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Comfort Food…

I made a healthy version of real comfort food the other night. Turkey meatloaf with spinach and feta in the mix! Super tasty, not at all dry and tons of flavor. I just mixed a package of fresh ground turkey meat with about 1/4 cup of fresh crumbled feta cheese, chopped up sauted spinach and seasonings (I used fresh basil and mint since they’re growing on my patio). Mix well, put in small baking dish, and pop in the oven at 350 for about 30 minutes, Voila! Serve with a side salad, cannot get easier than this!

Pro-tip: you can use any cheese you like that melts well, also you can switch up the veggie too, maybe broccoli rabe or kale? Corn?

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Osso Bucco

I know I have written about this recipe before but this time it was exceptionally delicious. I prepare veal shanks almost the same way as oxtails. In this instance instead of using sofrito I used diced red tomatoes, garlic and white wine. I think browning the lightly floured and seasoned meat prior to slow cooking in this dish is especially important, as is deglazing the pan with a little wine and/or broth and adding to crockpot. I also made a very simple marinara sauce that, when the shanks were cooked (six hours on high in the crock pot), I infused with about a cup of the sauce from the crockpot. I served this dish over cappellini, which really complimented the complexity and richness of the main dish. See my previous post for details: https://anniesday.com/2020/12/07/grabbing-the-bull-by-the-horns/

Enjoy!

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Frittatas!

The fun part of making a frittata is that it’s a great way to get rid of leftovers. In this case we had some potatoes, broccoli rabe and a few kalamata olives from apps the night before. I employ my cast iron skillet for this meal. Since I learned how to take care of this persnickety, heavy pan it has become my favorite.

To make any frittata, start by sauteing your veggies in a little EVOO. When veggies are warmed up (remember I used leftovers so they’ve already been cooked) add a tablespoon of butter and spread veggies out evenly on bottom of pan. Pour in your well scrambled eggs (I use my Kitchen Aid so that the eggs are nice and airy). Lower heat and cook on stovetop for about 3 minutes. Transfer to a 375 degree oven for 15 minutes. You can test doneness by inserting a toothpick, if it comes out clean you’re done!

Enjoy!

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Wok & Rolling…

A few weeks ago I found spring roll wrappers at the grocery. I haven’t made spring rolls in a long time. It got me thinking about many, many years ago when I took an Asian cooking class at Hofstra. The class was was taught by a petite Jewish woman who, after getting divorced, explored China for some time. After she returned to the states from her Chinese escapades she taught these night classes with an enthusiasm that was infectious. Anyway, I pulled these together partially from memory and partially just using what I had available at home. Spring rolls and a side of fried rice everyone loved this simple, fun dinner.

For the spring rolls, I used what I had available, which in this case was scallions, green cabbage, sausage meat, garlic, bean sprouts and seasonings. It’s so easy! Thinly slice cabbage and scallions and mince garlic. Add a few tablespoons of EVOO to pan, add sausage meat to pan and cook until no longer pink. Add cabbage, scallions and sprouts to meat. Season generously with fresh black pepper. Add about a tablespoon of fish sauce if you have it and a little soy sauce to taste. Cook until veggies are soft. Remove from heat and let cool for about 10 minutes. Transfer mixture to a strainer and let excess liquids drain off (do this so that the spring rolls don’t get soggy). When mixture is cool enough to handle it’s time to make the spring rolls. I put a spring roll wrapper on a cutting board so that it’s oriented like a diamond. Then place about a tablespoon and a half of mixture in the middle of the wrapper. I then fold up the bottom corner, then both the left & right corners then roll the wrapper away from you making roll somewhat tight so that the stuffing stays inside. You can use either a little water or egg to seal the top corner. Repeat with the rest of the spring rolls, your technique will get better the more you do. You can either deep fry or pan fry the rolls, removing when they are brown.

Along with the spring rolls was a fried rice recipe that my mom used to make. I used Uncle Ben’s brown rice (about 2 cups, cooked) – which must be made the day before and cold when you prepare the fried rice. Like all my recipes, I used what I had available. In this case it was a few leftover pork chops which I diced up, scallions, a sweet onion roughly chopped, fresh carrots & celery also chopped up and a 1/2 cup of peas for pretty color. Start by cooking what needs to be cooked the longest – the pork and the carrots. Start by adding a little sesame oil (or EVOO) in your wok and let that heat up. Add pork and carrots and cook until the pork is no longer pink and the carrots are soft. Add the rest of the vegetables, stirring until cooked. You can add more oil if you need to. Then make some room in the center of your pan and stir in a scrambled egg . When egg is cooked add the rice a little at a time, folding in vegetables. Add soy sauce to taste (remember it’s super salty so don’t go nuts) and a ton of fresh cracked pepper. Voila! Homemade fried rice.

Pro-tip: You can make this recipe with so many variations (shrimp, chicken, beef, vegetarian) and any vegetables that you have on hand. I like color in the dish so the carrots and peas really added that element.

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So many fish in the sea…

I made a great lightly creamy seafood pasta the other day that was, according to my hubby, “the best meal ever”. Wow. Considering how easy it was, I was very happy that it was so delicious. For the seafood I used little neck clams, shrimp and a lobster tail but you can use whatever looks good a the fish monger. I bet mussels and crab would be great in this dish too.

To start I sauteed the shrimp and lobster in a little EVOO, a dash of truffle oil and butter until just about cooked. Then I added 2 cups of chicken broth and let that heat up. When broth is hot (almost boiling) I tossed in the clams and steamed until they opened up. I added 1/2 cup of frozen peas just for color too. Next, I reduced heat to low and added 1 cup of heavy cream and a ton of fresh cracked pepper and parsley. You can thicken up the sauce with a tablespoon of mascarpone if you like.

Cooked linguine (al dente of course) was then transferred into the pan with this yummy sauce, mixed around so every piece of pasta was covered, then plated with a shaving of … wait for it … fresh truffle! (On sale at Eataly this week by the way.)

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Feast of the seven fishes….

There is no meal in life for me that is more of a competition in both creativity and stamina than Christmas eve and the seven fishes. This year, because of stupid COVID, it was only my hubby, daughter and me. Seven fishes, cooked in various ways is A LOT for three people. I won’t lie, the whole snapper (who premiered this year) didn’t make it to the table last night. It will be a great Christmas day lunch though.

Where do I even start here? We had my hubby’s famous stuffed artichokes (my daughter’s favorite!) stuffed clams, Alaskan king crab legs, stuffed calamari, fried baccala (cod), whole lobsters, dungeness crabs, shrimp, broccoli rabe, mushrooms. rainbow cookies, butter cookies, chestnuts.

This is no small amount of prep. The entire house is consumed by Christmas eve. Our place in NY has a very small kitchen (I refer to it as a one person kitchen) so we have to plan out who’s doing what and in what order. This is essential for harmony…

I really missed having a houseful this year and while it was great, it just wasn’t the same without my parents and our close friends. Hoping that 2021 bring better things.

If you’re interested in any of the recipes, inbox me and I’ll share. The batter for the baccala is particularly good and surprisingly easy to make and can be used for onion rings or fried zucchini.

Merry Christmas to you all and here’s to a (MUCH) better 2021.

BUON NATALE!!

Dedicated to my sweet mother-in-law who we lost this year. Miss your crazy laugh!

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Cravings…

What can I say? I’m a sucker when either my daughter or hubby have a craving for a dish that I can make. I fuss and make like I’m too busy but truth is I love it (don’t tell them!) Yesterday, the princess was craving a pasta salad…so I starting prepping and this is what happened:

I had some good fresh stuff waiting to be used in the fridge. No two of my pasta salads are ever the same. For this particular salad I tossed in: feta cheese, chopped mixed bell peppers (mostly for color), chopped red onion, chopped soppressata, chopped olives, chopped marinated artichoke hearts, grape tomatoes, and fresh parsley.

It’s so easy to pull together: boil you choice of pasta till al dente (about 8 minutes), drain and rise under cold water. Toss in a few drops of EVOO and stir around. In a large bowl add all freshly chopped ingredients and cooled pasta. Add salt, pepper, oregano and a bit more EVOO and toss well. Voila!

Note: Any fresh veggies work in this. Basil and mint are great adds too if you have them. Mozzarella or goat cheese or pana grano could replace the feta. Also, in place of adding your own seasoning you could add in an envelope of dried salad dressing mix (italian, ranch, whatever) with the EVOO and a little white vinegar if you like.

This is a great side dish or even a quick main dish.

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Easy Peasy, Lemon Squeezy…

Chicken Piccata aka Lemon chicken – Just love this dish. It’s got a fresh, satisfying taste, fills you up and isn’t terribly complicated to prepare. The chicken can be served over rice, polenta, zucchini spirals, you name it. I prepared mine in our large electric skillet (this allowed me to cook all the cutlets at once versus a few batches in a saute pan). Preparation for this dish is everything.

To prepare:

Juice three lemons and slice one lemon. Chop up one leek (white part only), strain about 1/4 cup of capers, soften 2 tablespoons of butter and chop some fresh parsley. Salt & pepper both sides of boneless chicken breasts that are of similar thickness (this recipe is best with thinner pieces). Dredge chicken lightly in seasoned flour and place on wire rack. Next, heat EVOO in skillet or saute pan and saute chicken until cooked (cook time will vary on thickness). As pieces are cooked remove chicken and place on a warm plate. (This is where the magic happens.) Deglaze pan with about 2 cups of chicken broth and freshly squeezed lemon juice. After warmed through add butter, capers, chopped leeks and if you like some minced garlic. Cook an additional 5 minutes. I served this dish over rice. To plate it, add rice to center of plate, center a chicken breast on top of rice, spoon the lemon sauce over chicken and garnish with a slice of lemon and a dash of fresh parsley.

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Snowstorm soup…

Sometimes a pot of soup cures you. It makes the house warm, smells great and soothes weary bones. Being 2020, we were expecting a major storm yesterday. Only six inches and 3 loaves of bread later, all we have is this great soup. My basic chicken soup starts with the trilogy (diced carrots, celery, onion) sauteed in EVOO and seasoned with a ton of fresh dill, thyme, salt and pepper. After trilogy is sweated (about 5 minutes) toss in the whole chicken, fill pot with water and cook for about 90 minutes. Turn flame off, let cool enough to handle and then carefully remove the chicken from pot (some folks like to wrap the chicken in cheese cloth to easily remove without the chicken falling apart). I use a large spider strainer and just scoop that birdie up (see pic below of this strainer). Let chicken cool then remove bones & skin from meat and toss bones & skin. Put meat back in pot and return to heat. I add more seasoning (dill, salt, pepper, thyme) and let it cook for about another 20 minutes. Serve with crusty buttered bread.

For this dinner we had some leftover appetizers from a dinner a few days ago. Some prosciutto, mortadella, fresh mozzarella, roasted peppers and kalamata olives made for a perfect starter.

Spider Strainers:

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Raising the steaks

I love me a good, marbled, thick, rare steak. No steak sauce, just some salt & pepper (and if I’m going to be fancy, maybe a little bearnaise on the side). I’m not a great BBQ cooker (I leave that to my hubby) so I employed my old fashioned, well-loved and seasoned cast iron skillet to do the magic.  I get why folks are scared to get a cast iron skillet I was too.  I thought I’d end up with a rust filled pan that would surely kill me. After watching many YouTube videos on how to care for this now kitchen essential, I have to say I love it.  The more you take care of it when you first get it, the easier it becomes.  It cleans easily, cooks evenly and is really an asset to the kitchen, sort of like a pizza stone.  If you need some advice on how to take care of your cast iron skillet, inbox me and I’ll send you some suggestions.

It’s super important to take your steak out of the fridge about 30 minutes before you cook it (helps the steak cook more evenly).  You don’t want to cook a cold, straight from the fridge piece of meat.  For this solo meal I sauteed some mushrooms in a little EVOO and butter (salt, pepper, garlic, and some red pepper flakes).  I also made my almost nightly broccoli rabe and a baked potato, a treat for me.  Then I just sauteed the steak in my skillet (prepared rare and with a little fight left in it).  I put a drop of EVOO in the pan before settling in the steak.  After flipping the steak, I put a pat of butter on the cooked side.  Let the steak rest for a few minutes on a cutting board before cutting into it, this will preserve the juices.  This steak was entirely too big to finish for dinner, but the steak and eggs the next morning was epic. 

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The fish that didn’t get away

A friend of ours, that used to be a boat captain in Brooklyn and now lives in Florida, brings us the most amazing gifts.  A few times a year he is hired to captain a small fishing boat in Alaska (!!) The pictures of the gigantic, beautiful fish they catch under his care are amazing.  When he returns to Florida, he brings a bounty of fresh halibut and salmon (flash frozen and sealed up).  The color of the salmon is not like anything you’ve seen in your local supermarket or fishmonger and the taste reflects that.  Last night I seasoned a piece of the salmon with pepper and a little lemon butter, placed it skin side down on top of a little EVOO to prevent sticking and baked it for about 20 minutes at 350 (cook less for thinner pieces).  I plated this simply on a bed of fresh sauteed spinach (of course with a bit of garlic, salt & pepper).  It was delicious and a testament to how super fresh, simply prepared dishes are always the best.

Pro-tip: Don’t over cook the salmon (your not at a wedding!) Serve medium rare.

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Stuff It…

I love the mixed textures of stuffed cabbage. The almost crunchy texture of the lightly boiled cabbage leaf leading into the tender, flavorful meat inside. At first I was intimidated that the leaves would fall apart, the meat would fall out and I’d have a big goopy mess on my hands. The key is to not boil the cabbage leaves too long and to not overstuff them before cooking. My recipe is very untraditional and changes depending upon what I have on hand, so don’t be afraid to switch it up. I also prefer a savory stuffing versus sweet (no raisins in my dish).

Here’s the how to: Remove about 10 of the larger outer leaves from a head of cabbage and boil for about 8-10 minutes (leaves should be pliable but not too soft). Let cool in glass bowl. Meanwhile make a meatball mixture (whatever your traditional mixture is). A nice touch is to add about 1/4 cup of uncooked rice. Once the cabbage leaves have cooled, stuff each leaf with about a tablespoon (more for larger leaves) of meatball mixture that has been rolled into a log. Fold in sides then roll to close. You can use a toothpick to secure. Repeat until all leaves are used. (You can freeze leftover meat mixture.) Then place stuffed cabbage leaves in a saute pan, add about 1 cup of tomato sauce, season with salt, pepper, sazon and cover. Cook on low for about 45 minutes. Serve with a side salad and enjoy!

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Apps, Nolacco style…

Two of our favorite Sunday appetizers are fried cubed eggplant and zucchini flowers (I’ve mentioned in the past how hard the flowers are to find).  The eggplant is the brainchild of my hubby.  It’s simply cubed eggplant, dipped in scrambled egg, breaded in breadcrumbs, fried and salted. It’s so good, I forgot how much I liked eggplant until he started making this on Sundays.  The zucchini flowers are prepared similarly, dipped in egg then in flour (no breadcrumbs) and fried and salted.  Much to my horror after buying these at a farmer’s market once I found that several of the flowers had bees in them – so do check before frying them.  There are several recipes (and I’ve tried a few) that stuff the flowers with either ricotta or mozzarella.  I find that stuffing the flowers really overpowers the delicacy and earthiness of the flower, but to each her own.

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Grabbing the bull by the horns…

A beloved, stick to the ribs comfort food in our house is simply prepared oxtails and/or short ribs.  Want to look like a genius cook without the degree from CIA?  Check this out: 

  • Purchase fresh beef oxtail and/or short ribs – salt & pepper generously
  • Slice up a sweet onion and place in bottom of slow cooker
  • Place oxtail/short ribs on top of sliced onion
  • Top with one jar each of Goya Sofrito and Recaito
  • Cover and cook on either 6 hours high or 8 hours low

Serve over either rice, yucca, spaghetti squash, polenta, whatever!  I (almost) feel guilty that this is both so easy and delish!

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Getting stoned…

There’s a short season for stone crabs in Clearwater that begins in mid-October. Local legend is that stone crabs can only be found here – I don’t know if that’s true, but what I can tell you is that they’re delicious, pricey and gorgeous.  These little buggers have a much harder shell than blue crab, or even lobster for that matter.  They’re served boiled, cracked, either cold or hot with drawn butter or an aioli.  Ranging from about $35-65 per pound depending on size (medium, select, or large) they’re not cheap.  I researched the prices per pound and saw that there is also a jumbo size ($105 for a pound and a half, which is about four claws) – but I’ve never seen jumbo on a menu near us.  I have never made these at home, I prefer to leave the mystery of perfectly boiled stone crabs to the professionals.  If you ever have the chance to try these, I highly recommend that you do.

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Limoncello when you can’t get to Rome…

I’ve been cooking, a lot. My husband encourages this by opening the wine or mixing a cocktail for me while we concoct our dishes. Recently though, he’s taken on a little mixologist hobby – Limoncello!! We have a great affection for this sweet, syrupy, flavorful liqueur since being given a generous bottle the night we got engaged in Italy at a restaurant called Le Grotte in Rome, near the Spanish Steps about a decade ago. Our waiter was so excited about the event that he let us sit there with our Limoncello well after the restaurant closed – how we got back to our hotel is still a bit of a mystery.

The making of the Limoncello is not a stealth process. First the procurement of ten organic (a must) lemons. Then to find olive leaves (we found these on Amazon – shocking, I know). Then the pure alcohol (see picture below) in Florida we could only find 75% alcohol but in NYC we were able to find 95%. Note that the proof is half the alcohol content.

First to peel the lemons. We have a super sharp peeler that we bought in Germany, it grabs just the top yellow rind and not the bitter white pith which you want to avoid. The peel and olive leaves (about 10) now marinate in the fridge in 25 ounces of the alcohol for 30 days. We do this in a 132 ounce Mason jar. After 30 days we add a cooled simple syrup (2lbs of sugar and 1.5 quarts of water-now you know why we use such a large mason jar). It again rests for another 30 days before being strained via a sieve into whatever bottles you choose (see our cool bottles below).

Limoncello makes for a great gift when visiting friends or for a finishing touch after a great dinner or just because it’s 2020!

We’ve recently tried the same recipe with oranges and tangerines (and we added fresh vanilla beans to make an adult creamsicle…) it was de-lish!

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10 Discos

No, we’re not going dancing…but this:

What to do with ten discos?

Let’s make empanadas! A fun appetizer with many variations. Here’s how I made this batch.

Ingredients:
1 package of Goya empanada discs
A few tablespoons of EVOO
1 diced onion
1 diced clove of garlic
1 small package of chopped meat
1 large diced boiled potato (should be soft in center)
1 cup of frozen peas
Salt & pepper
1 cup canola oil
Salt, pepper

Heat EVOO to saute pan. Add onion and garlic – saute for about 3 minutes (do not allow garlic to brown – if it does toss it and start again) add chopped meat to pan and brown. Season with salt & pepper when meat has browned mix in potatoes and peas. Pour mixture into a strainer and let sit for about 5 minutes (you want to strain out fats and juices so they don’t seep through the empanada discs). Place one of the discs on cutting board then put about 2 tablespoons of mixture on one half of disc then fold over other half. Using a fork press down open sides to seal – voila! You now have an empanada. Repeat with remaining discs (extra filling can be frozen for future use). Now heat canola oil in large frying pan. When oil is hot slide empanadas into pan turning when browned. Don’t overcrowd the frying pan, they can be cooked in batches. Remove from pan and onto paper towel lined plate and salt immediately (Kosher salt!) You can definitely either deep fry or air fry these if you prefer.

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Stuffing

I’m the first to admit that the harder something is to find, the more I must have it. Case in point is the Martin’s cubed potato bread I need to make my Thanksgiving stuffing. It’s either abundantly available or scarce.

The stuffing is always a hit on Thanksgiving (I only make it once a year so everyone’s dying for it by November LOL). Here’s all you need to know to make this yummy side dish:

Ingredients:
2 sticks salted butter
1/4 cup EVOO
1 stalk of chopped celery (leaves included)
1 large sweet onion chopped
2 large carrots chopped
1/4 cup fresh parsley
2 bags of Martin’s potato bread
2 cups of chicken broth
2 eggs
1 cup of milk
2 cups of chopped roasted chestnuts
1 cup of dried craisins
1 cup sauteed mushrooms
Salt, pepper
Coarsely chopped thyme, sage (fresh if you can get it)

How to:
In a large pot heat EVOO add 1/2 stick of butter cut in chunks. When butter has melted add celery, onion, carrots (AKA the “trilogy”) parsley and saute until softened. Add additional 1/2 stick of butter (this is not low cal!) when melted, add potato bread and mix to incorporate. Turn heat off and add chicken broth, eggs and milk (add additional milk if mixture is too dry). Add chestnuts, craisins and mushrooms (you can totally skip these if you like) and season with salt, pepper, thyme and sage. Your mixture should have a loose consistency. Turn mixture into deep baking pan and top with small pats of remaining butter and bake for about 40 minutes at 350 (when top is golden brown your stuffing is ready!)

Pro-tip: I throw whatever I have on hand in the stuffing. This year I had extra butternut squash-which I cubed and sauteed with the rest of the veggies. You can totally customize this to what you and your family like.

Before and after baking the stuffing. The end product should be savory and creamy.

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Little dishes everywhere

We often have a dinner of meze, tapas, small dishes, apps…whatever you call it – we love a dinner of many small plates to share. For Thanksgiving, there is no such thing as “small” anything. These are some of the appetizers we made this year: stuffed artichokes (full disclosure: my husband makes the crowd favorite artichoke…I still don’t know how that happened, but here we are), stromboli, sauteed rock shrimp (not always easy to find, but if you can DO IT!) and, the piece di resistance, sauteed zucchini flowers. These beauts are super hard to find, very seasonal and exceptionally fragile. I can always find them at Eataly in NYC (Flatiron) anytime of the year (they are imported from Israel) and during the late Spring at the Union Square farmer’s market. They only stay fresh for a day or two so you pretty much have to cook them immediately. If you want the 411 on how to purchase and prepare these yummies, send me a message and I’ll fill you in.

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Prepping for Thanksgiving

This was the smallest Thanksgiving I’ve ever hosted and thusly the smallest turkey I’ve ever bought (13 lbs). It was also our first Thanksgiving in New York in five years – everything was different this year – thanks a lot COVID. In any case, we had a great meal with lots of great appetizers, side dishes and desserts. I’ll break the food up in stages here since there was so much. I was thankful to have my hubby, daughter, her boyfriend and my best friend for the day, we had a really awesome Thanksgiving despite 2020.

This year, because my kitchen is so small in NY, I decided to dry brine my turkey instead of a wet brine (I imagined a disaster of wet brine leaking all over the fridge) I actually think the dry brine was much, much better. The dry brine was simply fresh herbs (thyme, sage, dill, parsley, salt, pepper mixed with a bit of EVOO – which created a thick paste) I slid a knife just beneath the skin (careful to not pierce skin) and rubbed the mixture generously under the breast, legs and cavity nd over the top of the skin with whatever mixture was left. This sat in fridge UNCOVERED – you want the salt to do its magic and dry the skin out a bit before cooking. The next day I put some soft butter under the skin as well, stuffed turkey cavity with homemade potato bread stuffing (!!) and put a halved apple in the butt (to keep the turkey extra moist and delish). Right before putting the bird in the oven I massaged it with a little EVOO, salt and pepper and fresh thyme, then put aluminum foil around the wings to prevent burning. I also put some fresh cut onions, carrots and celery in the bottom of the pan with about 2 cups of cold water (this base will make your gravy when it’s all cooked). Beside the stuffing we made a side dish of roasted root vegetables (potato, sweet potato, butternut squash, beets, and onion) – tossed with fresh herbs and EVOO and then baked for about 45 minutes.

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Cranberry Sauce-Not in the can…

I know there are folks out there that really love cranberry sauce from a can. That gelatinous, cylindrical, wiggly cranberry mass that sits at the Thanksgiving table. I am not one of those folks. When my daughter was little I started making homemade cranberry sauce in defiance of my canned cranberry sauce parents. It was super easy, fun (watching the cranberries pop as they became cooked) and the color was stunning. It soon became a staple for thanksgiving. This will be a short post (I’m going crazy cooking for tomorrow) but maybe one that you can use for tomorrow. Pro-tip: I usually double this recipe so we have leftovers for that midnight post tryptophan nap…

I mean, which looks better?

Ingredients:
1 bag (3 cups) of fresh cranberries
1 cup of sugar
1 cup of water
(Yes, that’s all!)

How to: bring water and sugar to a boil (stir a bit so sugar is incorporated). Add whole cranberries to simple syrup and let cranberries cook for between 8-10 minutes until mixture boils again (you’ll start to hear the cranberries pop). Remove pan from heat and let cool. Put in a pretty dish (a white bowl makes the cranberries super pretty!) and let cool overnight. Take it out of fridge long enough to bring to room temperature before serving. Enjoy!

Happy, happy Thanksgiving!

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Avgolemono Soup

This hearty, earthy soup is pure comfort food. Fresh ingredients always prevail when you want the best end product possible. Fresh dill, chicken, lemons all come together in this traditional Greek dish. I start by seasoning a chicken breast with salt, pepper and a little EVOO and baking it in oven until cooked (about 20 minutes depending on the size of the chicken breast). Remove from oven and let cool. Next I make a rich chicken broth, you can do this using a store bought broth or homemade – make a large pot of broth so that there’s plenty of soup. I then scramble 1 egg in a mug and add the juice from 3 freshly squeezed lemons and set aside. Add 1 box of orzo to chicken broth and cook until slightly al dente (about 9-11 minutes). Dice up cooked chicken. Remove pot from heat after orzo is cooked. Slowly add one ladle of broth from orzo to the scrambled egg/lemon juice mixture Make sure you are mixing constantly so you don’t end up with scrambled eggs. Add chicken to the pot, then add the egg/lemon/broth mixture to the pot of soup stirring well to incorporate. Season generously with dill and fresh pepper. Of course garnishing with grated cheese is an awesome idea!

Ingredients:

  • Chicken breast (or even leftover cooked skinless chicken)
  • Salt, pepper
  • EVOO
  • Chicken broth
  • 1 box of orzo
  • 1 egg
  • 3 fresh lemons
  • 1 bunch of fresh dill
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Bestfriend Brunch

Being over quarantine is a great excuse for a best friend brunch. My finicky friend required me to do some menu tweaking. What I came up with was a simple, healthy brunch that we both enjoyed. Mini-crustless spinach and feta quiche with a side greek salad.

Ingredients for quiche:

  • 6 whole eggs
  • 1 Tablespoon of butter
  • 3 cups fresh chopped spinach
  • 1 Tablespoons of EVOO
  • 3/4 cup of feta cheese

Scramble eggs well (I use my Kitchen Aid on high to incorporate air, making eggs light and fluffy). In saute pan melt butter and add spinach, saute for about 4 minutes. Using a paper towel grease cupcake pan with EVOO. Add equal amounts of spinach to each tin, followed by adding equal amounts of egg to each tin and then top off with equal amounts of feta. Bake at 350 for about 20 minutes (you can check doneness by sticking quiches with a toothpick, which should come out clean when removed).

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When life gives you lemons…

Lemon chicken! There are so many versions of this dish, and they’re all good. I mean, how yummy does this look?

Here’s all you need to do:

I butterflied the cutlets so they were not too thick. Season with salt & pepper. Dredge cutlets in flour. Heat 1 cup of canola oil in sauté pan. Add cutlets to pan cook about 5 minutes per side (check to make sure cutlets are cooked through). Remove cutlets from pan and place on wire rack. Take the juice from 4 or 5 lemons and add to pan (if there’s more than 1/4 cup of oil left in pan remove excess before adding lemon juice). Add 2 tablespoons of butter, season with salt and pepper and add 1/4 cup of capers to pan. Heat through and return cutlets to pan. Spoon lemon sauce over cutlets to make sure they’re all covered.

I served this last night with Israeli couscous and sauteed broccoli rabe. But rice and a salad would work well too.

Here’s what you need to have on hand:

  • Chicken Cutlets
  • Canola Oil
  • 4-5 fresh lemons, squeezed
  • 2 tablespoons of butter
  • Salt, Pepper
  • 1/4 cup of drained capers

Enjoy!

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Fabulous Falafel

After a busy Saturday we wanted something easy but yummy for dinner, signal the falafel! Super easy, tweakable recipe with a nice side of tzatziki to pull it all together. I’ll start with the tzatziki, which I could literally eat a bowl of just by itself! I have found with this sauce it’s best to strain the yogurt for a few hours or overnight. This allows for the yogurt to really thicken up and have a creamy consistency when mixed with other ingredients. It’s not necessary, but I do think it improves the final product.

Tzatziki:
I use Fage 0% yogurt (17.6 oz. container). I like the taste and consistency (and it’s closest to the yogurt we ate in Greece!) If you have time, strain overnight (just plop yogurt in a sieve over a bowl and let it rest in the fridge). Mix in the following ingredients:

1. Handful of minced fresh dill
2. 1/2 teaspoon of finely minced fresh garlic
3. (Optional: 1 chopped scallion)
4. Salt & pepper to taste

That’s it! Mix it all together and you’ve got a yummy traditional Greek side. Now for the falafel.

Ingredients:
1 Large can of chickpeas (28 oz. – I like the Goya brand)
2 scallions chopped
1 garlic clove, finely minced
1/4 teaspoon of each: Cumin, turmeric, salt, pepper
2 whole eggs
1 tablespoon baking powder
A few tablespoons of flour to bind up mixture

First mash up the chick peas (I don’t like them too mushy-you don’t want hummus! I leave a few chick peas just slightly broken to give it a rustic texture). You can do this by using a fork or a immersion blender. Once this is done, add all ingredients but the flour and mix very well. After mixing sprinkle in a bit of flour – just enough so that you can form a ball or patty from a tablespoon of the mixture. Once you have the right consistency you can form the mixture. I make patties not balls because I pan fry them rather than deep fry. I feel like the patties cook more consistently.

In a sauté pan, heat about 1/2 inch of EVOO, add patties (don’t overcrowd the pan). Once in oil leave them alone for about 3 minutes. Flip when golden brown. When second side is cooked, remove from pan and place on plate lined with paper towels.

Serve with a side of the tzatziki and a salad and you have a great Mediterranean dinner!

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Just for the Halibut

We have a good friend that is a boat captain. A few times a year he is hired as the captain of a fishing boat in Alaska (chartered by the rich and famous LOL). He has great adventures there, and always brings us back fresh fish that he’s caught during these trips. There is no comparison to what he brings us, the halibut, the salmon…it’s just amazing. The colors are bright and the flavors super fresh. I try to prepare whatever he’s brought us simply so that the true flavors shine through. Here’s how we made the halibut a few nights ago.

Halibut in a light beer batter:

  1. Mix 1/2 cup of flour with 3/4 bottle of beer (dark lager works well, but whatever you have on hand will work) whisk well until blended (mixture should be thinner than pancake batter, adjust mixture as necessary). Season with salt & pepper. Refrigerate for about 15 minutes.
  2. Cut fish (in this case halibut) into thick strips (see pic below).
  3. In heavy saucepan heat about 1/2 inch of EVOO.
  4. Remove batter from fridge, whisk a bit to make sure everything is blended together. Then dredge each fish strip into batter.
  5. Carefully drop each coated fish strip into hot oil. Do not move for about 2 minutes (otherwise you’ll tear off the batter and probably tear the fish). After about 2 minutes (bottom should be lightly browned) flip fish over and finish cooking other side. When fully cooked remove fish from oil and place on paper towel lined plate, season with pepper and lemon. Voila!

This evening we served this with lemon infused fingerling potatoes and fried mini eggplants that we found at the farmer’s market.

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Bounty of the Sea

An easy midweek dinner for us is seafood pasta. I’m all about fresh ingredients, prepared simply and this is definitely one of those dishes. I’m always tweaking recipes so, particularly for this dish, there are no rules. For the seafood, I’m lucky to have a good seafood monger near me in both NY and Clearwater. So far as what seafood to buy? I get maybe 3 or 4 small portions of whatever seafood looks freshest when shopping.

Let’s get this dish going.  For today, let’s say I just bought 1/2 dozen clams, 1 pound of shrimp and a small piece of cod (my favorite).  This is how you pull it together:

  1. Bring large pot of decently salted water to boil.
  2. In large saucepan sauté 2 cloves of minced garlic and 1/4 cup of diced sweet onion.  Add 2 cups of water with 2 bullion cubes to saucepan and bring to a boil.  Drop in clams and lower flame.  When all clams are open (discard any that do not, or you’ll get bad clam belly LOL), drop in shrimp (I clean, devein and remove tails, but I know folks also like to keep the tail on).  When shrimp turn pink, drop in cubed pieces of cod and continue to cook on low flame until cod is cooked through (about 4 minutes).  Cod will fall apart, this is perfectly fine as it will thicken up the sauce. 
    Pro-tip: I sometimes use lobster tail, flounder, grouper – buy what looks freshest and prepare in the same way. 
  3. Put your pasta in rapidly boiling water (we like a Barilla Bucatini – it’s a thick spaghetti with a hole in the center – but fettuccini, spaghetti or whatever you like will work).  Cook until al dente  (about 9 minutes – do a taste test – you can always cook it more, you can’t cook it less…)  Using a spaghetti scoop put pasta in saucepan with seafood mixture adding water from the pasta pot as necessary to create the thickness of sauce that you want (we like about 2-3 scoops of pasta water).    
  4. You can add cooked broccoli rabe or sautéed spinach for a fancy touch.  Garnish with chopped parsley, grated cheese, salt & pepper and that’s it! 

The prep time for this meal is under 30 minutes so it’s a great weeknight go-to.  Enjoy!

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Pizza Pizza

No one delivers better than mom…

Growing up in Queens there were strong pizza affiliations – Carlos’, Sal’s, Ben’s, Newpark, dare I mention Big Bow Wow…yes, I’m that old (barely). In any case, it’s fun sometimes to try to create a masterpiece pizza. Who doesn’t like playing with the dough, and creating their own pizza? Truthful moment – my homemade pizza comes out excellent about 40% of the time…true I cook in two very different environments (NYC gas oven, Clearwater convection electric) but I just can’t quite figure it out. I have tossed many a pizza whose crust is half baked and cheese either burnt or not cooked, or both. So I’ll spare you a disingenuous sharing of a recipe here and leave you with one of my pizza success story pictures. I wish you luck and invite you to share (please) any pointers here that I can build on. I know someone has this figured out!

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Keto Buffalo Chicken

I rarely follow a recipe verbatim – but this one was out of my comfort zone. A recipe I can only prepare in the absence of the cheese hater (who shall remain nameless). I highly recommend this one, it’s keto friendly comfort food and very delish! If you need me to send a better picture of the recipe, inbox me and I will send. This is a great dish!

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Potata Frittata

That’s not a typo, I wanted it to rhyme!

This simple breakfast/brunch dish is a hit in my house (IMO it begs for cheese, which my husband despises, so this recipe is sans formaggio, which makes me a little sad, but it’s still supper yummy).

Ingredients:
1/2 cup diced up, cooked bacon
EVOO
Butter
1/2 cup diced sweet onion
2 potatoes, cubed
8 whole eggs
1/4 cup cream
Salt, pepper
Fresh basil

Making it happen:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In mixer add eggs and cream, mix very well (I use my Kitchen Aid and blend on high so the mix has some air incorporated, which makes the eggs nice and fluffy). Now, in cast iron skillet add a little EVOO, and a pat of butter. When butter has melted add onion and potatoes and cook for about 15 minutes until both have softened, but not browned. Add another tablespoon of EVOO to skillet, add cooked bacon to potato and onion. Pour in egg mixture leave on stove for about 3 minutes on low heat. I top mine with a little fresh basil (you can use any fresh herb you have on hand). Move skillet to preheated oven for about 12-15 minutes. You’ll know the eggs are cooked when you insert a toothpick and it comes out clean.

Just a few ingredients!

Looks elegant, but it’s so simple!

Pro-tip – My new favorite brand of eggs – they’re super fresh and looks orangey when you crack them open, they’re gorgeous!

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Sunday Sauce

I grew up having Sunday Sauce in the basement of my Italian grandparent’s house in Queens, N.Y. The house smelled amazing, it was frenetic and loud and there was always either a football or baseball game blasting from the TV at the end of the long farm table. By the time we sat down to eat dinner, many meatballs would already have gone missing from the pot and for sure each end (“heel”) of the many loaves of Italian bread would be gone too. Continuing the tradition, we make Sunday sauce a lot. When the kids were little it was every Sunday and my parents, my sister and her kids would come over too – it was always a houseful. We’d start with antipasto, followed by calamari, shrimp some sort of veggie (stuffed artichokes are veggies, right?), roasted fennel then the pasta topped with the deep red meat sauce (not gravy!) packed with pork, meatballs and sausage. The sauce would be started on Saturday and cook all the way through to Sunday afternoon when we’d sit down to eat. Sunday Sauce is delicious, but it’s about so much more than the food. Buon appetito!

Ingredients:
1 medium sized onion, diced
2 cloves minced garlic
A handful of fresh parsley
Tablespoon of oregano
Sale & pepe
4 cans crushed tomatoes (I prefer Redpack)
Meatballs
Fresh Pork (neckbones)
Sausage

How to:
Sautee onion till almost soft, add garlic, parsley, oregano, salt & pepper, sauté for about 2 minutes. Do not let garlic get brown (it will taste bitter and ruin the sauce). Add crushed tomatoes and two cans of water and stir. Add some more salt, pepper and parsley (I like to season at every level when cooking). You should brown the pork (dust in flour first) & sausage in pan with a little EVOO. Add these to sauce when done. Cook meatballs (nearly all the way through) and add to sauce also. All the meat will continue to cook in the sauce, so you don’t need to fully cook before putting in the sauce. Since you KNOW there’s a bottle of nice red sitting next to you while cooking, add about 1/2 cup to the sauce after it’s warmed through. I cook this for many, many hours stirring often and seasoning as needed – the result is a dark red, thick, meaty sauce. I put it over rigatoni (Barilla is my fave) but you can use any pasta you like.

Pro-tip: Never add a wine to sauce that you would not like to drink.

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Winging it

I like wings, turkey wings, chicken wings…yum. I like a dry rub though, not a wet sauce (too messy for me!) I also bake them in my oven rather than frying them (I don’t have an airfryer, but I bet that would work too). Makes for a great snack, appetizer or a light dinner. When I make this dry rub I make enough for a few batches, tripling or quadrupling the recipe – it keeps well in a bell jar for quite a while.

Ingredients:
1/2 Tablespoon of each:
Chile Pepper, paprika, onion powder, kosher salt
3/4 Tablespoon of each:
Light brown sugar, chili powder, cumin
1/2 Teaspoon of each:
Garlic powder, cayenne pepper, dried mustard powder, black pepper, oregano, thyme

Mix all ingredients (I put it all in a bell jar and just shake it up)

1 package of wings (either turkey or chicken) cut at the joint

Put wings in a zip lock bag, add about 1/4 cup of EVOO and enough of the dry rub to cover wings. Zip bag and shake to coat wings. Place in the fridge for an hour.

Preheat oven to 350, bake wings for about 35-40 minutes. Serve with either ranch or blue cheese dressing. Easy peasy!



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Starting the day off right

This simple breakfast only feels decadent, it’s really simple and so delish. I love the layered textures between the toasted bread, chunky guac, creaminess of the feta then the pop of the cherry tomatoes. I like to used a multi grain bread, toasted and cooled off before I top it with all the goodies. Basically, this is the recipe (I encourage you to tweak it to your taste!) My daughter sometimes tops hers with a poached egg, for that little extra.

Ingredients:
2 slices grain bread
1 ripe avocado, scooped out
1/4 cup sweet onion
1 tablespoon diced jalapeno
Sale & Pepe
1/4 cup good quality Greek cheese (from sheep milk best, IMO)
4 cherry tomatoes

How to make the magic happen:
Toast bread and cool
In a bowl, mash up avocado with a fork (I like it chunky, but I know some folks like it creamy)
Add onion, jalapeno, salt & pepper (now you’ve got guac!)
Put half the mixture on each slice of toast
Top each slice with cherry tomatoes and feta cheese, Viola!

Pro-tip – to scoop out the avocado, first cut in half, remove pit. With a knife score the flesh in a crisscross pattern getting as close to the skin as possible without cutting the skin or your hand. Using a tablespoon you can now easily scoop out the avocado!

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Caveman Cravings

Sometimes you just need a steak. Simply grilled, with a rich porcini sauce on the side – to make it just a little fancy. My hubby won the on going battle of filet mignon vs. ribeye tonight, so this tender little beauty was prepared by him with the porcini recipe from a great chef we know. Pro-tip – bring steak (and any other meat you’re preparing) to room temperature before cooking. This will result in more even cooking and a juicier end product, I promise!

Ingredients for Porcini Sauce:
1/2 tablespoon of rehydrated porcini mushrooms
1 teaspoon of truffle oil (liquid gold!)
1/2 cup heavy cream
Sale & pepe!

In food processor pulse rehydrated mushrooms (dried porcini soaked in hot water for about 15 minutes then removed from water) until you have a mushy consistency. Add porcini and other ingredients to saucepan and heat through on low flame, careful to not burn. You can add/subtract ingredients to your liking (I love to “tweak” a recipe!)

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It’s always summer in Florida…

One good thing to come from spending the pandemic in Clearwater has been a resurgence in my affinity for gardening. As life changed for me over the last two decades, I went from a big house to a smaller house to a big apartment to a pied-à-terre in Queens. Appropriately my garden shrunk to accommodate these spaces. Our cozy beach condo allows for a patio garden and tons of indoor plants (according to some people, I may be morphing into the “crazy plant lady”). Regardless, I have daily access to fresh herbs steps away from the kitchen and I love it. I encourage you to have at least one herb plant, maybe on a windowsill – I promise it will spark some creativity and maybe even nudge you towards cooking something unplanned and delicious. Pesto? Sage Butter? Mint Jelly?

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Remembering Italy

My favorite trip of all time was visiting Rome. It had been my “bucket list” trip and it exceeded unrealistically high expectations by leaps and bounds. Only better than the food, scenery and people was getting engaged to the love of my life a few doors from the Spanish Steps. To say we ate our way through Italy would be a gross understatement. The pasta, the roman artichokes, the gelato…For now all we can do is sit and wait for 2020 to be over and hopefully we can start exploring again. In the meantime, I dream of the food in Italy and try to recreate some of it. Presenting you with homemade sundried tomatoes alla Sacco.

Il mondo e un libro, e lui chi non viaggia legge solo una pagina.

The world is a book, and he who does not travel reads only one page…

Ingredients:
1 pound ripe plum tomatoes, seeded and cut in half. Then slice each half into 3 slices.
2 whole, crushed cloves of garlic (just because)
Kosher salt
Fresh cracked black pepper
Good quality EVOO (enough to cover all the goodies once in a jar)

How To:
Pre-heat oven to 200 degrees. Put prepared tomatoes onto a wire rack and place rack on baking sheet. Sprinkle salt & pepper over tomatoes. Bake tomatoes for about 4 hours. Remove from oven and let cool. Put tomatoes and garlic in jar, top off with EVOO. Let sit for about a week and then mangia!

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Pickling my way through a pandemic

With everything slowing down there’s tons of time for recipes that need tons of time. And what better example than pickling! I received this recipe from a colleague and have tweaked it along the way. I’ve tried pickling a few different things based on what I can find fresh at the local farmer’s market. The most popular are the pickled cucumbers, super crunchy and tasty. You can up the amounts of garlic, onion and dill to taste – you’ll figure it out along the way. The peppers make a great addition to a charcuterie alongside some cheese and prosciutto. I use the largest bell jar I can find, the seal keeps the pickles from getting mushy.

Ingredients for Brine:
4 cups water
2 cups white vinegar
2 tablespoons of kosher salt
A huge bunch of dill coarsely chopped
1 teaspoon of sugar or sugar substitute
Put all ingredients in pan, stir together, bring to a boil. Remove from heat and let brine cool to room temperature.

Goodness for the Jar:
Mini cucumbers – I like to slice in half, but you can quarter or make discs
A bunch of garlic (to taste) skins removed and crushed (like 2020)
1 white onion sliced
A handful of black peppercorns

Fill jar with brine after all ingredients are packed in there. Let it sit in fridge for 10-14 days before eating every single one!

Happy Humpday

Occasionally, I come across something in a store that is just so stupid or gaudy or ridiculous that I just cannot pass it up, particularly if I know my husband will despise it (adds an extra element of hilarity).  Let me introduce you to my recently acquired butter dish.  Need I say more?  He can’t break it, it’s pewter – he can hide it, but it’s sort of large (it actually takes up a good amount of real estate in the fridge).  What do you think?