuts
Assorted tapenades, and bruschetta’s
For dessert we purchased assorted mini bar cookies, and a quick stop at our favorite Italian bakery for a few dozen mini cannoli’s!
The film crew and the producers were a lot of fun, and they seem to really enjoy the food.

On a side note, my daughter will be in a lot of the scenes here, as my neice and her are very close. Not only was she wired with a mic, she got interviewed, gave a toast, the whole bit! ( who knows, she might get a spin off! ha ha) Needless to say, we all had a lot of fun, I managed to stay behind the scenes, no way was I getting on camera!!

So hopefully the table of food won’t get edited, LOL ! But just in case it does, I wanted to give you a little glimpse!

Watch out for a new shining star coming your way, her name is Julie!!!

To be continued….

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"FESTA ITALIANA" – A FOOD EVENT !!

Maryann of “Finding La Dolce Vita” and myself, are hosting a delicious new food event called “Festa Italiana”.

Picture a long table set under the shade of twisting grape vines on a warm summer’s evening. One by one our friends are arriving, each one carrying their favorite Italian dish or drink. We eat and drink with happy hearts and before long, the guitars and accordions are filling the air with song. Everyone is eating, drinking, laughing, singing and dancing. As the sun sets, we are filled in every way and no one wants this evening to end.

So, come join us in a celebration of the sweet life, it’s a gathering of friends not to be missed! We are accepting your Italian dishes and drinks until March 22nd.

This is what you need to do to participate:

*Create a post featuring your favorite dish or drink. Remember to please link to both Maryann and I so others can participate. You are welcome to use our Festa Italiana graphic.

*Send an email to me (prouditaliancook@hotmail.com) or Maryann at ( msgfarm@gmail.com) by March 22nd. Please put the words “Festa Italiana” in the subject line.

*Tell us your name, your blog’s name, your blog’s url, the name of the dish, and a permalink to the post where your dish appears. Photo’s must be no bigger than 350 pixels wide. Height does not matter.

*All are welcome, but we ask that your email be in English, please.
* Only one entry please*

Maryann and I will be hosting a roundup shortly after March 22nd.

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BREAK OUT YOUR SPRING FORM PAN!!

AND MAKE A ROUND LASAGNA!
For some reason, don’t ask me why, I like curved objects! I know it’s a bit weird but my eye always goes to curved things, arches, rounded windows, scrolls, I can go on and on. Give me a choice between a straight line and a curve, and guess what I’m picking? So it’s no wonder that I sometimes like to make a round lasagna, it’s out of the norm, I know, but it’s fun to change it up sometimes. Just make your favorite lasagna, this one was made with ricotta and spinach, and do it exactly how you make any lasagna, just trim up the pasta to fit your spring form pan. This was made in a 10″ pan, and I’ve even made it in the smallest one, for an individual size, you can be very creative!! The only thing I would suggest is to bake it on a cookie sheet in your oven.
AND A ROASTED VEGETABLE CROSTATA!
This is a great way to use up any vegetables you might have laying around. Cut them up and lay them on a cookie sheet with olive oil, and seasonings of your choice, I used a tuscan dried herb mix I have, plus salt and pepper. Roast them till al dente in a 400 degree oven, you do not want to overcook them!For mine I used, eggplant, zuccini, red pepper, onion, and a little fennel I had. Next, roll out one piece of puff pastry so its big enough to line the bottom of a 10″ springform pan, just push down the sides and make a little crust. Place your veggies on top, sprinkle with a generous amount of Romano cheese, about a cup of Provolone cut in chunks,( the real stuff). Beat 2 eggs with a little milk, pour all over, and finally, grated Fontina sprinkled all over the top. Bake at 375 degrees for about 35 mins, or until everything is golden and crisp.

 

Don’t cut it while its hot, let it cool down to room temp, that’s the best way to eat this! If you wait, it won’t fall apart when you cut into it either. Besides the flavors come out even more at room temp. This is great with a salad for dinner, or fancy enough to serve at a party! Only you will know, you were just using up your leftover veggie’s!!!BUON APPETITO!!

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LIMONCELLO TIRAMISU !

I know many of you are Chocoholics out there, and rightly so, but if you want something equally as decadent and a little different than the norm, try this sinfully delicious Limoncello Tiramisu!! This is definitely for very special occasions, when you want to Wow your certain someone, friends or family with a special dessert. The one I made was meant to be shared by two, because of its size. But you can certainly make smaller, individual ones. The main characters consist of pound cake that is drenched in Limoncello, a homemade lemon curd, all layered with Mascarpone and whipped cream!! Need I say more??

In a pan place the juice and zest of 3 lemons seeds and all, you’re going to strain it. 1 Tbl. short of a whole stick of butter, 6oz. of sugar, and 3 whole eggs. Whisk everything on med low just till bubbles start to show. Strain with a fine mesh strainer.

Next, take your pound cake and cut it to fit the size of your glass, I used a biscuit cutter.

Now take your bottle of Limoncello, and drench your pound cake pieces, you could use either a homemade, or a good quality store bought one. Just use a basic pound cake recipe if you make it, you want to be sure to taste the Limoncello.


Make sure it’s soaked!!
Finally, start whipping up a small carton of heavy cream, when you have stiff peaks, add a small container of room temperature Mascarpone, beat together just till incorporated.

Assemble it by layering all the components together in a pretty glass, and topping it off with some lemon peel.


Words cannot describe how amazing this is!

Note** You can also layer this in a glass 9×12 pan, or a glass loaf pan instead of individual portions.
ย It’s also beautiful placed into a trifle bowl, you’ll will definitely hear lots of ooohs and aaahs when you bring it out of the frig. It makes for a great presentation and what’s really nice is that you can make it the night before.
Just be sure to double everything if youโ€™re using the trifle bowl. A good store bought pound cake is fine, I used 2 for this, slice it into 3rdโ€™s lengthwise, cut strips to go around the edge of the bowl, and bigger pieces to layer up the middle.
limoncello tiramisu

 

 

 

Enjoy!!

 

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FAGIOLI !!!

CECI STUFATI ( stewed chickpeas)

Beans and greens,what a perfect marriage!! And if you like chickpeas and a little heat, I’m certain you will like this. I actually used dried beans this time and I have to say I liked it better. It’s easy if you prepare them in advance. The other night before I went to bed, I put them in a pot with enough water to cover by 2 inches, and let them soak overnight. When morning came I drained them, and when I was ready to cook them, I covered them with enough water to cover 1 inch. Let water come to a boil, then cover and simmer for about 1 1/2 hrs.

In another pot, saute some garlic and onions in olive oil, along with red chile flakes. Cook for about 5 mins. then add drained beans and about a cup of water, salt and pepper. Cook about another half hour till all the flavors blend, then add some roughly chopped Swiss chard. Cook till wilted. Taste for more salt or pepper, and give it an extra drizzle of olive oil.

This is simple food, with great flavor!!!

Buon Appetito!



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TUNA, JAZZED UP!!!!

Yes, I know, it’s tuna in a can, but I happen to like it! I always seem to throw some in my shopping cart each time I’m at the store, not realizing I already have about 8 cans just sitting in my pantry, along with some great tasting canned salmon I usually keep around.


The weather has been really lousy here in Chicago, cold, windy, icy, and lots of snow! Not fun to drive in, to say the least! So whenever I’m homebound, and by myself, I like to have tuna for lunch. The above salad was made with the Genova tuna, along with some good olives, hard boiled eggs, capers, red boiled potatoes that I had left over, along with some asparagus, and a white bean salad I put together in 5 min. I added some artichoke bottoms and cut up a few tomatoes I had laying around, and topped it all off with a balsamic vinagrette. This is also great for a light and fast dinner.

This next tuna salad here, I created after my love of Whole Foods Mediterranean tuna salad. I usually buy a small container when I’m in there, it is sooo addicting, you must try it, if you’re lucky enough to have a Whole Foods near you. It’s pretty pricey at about 8.99 lb. but they are happy to share their recipe on line. Although I might have left a few things out, it’s basicly Albacore tuna with chopped red onion, red pepper chopped, slice Kalamata olives, and artichoke hearts, I used frozen that were defrosted and squeezed out. Mix that all up with mayo, light or regular, salt and pepper. If you like all those flavors together, trust me, you will love this!!!


It’s great in a pita, or just on a plate like I have above. I hope you give it a try!!

Buon Appetito!

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