Archive for the ‘Food’ category

Minna’s Favorite Recipes

November 16, 2010


This family favorite recipe was submitted to “Cooking Light” magazine a few years ago by a reader who was trying to eat a little healthier without giving up all of her favorite things.  “Cooking Light” performed a make-over on the original recipe managing to trim almost 50 calories and 5 grams of fat per piece, still with very tasty results.


2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon salt
2 cups sugar
7 tablespoons butter, softened
1 large egg
2 large egg whites
¼ cup applesauce
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup chopped pitted dates
1 teaspoon all-purpose flour
1½ cups chopped peeled Granny Smith apple (about 1 large)
1½ cups chopped Red Delicious apple (about 1 large)
½ teaspoon fresh lemon juice
2/3 cups chopped pecans
Cooking spray
1.  Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
 2.  Lightly spoon 2 cups flour into dry measuring cup; level with a knife.  Combine 2 cups flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt in a large bowl; stir with a whisk.  Set aside.
3.  Place sugar and butter in a large bowl and beat with a mixer at high speed for 2 minutes or until light and fluffy.  Add egg and egg whites, beating well after each addition.  Stir in applesauce and vanilla.  Gradually add flour mixture to sugar mixture; stir just until combined to for a stiff batter.  Toss dates with 1 teaspoon flour.  Toss apples with lemon juice.  Add dates, apples and nuts to flour mixture, stirring just until combined.  Pour batter into a 13 x 9 inch baking dish coated with cooking spray.  Bake at 325 degrees for 1 hour and 5 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean.  Cool completely on a wire rack. Makes 16 servings.



We Called It Gravy Too*

November 12, 2010

I awoke to the aroma of a simmering sauce that filled the kitchen and crept into my room and onto my pillow. My ears were tuned to the sound of…plop blurp, plop, blurp. The aroma and the sounds were coming from the tomato sauce…gravy…cooking on the kitchen stove, and it meant it was Sunday.

Courtesy of Brian

I sat on the edge of the bed, wiped my eyes, got up and shuffled to the kitchen. Pajamas hanging below my feet, I stretched to tiptoes and peeked over the top of the large white pan on the stove over the small gas flame. The cover was tilted to allow the steamy aroma to escape. I used the “mopine” to lift the cover and look in, though already aware that it was the gravy for Sunday’s pasta. “Edward, what are you doing?”
The gravy was bubbling and popping, releasing with each burst a pocket of vapor with its smell into the atmosphere. Partly exposed meatballs floated along the surface like hot icebergs. A piece of bone, probably pork, was peeking through.
I shuffled like a hockey player to the pantry and the bag of Italian rolls fresh from Crugnale’s Bakery. Dad was reliable. The rolls were warm and soft. I removed one, ripped off a corner, held it between my thumb and two fingers, returned to the pan, swiped it through the gravy and held it up straight, gravy at the top.
Steam rose from the roll as the gravy cooled. To protect my fingers, I twirled the bread just ahead of the dripping lava, allowing the gravy to move to another side of the bread, cooling as it did so…a skill learned in the early years of the Italian family.  Though irresistible, it was still too hot for my sensitive, eager tongue. Test it. Touch it lightly with the tip of my tongue. OK. Ready. Cool enough.
The mass was formless, soft in my mouth, wet, moist, full bodied, and rich with the rage of tomato and the hint of garlic and basil… breaded gravy heaven. Time for another dunk, and another and another, piece after piece of bread ripped off, dunk after dunk made with the same caution, taste after taste completed for the thrill of Sunday’s gravy. “You’ll ruin your dinner”.
Now for the meatballs. I needed another corner of bread. There they were, floating; a deep brown color laced with red meant they were done. They had been fried before they were put into the gravy, and sometimes good to eat just after the frying, the simple flavors of garlic and olive oil enveloping the meatball and spilling into the bread. But today, I planned to rescue them from the gravy.
They were ripe. It seemed as if the meatball fit better into a split rather than cut bun. A spoon was sitting in the ladle next to the simmering pot. I lifted out a meatball, dropped it into the bun, and then ladled more of the deep red, shimmering, hot sauce. Blowing the steam away, I resisted the tendency to gulp it down. The meatball was firm, the bread soft and chewy, the gravy almost hot. Some of the gravy spilled out of the bun onto my pajama top. No matter.
I chewed slowly, rolled my tongue around and enjoyed the flavors of the heated, slightly crunchy meatball that married perfectly with the soggy bun and the gravy.
“You’ll ruin your dinner.” I smiled.

* From the book, “Growing Up Italian; Grandfather’s Fig Tree and Other Stories.”

Barking Cats Book Publishers

Recipe from a Guest, Mary Ann Coletti

October 24, 2010

This is one of my favorite pasta dishes. Simple and very satisfying. It comes out of Michele Scicolone’s book “A Fresh Taste of Italy
Spaghetti with Rubies
(Spagheti con Rubini)

2 bunches of beets (8 medium beets, about 2 pounds)
1/3 cup olive oil
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
Pinch of crushed red pepper, or to taste
Coars salt to taste
1 pound thin spaghetti or linguine (I have also used bucatini)
1. Preheat the oven to 400 F
2 Trim the tops and stems off the beets.(if tops are fresh blanch, chop and add to skillet with beets) Wash the beets under cool running water and scrub them with a brush. Wrap the beets in aluminum foil and bake for 45 minutes, or until tender. (pierce with a knife) Let cool, then peel and coarsely chop the beets (dice)
3. In a skillet large enough to hold all of the pasta, combine the olive oil garlic and red pepper. Cook over medium heat for about 30 seconds, or until the garlic is fragrant and the oil is sizzling. add the diced beets (and greens if using) and turn them in the oil mixture until heated through.
4. Bring a large pot of cold water to a boil. Add salt and the spaghetti. Cook until the spaghetti is almoxt al dente, tender yet firm to the bite. Drain the spaghetti, reserving 1/2 cup of the cooking water

Michele Scicolone

5. Pour the spaghetti into the skillet with the beets. Add some of the cooking water. Simmer over medium heat, constantly turning the spaghetti with the beets, until the pasta is evenly colored about 2 minutes.
6. Serve immediately.

In the summer I always have fresh mint available. Chop a handful and add to the finished pasta. The subtle flavor of mint adds anothe layer of flavor to the dish. Enjoy!

Minna’s Favorite recipes…Sfogi in Saor

October 4, 2010


Sfogi in Saor
Marinated Sole with Pine Nuts and Raisins
This is a very tasty recipe from the wonderful cookbook Celebrating Italy by Carol Field (author also of The Italian Baker and In Nonna’s Kitchen).  Sfogi is Venetian for sole and Saor comes from sapore, the Italian word for flavor.   A great do-ahead dish, this recipe is best made 48 hours before serving.  Makes 6 servings.
2 pounds fresh firm sole fillets    
About ¾ cup all-purpose flour
About 3 cups vegetable oil
3 tablespoons olive oil      
3 or 4 white onions, finely sliced     
2 teaspoons sugar
1½ cups red wine vinegar
¼ cup pine nuts, toasted
¼ cup raisins, soaked in tepid water and drained
Cut the pieces of sole in half lengthwise, and then cut again into 3 to 4 inch pieces.  Pat them dry.  Place flour in a large platter and lightly coat each slice of fish by dipping it into flour.
Heat enough vegetable oil in a heavy frying pan to come ½ inch up the sides, and fry the slices of fish until they are golden brown on both sides, being careful not to overcook them.  Remove and drain on platters lined with paper toweling.
Pour off the fat, warm the olive oil in the same pan, and sauté the onions over very low heat until they are limp and translucent, about 15 minutes.  Sprinkle with the sugar and continue cooking another 2 to 3 minutes; pour in the vinegar and cook until it has reduced by half.
Arrange the fish in a single layer on a serving platter.  With a slotted spoon distribute the sautéed onions in a second layer and then pour the vinegar glaze over all, trying to cover all of the fish with it.  Strew the pine nuts and raisins over the top. 
If you are going to serve the dish on the same day, cover and leave out at room temperature up to 12 hours.  Traditionally the dish is kept for 2 days in a very cool spot or in the refrigerator before serving. 
This dish is often served with polenta – yet another good reason to make this!


Minna’s Favorite Recipes- Sauteed Peppers

June 18, 2010

Peperoni in Aceto Balsamico
Serves 6 to 8

Here’s another recipe from The Antipasto Table by Michele Scicolone.  Very tasty, very easy, but be patient and allow the peppers a long slow cooking to tenderize them and bring out the best flavor.  The amounts are easily doubled.

¼ cup extra virgin olive oil                                                                                


3 large red bell peppers, cored, seeded, and thinly sliced
3 large yellow bell peppers, cored, seeded, and thinly sliced
1 teaspoon sugar
½ teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

1.  In a large heavy skillet, heat the oil over medium-low heat.  Add the peppers and cook, stirring occasionally, until tender and spotted with brown, about 25 minutes.  (Do not raise the heat to speed up the cooking or the peppers will burn.)

2.  Add the sugar, salt, and vinegar and stir well.  Simmer until most of the liquid has evaporated, about 5 minutes more.  Serve warm.


Mortadella…the derivation

June 7, 2010

Some have asked of the derivation of the word, mortadella. The early makers of the sausage used a mortar and pestle to mix it. It is called a mortaio della carne di maiale.




Thanks for asking

La Mortadella

June 6, 2010

Did you know that in 1971 Sophia Loren starred in the movie, La Mortadella? She tries to get past customs with a gift wrapped, watermalon-sized mortadella. Have you tried this pork sausage studded with globules of fat? It has a long history in Italy, dating to the University of Bologna in 1661. In fact, mortadella is in the writings of Bocaccio. 


Oscar Mayer commercialized it, took out the globules and thus named it “baloney.”   


Nonetheless it is delicious and the only time I ever try it( Yikes, fat globules) is when I am in Italy.