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149 posts categorized "12) My Eastern European & Italian Heritages"

04/15/2017

~ Mel's Petite Porketta for Joe's Jessup Sandwiches ~

It was the Spring of 1980. That's when I had my first encounter with this unique roasted pork roll -- in the form of a cold sandwich. Joe and I (newlyweds of four months) were visiting his mother Ann in his hometown of Jessup, (Northeastern) PA. Joe's brother Tom and his wife Kathy walked through Ann's kitchen door on Wilson Street shortly after us, and, once the mandatory cocktails were poured, Ann placed a brown bag on her kitchen table. It was quite informal and I had no idea what to expect, until Tom and Joe tore into it (which...... View full recipe for "~ Mel's Petite Porketta for Joe's Jessup Sandwiches ~"

04/10/2017

~ A Flash-in-the-Pan Dinner: Chicken alla Milanese ~

I love it when I am inspired by something I eat in a restaurant -- when it's worth every penny and I can't stop thinking about it. Adversely, I dislike it when I'm disgusted by something I eat in a restaurant -- a waste of money I can't stop thinking about. I abhor it when I order a restaurant meal, fall in love with it, and a few weeks later, order it again and hate it. Dining in a college town is a frustrating sport -- inconsistency seems to reign supreme. With the exception of three now two establishments, I...... View full recipe for "~ A Flash-in-the-Pan Dinner: Chicken alla Milanese ~"

04/08/2017

~ I Love My Mom's Old-Fashioned All-Beef Meatloaf ~

The fabulous '50's may be gone forever, but they are certainly not forgotten. Remember the stainless steel diner in your hometown that served up a thick slice of mouthwatering meatloaf smothered in a smooth, rich pan gravy alongside a big scoop of fluffy mashed potatoes? Remember meatloaf day in your school cafeteria with stewed tomatoes and macaroni and cheese? Remember the Swanson frozen meatloaf dinner slathered with a thick brown gravy and French fries? I remember them all, but, mostly, I remember my mom's "special" meatloaf. "Meatloaf." Say the word aloud in the company of family or friends, even in...... View full recipe for "~ I Love My Mom's Old-Fashioned All-Beef Meatloaf ~"

04/06/2017

~My Fully-Loaded Roast Beef Grilled Cheese Sammie~

Calling all carnivores. Gather round my table. You've got a friend in Pennsylvania. I love beef, and, when it comes to beef sandwiches, as much as I love a great cheeseburger with all the fixin's (on a cottony-soft white-sandwich-bread-type roll), I like a roast beef grilled cheese sandwich with all the fixin's (on two slices of firm-textured sourdough-type-bread) better. There's more. I prefer my cheeseburger to be thick, juicy, medium-rare cooked and topped with a slice or two of American cheese, ketchup and caramelized onions. I demand my roast beef grilled cheese be loaded with thinly-sliced rare-cooked beef (preferably home...... View full recipe for "~My Fully-Loaded Roast Beef Grilled Cheese Sammie~"

03/31/2017

~ Detroit-Style Brick Cheese & Pepperoni Pan Pizza ~

Pizza. It's one of my favorite foodie subjects. Next to a cheese shop, a pizza shop is one of my favorite places to hang out. Give me a slice and some suds and my day is made. I like thick pizza, thin pizza, round pizza and square pizza. I like pizza with just sauce and cheese, or, piled high with a melange of toppings. I like white pizza and stuffed pizza too. "No matter how you slice it, I've never met a pizza I didn't like", is one of my favorite sayings. There's more. I get downright giddy when I...... View full recipe for "~ Detroit-Style Brick Cheese & Pepperoni Pan Pizza ~"

03/24/2017

~ Spring Forward: Pea, Carrot & Potato Salad Olivier ~

Known in Eastern European circles as "Salad Olivier" or "Salad Olivye", and, "Russian Salad", there are as many variations of this refreshing side-dish or main-dish salad as there are cooks who are willing to take the time to do a precise job of uniformly cubing, dicing and properly cooking the components. What this salad looks like is as important as how it tastes. For young Eastern European girls, who were almost always required to assist their mother and grandmother in the family kitchen, it was how they honed their knife skills for later in life in their own kitchens (while...... View full recipe for "~ Spring Forward: Pea, Carrot & Potato Salad Olivier ~"

03/21/2017

~Bierock: A Savory Meat, Cabbage & Onion Turnover~

In the case of the Eastern European bierock, a picture is indeed worth a thousand words. Unlike pizza, hot dog, hamburger and taco, the word bierock conjures up no image in the mind of many foodies. It's worth mention there is no mention of it in The Food Lover's Companion or The Oxford Companion to Food. There's more. Even if you did grow up in or around an Eastern European household or community (I did), there is a good chance you have no idea if a bierock is animal, vegetable or mineral (I didn't). The reason is: the rather obscure...... View full recipe for "~Bierock: A Savory Meat, Cabbage & Onion Turnover~"

03/18/2017

~ Simply: My Butter-Braised Cabbage & Egg Noodles ~

Throughout Eastern Europe, cooks make a side-dish that basically consists of green cabbage and egg noodles. It's quick-and-easy, totally-delicious, unpretentious, old-world comfort food. I simply refer to it as "cabbage and noodles" or "cabbage noodles", because every country has their own ethnic name and spelling for it and every cook is adamant that "their people" invented it -- the Eastern Europeans are no different than the French or the Italians in that respect. Sigh. Wikipedia has an entire page devoted to halusky, haluski, halushki, haluska etc. They define them as "thick, soft, dumplings or noodles", and, "the name can refer...... View full recipe for "~ Simply: My Butter-Braised Cabbage & Egg Noodles ~"

03/05/2017

~ For those times when you just gotta have: Frittata ~

Breakfast, brunch, lunch, dinner or late night snack, a frittata is a relatively-easy quick-to-make, hunger-satisfying meal. It tastes great served hot, warm, at room temperature or cold, and, leftovers reheat beautifully in the microwave, which make it perfect for those who brown bag lunch. A bit of slicing, dicing or chopping is typically required, but it's minimal, and, since frittata can be a tasty way to use up yummy leftovers, there are times when no knife is necessary. As per my Italian girlfriend Eileen, her mom and grandmother made frittata to stretch leftovers -- to turn them into a family-friendly...... View full recipe for "~ For those times when you just gotta have: Frittata ~"

03/02/2017

~ Pizza alla Puttanesca with Puddles of Mozzarella ~

Gutsy-flavored puttanesca and marinara sauce have always been my two favorite pasta sauces. They are both relatively quick-to-make and they freeze great, so, I always have them on hand. There's more. When these two pasta sauces are allowed to simmer a bit longer than usual, until they reduce and get extra thick, both become my two favorite pizza sauces. Marinara-based pizza sauce is my all-purpose pizza sauce because it plays well with all sorts of cheese and topping combos. In the case of puttanesca-based pizza sauce, it is the star topping. A homemade crust, puttanesca sauce and two-types of mozzarella...... View full recipe for "~ Pizza alla Puttanesca with Puddles of Mozzarella ~"

02/26/2017

~ Spaghetti alla Puttanesca (Prostitute's Spaghetti) ~

Say what? Yep. "Alla puttanesca" literally means "in the style of a prostitute". The day I heard that, I hit the streets -- in search of more history behind this delicious dish's sordid-sounding name. Not growing up in an Italian household or in the company of a lot of Italian-Americans, I was in my early 30's in the early '80's watching Mario Batali make it and translate the name on TV. I did a double take. Before that, I thought puttanesca was just a quick-to-make pasta dish with a vibrant sauce that one could throw together using a few pantry...... View full recipe for "~ Spaghetti alla Puttanesca (Prostitute's Spaghetti) ~"

02/24/2017

~ My Buttery Sour Cream & Buttermilk Pound Cake ~

No embellishments necessary. There is nothing like the first slice of a perfectly baked, slightly-warm pound cake. With or without a dusting of Confectioners' sugar or a drizzling of sweet creamy glaze, it's the perfect foil for berries, ice cream, whipped cream or all three. For me, just as pictured here, it is all I need for breakfast or brunch with a cup of coffee or tea. It's irresistible. Pound cake is personal. I'd never proclaim to have the best recipe because almost everyone's mother or grandmother made the best pound cake they ever tasted. I'm no exception: My grandmother...... View full recipe for "~ My Buttery Sour Cream & Buttermilk Pound Cake ~"

02/10/2017

~ My Guys Italian-American Sicilian-Style Pizza Pie~

Americans eat over three billion pizzas a year and that doesn't include store-bought frozen pies or those made at home. That is quite a statistic, and, a testament to the love affair we Americans have with pizza. From sea-to-shining-sea, every region of our country has developed their own "style of pie", and, pizza shops and home cooks all proudly prepare their own version of it. I make several types of pizza. That said, my guys (my husband and three sons) hands-down favorite is my Sicilian-style pizza, made and baked in the manner my husband grew up eating it -- in...... View full recipe for "~ My Guys Italian-American Sicilian-Style Pizza Pie~"

01/15/2017

~ Butter Me Up: Mel's Capellini a la Clams Casino ~

Classic and fantastic, I made clams casino over the weekend -- a retro Italian-American favorite appetizer that pleases everyone who loves clams. Steamed clams, on the halfshell, slathered with an herby bacon-and-garlic compound butter, topped with a mound of crunchy bacon-and-breadcrumb mixture, baked until golden brown. What's not to love. There were just three of us, two guys and moi -- we ate two dozen and would have eaten more (and I stopped at four). Earlier in the afternoon, as I was preparing the compound butter and breadcrumb topping, it occurred to me how yummy the butter would be if...... View full recipe for "~ Butter Me Up: Mel's Capellini a la Clams Casino ~"

01/12/2017

~ Classier Classic Clams (on the Halfshell) Casino ~

I've never gone to a casino for the sole purpose of gambling -- I've never even had the urge to. That said, thanks to more than a few of Joe's business trips I've been to Las Vegas, Reno and Atlantic City several times for days-at-a-time -- complete with gorgeous hotel rooms, tickets to live shows and dinners in fabulous restaurants. That said, casinos are indeed a glitzy, glamorous full-of-fun place to visit. They're akin to amusement parks for adults, and, just like the latter, "the bloom comes off the rose" rather quickly -- fun facades that suck up your bucks....... View full recipe for "~ Classier Classic Clams (on the Halfshell) Casino ~"

12/05/2016

~ Mel's Deconstructed To-Die-For Pirogi Casserole ~

Pirogi -- a subject I know a thing or three about. I grew up eating these pillowy handmade-with-love potato-stuffed-dumplings in the kitchens of my Baba and Tettie (my Eastern European grandmother and her sister). I was about age seven when they added me as a semi-skilled laborer to the assembly line of their twice-yearly day-long pirogi-making marathon. Once filled and formed, they were frozen flat on trays, packaged into bags and divided amongst their two families -- to be cooked and served as a meatless main course or a side-dish to my mom's holiday baked ham or a roasted pork...... View full recipe for "~ Mel's Deconstructed To-Die-For Pirogi Casserole ~"

10/11/2016

~Slovak Grated Potato & Onion Dumplings (Haluski)~

Potatoes have been a staple in the Eastern European diet for centuries. When Columbus discovered potatoes on Hispaniola (an Island in the Caribbean), he could never have imagined how they would eventually revolutionize eating habits globally. In the harsh, unforgiving climates of Eastern Europe in particular, the starchy potato got cooked and used in every imaginable way -- it literally saved generations from starvation. In the process of creating a long list of delectable potato dishes, these resourceful people experimented with their "exotic" tuber and found they could make vodka (an alcoholic beverage), potato starch (similar to corn starch), confectioners'...... View full recipe for "~Slovak Grated Potato & Onion Dumplings (Haluski)~"

09/05/2016

~Pasta a la Margherita: Dinner's in about 30 Minutes~

Labor day might be the unofficial end of Summer, but, for the record, I don't declare it official until my garden is void of tomatoes and basil. Having just finished making big vats of marinara and small batches of pesto for the freezer, while waning a bit, my tomatoes and basil are still very much alive and well and standing tall in my garden. So, Summer, you are just going to have to hang out with me a few more days -- and pasta a la Margherita will be a perfect dinner tonight. Hot Pasta + Fresh Tomatoes, Mozzarella &...... View full recipe for "~Pasta a la Margherita: Dinner's in about 30 Minutes~"

06/25/2016

~ Mel's Caramelized Onion & Gruyere Cheese Pizza~

Pizza -- the pie that won the West. Pizza has been in America since the first Italian immigrants arrived on our shores in the early 1900's, but, we have the GI's returning home to the States from Italy during and after World War II for pizza's induction into the American mainstream. Because they had a hankering for the pizza they had eaten while stationed overseas, its popularity soared. We adopted it, glorified it, gave it a place of honor, and, made it our own. Few foods are more comforting than a "za" or a "slice", and, we Americans buy over...... View full recipe for "~ Mel's Caramelized Onion & Gruyere Cheese Pizza~"

04/30/2016

~ Unstuffed: Deconstructed Stuffed Cabbage Rolls ~

Deconstruct. It is perhaps the oddest new-age foodie word I have ever encountered. When the word "deconstructed" appears in front of a menu item, I find myself wanting to ask, "what was wrong with it to begin with?" That's because, historically, in my kitchen, the reason for me to deconstruct, or, "dismantle a dish piece by piece", is usually to find out why a recipe doesn't work. In today's world, it's trendy for some chefs to artfully arrange the wreckage on a plate, serve it "deconstructed", then, charge you twice as much to put it back together on your fork....... View full recipe for "~ Unstuffed: Deconstructed Stuffed Cabbage Rolls ~"

03/09/2016

~ An Awesome Angry Sauce: Arrabbiata (w/Shrimp)~

If you are a person that likes your food "extra spicy", asks the chef to "add extra heat" to your meal, and, has an epic variety of bottled hot sauces stored on the door of your refrigerator, the Italian word "arrabbiata" is one you probably have in your vocabulary. Loosely translated, it means "angry" or "angry mood", and, when you order a dish "a la arrabbiata", or, "in the style of anger", you've given the chef carte blanche to throw a healthy dose of "peperonchino" ("crushed red pepper flakes") into your dinner. Arrabbiata is also a popular, easy-to-make, meatless, spicy...... View full recipe for "~ An Awesome Angry Sauce: Arrabbiata (w/Shrimp)~"

02/14/2016

~ A Peachy All-White-Meat 'Melanie' Chicken Salad ~

Chicken salad -- I'm persnickity about it. If the chicken is the least bit dry, or kinda gray looking because it's made with leg and thigh meat, I won't touch it. It's gotta be moist, fork tender, nicely seasoned and snowy white. Poaching chicken breasts or tenders in a mild court bouillon accomplishes all of that (and feel free to do it), but, for me, there is nothing tastier than the juicy white meat pulled away from the breast bone of a perfectly-roasted whole chicken. "You can always judge the quality of a cook or a restaurant by roast chicken."...... View full recipe for "~ A Peachy All-White-Meat 'Melanie' Chicken Salad ~"

02/11/2016

~ Back to Basics, Plain & Simple, Date & Nut Bread ~

I found myself chewing on some dried, pitted dates yesterday. Nothing unusual in that. We were visiting my parents and my mom stepped out to go to the hairdresser. I volunteered to organize her refrigerator and freezer for her while she was gone. That might sound odd, but, I like to organize everything and my mom gives me carte blanche to organize whatever the h*** I want when I'm there. I found dates in the her refrigerator. The mind works in mysterious ways. Dates yesterday, a vintage date-nut quick-bread recipe today. Recipes for Date & Walnut Bread started being published...... View full recipe for "~ Back to Basics, Plain & Simple, Date & Nut Bread ~"

01/29/2016

~ Sauerkraut Yesterday -- Sauerkraut Cakes Today ~

I'm feeling brave today. I'm going to share an intriguing recipe for sauerkraut that even some of you fermented-cabbage lovers might not know about: 'kraut cakes. These are the cabbage world's version of the potato pancake, and its cousin, the mashed potato cake -- recipes that hail from our Eastern European ancestors (necessity-driven, inventive cooks who knew how to stretch and transform leftover 'this or that' into a delicious new meal). Pair these up with some pan-fried kielbasa coins, a bit of brown mustard and/or a bowl of warm applesauce to the side and you've got a 30-minute-or-less, winner-winner, 'kraut-cake...... View full recipe for "~ Sauerkraut Yesterday -- Sauerkraut Cakes Today ~"

01/24/2016

~ Old-Fashioned Oatmeal-Raisin-Walnut Cookies ~

Oatmeal -- I've loved it since the first spoonful of Gerber's got fed to me (or so I am told). I like my oatmeal creamy and smooth, I like it thick and lumpy, and, I especially like it crispy on the outside and chewy in the center of a cookie. I prefer oatmeal cookies to chocolate chip cookies and I do not like chocolate chips in my oatmeal cookies. If you are an oatmeal cookie lover, you already have a favorite recipe. If you are in search of "the best" or "ultimate" oatmeal cookie recipe, you'll not find any claims...... View full recipe for "~ Old-Fashioned Oatmeal-Raisin-Walnut Cookies ~"

12/12/2015

~ A Rustic Wintertime Chicken & Mushroom Risotto ~

Sometimes you just know when you've got to to slow down, take a step back, and, allow your mind to unwind. Today is that day. 'Tis the busiest time of year and I need a bit of stress-relieving "kitchen therapy". What's on the agenda for my self-imposed holiday from the world? An afternoon of movies on my kitchen TV, a glass or three of wine, and, cooking a nice and slow, laid-back pot of my favorite rich, creamy and comforting chicken risotto for dinner. "There are no two ways to make risotto. Either you make it right or it is...... View full recipe for "~ A Rustic Wintertime Chicken & Mushroom Risotto ~"

12/09/2015

~ Easy, Creamy & Dreamy: Mushroom Bruschetta ~

My history with this decadent dish dates back to December, 2011. I ordered it in a recently-restored, historic hotel and fine-dining restaurant in our area. Everything my girlfriend Jeanne and I ate that afternoon was superb, but, this dish, my appetizer, blew me away. I liked it so much, I left a big tip and asked for the recipe. A few minutes later, I was handed a computer-generated copy. If you've ever been given a recipe by a chef, you know there is not much too it: a very short list of ingredients, garnishes, and, a few cryptic instructions. Chef's...... View full recipe for "~ Easy, Creamy & Dreamy: Mushroom Bruschetta ~"

12/07/2015

~ Dad's Mac & Cheese, or: What I Cook Just for Me ~

This isn't the recipe I planned to post today, but, it's what I'm cooking today, so, why not take a few photos along the way and type a few words too -- it's easy for me to do. Joe is traveling, so, what I eat on this day is all about me, and coincidentally, while entertaining some friends on Saturday, I got asked, "when you're not cooking for the blog or TV, what do you cook just for you?" It's not the first time I've been asked this, and, my answer is always the same: "Most times I just make...... View full recipe for "~ Dad's Mac & Cheese, or: What I Cook Just for Me ~"

11/22/2015

~ Pass the Buckwheat Blini: We are Serving Caviar ~

"I'd rather have a hot dog than caviar." That's how I feel about caviar, so, when I came across that quote by famed Colombian race car driver Juan Pablo Montoya, I had to share it. Don't get me wrong, caviar is not on my 'foods I hate' list, I just like a long list of other things more, and, I love the humorous comparison. From a perceived foodie standpoint, caviar vs. a hot dog is the difference between "classy" and "trashy", which makes me feel a bit naughty in a Groucho Marx sort of way. That said, a lot of...... View full recipe for "~ Pass the Buckwheat Blini: We are Serving Caviar ~"

11/20/2015

~ Please Pass the Caviar: Russian Buckwheat Blini ~

For centuries, these small yeast-risen buckwheat pancakes have been traditional fare on the opulent "zakuska table" ("appetizer table") at important Russian gatherings and festive celebrations. "Zakuska" literally means "little bite". Stacks of them are served alongside iced bowls of pickled herring, smoked sturgeon, salmon, many types of caviar, aspics and pates. There are plenty of condiments too: tangy sour cream, finely-chopped eggs, onions, briny pickles and sauteed mushroom mixtures. No one can eat just one blin (singular), so, make plenty, and, don't forget to freeze the Russian vodka as an accompaniment -- it's mandatory. "Nasdrovia": "to health" and "thanks for...... View full recipe for "~ Please Pass the Caviar: Russian Buckwheat Blini ~"

11/07/2015

~ Hungarian Galuska (Small Soft Eggy Dumplings) ~

Raise your hand if you love doughy, hand-crafted noodles and dumplings. Among my favorites: flat and square Pennsylvania Deutsch pot pie noodles, odd-shaped short strands of German spatzle, my mom's almost-golf-ball-sized Russian halusky, small and nubby Italian gnocchi, and, I'm about to add these Hungarian galuska to this list (very, very similar to spatzle, galuska, a bit more "bare bones", are typically made with water, not milk, and contain no nutmeg). "If you can't make galuska, you can't cook Hungarian!" If you want to dabble in putting some authentic Hungarian fare on your family's table, which I have been doing...... View full recipe for "~ Hungarian Galuska (Small Soft Eggy Dumplings) ~"

11/04/2015

~ Gizella's Hungarian Potato Soup (Krumpli Leves) ~

I'm no J. Edgar Hoover, but, in my office, there is a well-organized file drawer in my credenza containing nothing but recipes that I've collected from foodies I've encountered over the years -- if you can make it there, you can make it anywhere. Because I know or knew each foodie personally, I know these recipes are kitchen-tested and tasty. One such file, marked "Gizella" is a 1"-thick compendium of her recipes, many of which are from her country of birth: Hungary. Lucky for me, for a few short years, on occasion, I got to eat Gizella's food, and, it...... View full recipe for "~ Gizella's Hungarian Potato Soup (Krumpli Leves) ~"

11/02/2015

~ Mrs. Varga's Evolving Hungarian Paprikas Recipe ~

Although limited, my encounters with Hungarian cuisine have all been good ones, and, to the best of my knowledge, authentic too. While my family is not Hungarian, we are Eastern European (of the Slovakian type), which means the food of other Eastern European countries, generally speaking, appeals to our appetites. Thanks to a recipe my mom got from a Hungarian co-worker, she made really good Hungarian "goulyas". As for paprikas, that's a recipe I got from my current neighbor Gabriella's mother (both of whom immigrated from Hungary to the USA in the 1950's). A copy of Gizella Varga's paprikas was...... View full recipe for "~ Mrs. Varga's Evolving Hungarian Paprikas Recipe ~"

10/31/2015

~ My A-1 All-Purpose Bread-Machine Pizza Dough ~

A great pizza starts with a great crust, but, finding a pizza dough recipe to suit your requirements is not as easy as the ingredients list indicates: flour, water, salt, yeast, and sometimes sugar and/or olive oil. Cooks who take pizza making seriously have more than one pizza dough recipe in their repertoire because certain pizzas require a certain type of crust -- there's no getting around it. Beyond that, within each type, everyone who takes pizza making seriously, professionally or at home, makes their dough a bit differently. Pizza dough and pizza is personal -- there's no getting around...... View full recipe for "~ My A-1 All-Purpose Bread-Machine Pizza Dough ~"

10/23/2015

~ Baked Ziti Casserole w/Sausage & Four Cheeses ~

Do you have a favorite casserole recipe? You know "the one". The one your family loves, the one you take to potluck, the one you donate to a good cause, the one you give to a sick friend -- the one you've made so many times you've got the recipe committed to memory. Every really good cook or chef, of any level, will be the first to admit they have at least two or three "go to" casserole recipes in their repertoire. I'm no exception and this one is at the top of my short list. When it comes to...... View full recipe for "~ Baked Ziti Casserole w/Sausage & Four Cheeses ~"

09/17/2015

~ Hot Diggity Dog: New Jersey's Italian Hot Dogs +: Mel's Version of the NJ 'Pizza Bread' Hot Dog Roll ~

I think I was a hot dog in a past life -- that's how much I love hot dogs. If that is true, I was a Jerzey Girl in a past life, because, New Jersey is hot dog heaven. If a hot dog can make it there, it can make it anywhere. There are more hot dog stands, carts and trucks there than anywhere on this planet -- and I mean anywhere. I've heard NJ referred to as "the cradle of hot dog civilization", which pretty much sums up the hot dog universe as I know it. That said, I...... View full recipe for "~ Hot Diggity Dog: New Jersey's Italian Hot Dogs +: Mel's Version of the NJ 'Pizza Bread' Hot Dog Roll ~"

09/15/2015

~ Mel's Rotolo di Pizza (Stuffed Pizza Rolls/Bread) ~

This rolled sandwich, containing a savory combination of antipasto staples, is in the top five of my family's any-time-of-day snacks -- it's a perfect lunch too. My kids always called it pizza bread, because before it's sliced it looks like a loaf of bread. Once sliced, it reveals a cross between everything they love about a pizza and everything they love about a baked sub (hoagie) -- sans the shredded lettuce and sliced tomato. I'd been making it for years before I heard Mary Ann Esposito refer to it as "Rotolo di Pizza" on her Ciao Italia TV show. From...... View full recipe for "~ Mel's Rotolo di Pizza (Stuffed Pizza Rolls/Bread) ~"

08/31/2015

~Philadelphia-Style Cheesesteak Pizza a la Melanie~

I haven't decided if this post is going to be a rant or not. I'll just keep writing and see where I end up. As a well-seasoned woman who spent quite a bit of her young-adult life in Philadelphia, from my perspective, the iconic Philly cheesesteak neither needs nor deserves a "new twist" on it. That said, conceptually, I clearly see how it could be morphed into a pizza IF one plays by some long-standing, well-defined Philly cheesesteak rules (which apparently, many misguided pizza lovers are too lazy to research). Ok, I suppose I'm headed in the direction of a...... View full recipe for "~Philadelphia-Style Cheesesteak Pizza a la Melanie~"

08/19/2015

~ For the Times When Ya Just Gotta Have Piccata ~

Lemon and Pepper Seasoning has been on my spice rack for as long as I've had my spice rack. The brand I use is a tasty blend of black pepper, sea salt, sugar, dehydrated lemon peel, garlic, onion and citric acid (which gives it its signature tang and "pop"). I'm certain I could mix up my own blend, but, I like the stuff I use too much to bother. It's a great seasoning for cooked or steamed vegetables -- I particularly like it tossed into broccoli, cauliflower or Summer squash. It's excellent judiciously incorporated into mild-flavored protein dishes too --...... View full recipe for "~ For the Times When Ya Just Gotta Have Piccata ~"

08/16/2015

~ Lemon-Pepper Pasta & Oodles of Zucchini Noodles w/Butter, Basil, Peperoncino & Parmgiano-Reggiano~

Pasta and noodles. Noodles and Pasta. It's hard for most of us to resist either in any shape or form any time of the year. Both staples in the world's kitchens, over the years, on our travels, I've experienced myriads of cultural versions. To the best of my recollection, I've never encountered a pasta or noodle dish that I didn't like, and, I don't think I've ever observed anyone eat either and walk away in a bad mood. Pasta and noodles are quintessential feel-good fare. What exactly is the difference between noodles and pasta? The difference between noodle dough and...... View full recipe for "~ Lemon-Pepper Pasta & Oodles of Zucchini Noodles w/Butter, Basil, Peperoncino & Parmgiano-Reggiano~"

08/13/2015

~ My Electric-Extruder Pasta-Machine Pasta-Dough ~

I love my pasta machine. By today's standards, it's is a dinosaur. It celebrated its 25th birthday over the weekend. I celebrated my 60th birthday over the weekend. It was my 35th birthday present. How's that for Kitchen Countertop Appliance Statistics 101. I'm hoping "they still make 'em like they used to" because the Italian-made Simac is an amazing piece of high-quality equipment. It has earned a place on my kitchen counter right next to my Simac gelato machine. No store-bought pasta product compares to scratch-made pasta in taste or texture. I've hand-mixed plenty of pasta dough and a put...... View full recipe for "~ My Electric-Extruder Pasta-Machine Pasta-Dough ~"

08/03/2015

~ Golden Goddess: Shiro Plum & Egg Custard Tart ~

Plums fall into two categories: European and Japanese. Did you know that? I never knew that. I grew up thinking all plums were blue-ish purple and they showed up in farmers markets in August. Mostly I remember my mom putting them in a bowl on the kitchen counter for us to snack on 2-3-4 at a time -- nobody can eat just one plum. My grandmother turned them into thick jam, which we adored slathered on crepe-like pancakes called palacinki. And -- you can't grow up in an Eastern European house without acquiring a taste for slivovitz (plum brandy). Mel...... View full recipe for "~ Golden Goddess: Shiro Plum & Egg Custard Tart ~"

07/02/2015

~ Hungarian Sour Cherry Soup (Hideg Meggyleves) ~

In my opinion, sour cherries are one of the most regal, refined fruits you will ever eat. My grandmother simply referred to these ruby-red jewels as "pie cherries", but, if you are on a quest to purchase them, they are sometimes marketed as "tart cherries". Joe and I live at a high elevation here in Central Pennsylvania, which I have come to learn is ideal for them, which is why our tree thrives, and thrives, and thrives. That said, even in this ideal environment, the sour cherry season is quite brief, with the cherries being ready to pick at the...... View full recipe for "~ Hungarian Sour Cherry Soup (Hideg Meggyleves) ~"

06/30/2015

~ Cheese-Filled Blintzes with Sour-Cherry Topping ~

Whoa Nellie -- please hold -- wait a minute -- is Mel making blintzes or blini? That's a valid question with an all-too-often misunderstood answer. Most experts will tell you the name is used interchangeably all over Central and Eastern Europe, with "blinchick" being the generic word for pancake in general, and, "blintchiki" being the plural. The slang terms "blintz" and "blin" were born from those words, and, nowadays, here in the USA, what they're called depends upon where your European ancestors came from, where they settled when they immigrated to America, and, who your American grandma got her recipe...... View full recipe for "~ Cheese-Filled Blintzes with Sour-Cherry Topping ~"

05/19/2015

~Eliot's Angel Hair Pasta with Creamy Vodka Sauce~

Eliot, our middle son, developed a somewhat serious interest in cooking around the age of fourteen (1985-ish). I allow myself to believe it had something to do with me, but, if there is one thing I have learned over the years it's: you can lead a horse to water, but you can't make him drink. Not the case with Eliot and cooking. For the most part, he had a natural instinct for combining the right spices with the right ingredients. When he got old enough to take on a Summer job, he became a waiter in an upscale, downtown Italian...... View full recipe for "~Eliot's Angel Hair Pasta with Creamy Vodka Sauce~"

04/07/2015

~ Farfalle w/Roasted Asparagus & Grape Tomatoes ~

Today we enjoyed our first thick, juicy outdoor-grilled steak of the Spring season. Yes, Joe does grill off-and-on throughout the Winter, but, there's just something celebratory about the official opening day of grill season. This simple, straightforward side-dish was the only thing I needed to turn a steak-on-a-plate into our entire meal, and, we gobbled it all up. While this pasta dish goes great with chicken or shrimp tossed into it, I enjoy it the most served next to a steak. That said, it is also well-balanced enough to be served "as is" as a dang-good meatless meal. This has...... View full recipe for "~ Farfalle w/Roasted Asparagus & Grape Tomatoes ~"

04/01/2015

~ Macadamia-Mango, Coconut-Rum Banana-Bread ~

From the day I got married, I began celebrating two Easter holidays. One for Joe's loud, Italian-Catholic family and one for my quiet Russian, Eastern Orthodox family. While the theme for both is the same, the foodie traditions are very different. To make a long story as short as possible, they fall on different dates because the Orthodox religion follows the Julian calendar (the calendar of Julius Caesar that was introduced in 46 B.C.), and, the Catholic church follows the Gregorian calendar (instituted by Pope Gregory XIII in 1582). The Pope's reformed calendar was slow to catch on in religions...... View full recipe for "~ Macadamia-Mango, Coconut-Rum Banana-Bread ~"

02/28/2015

~ Creamy Smashed Cheddar 'n Mint Gold Potatoes ~

Lots of people add cheddar cheese to mashed or smashed potatoes. It's a well-documented fact that "everthing tastes betta with chedda". That said, if you've never tasted cheddar potatoes with dried mint flakes added to them, I implore to take a page out of my playbook. Don't roll your eyes. I've served these potatoes to a couple of schooled restaurant chefs who have changed their menus to serve "Mel's potatoes" with lamb or lamb chops. You gotta trust me on this one! I didn't invent the pairing of potatoes, cheese and mint. My Eastern European ancestors did that for me....... View full recipe for "~ Creamy Smashed Cheddar 'n Mint Gold Potatoes ~"

02/17/2015

~ Aurora's 'Famous' Chicken Pepperoni Seems Like Old Times (Dinner and a Funny Movie Review too!) ~

I've got a movie on my menu tonight. Neil Simon's 'Seems Like Old Times' (starring Chevy Chase, Goldie Hawn and Charles Grodin) is a feel-good blast from my retro 1980's past. I'm not usually a fan of romantic comedies, but, this one keeps me laughing out loud from start to finish every time I see it. It's no secret that in order to write this blog and do my TV segments I work almost nonstop in my kitchen. Having always been a movie buff, movies on my kitchen TV keep me company throughout the entire day. Seems Like Old Times...... View full recipe for "~ Aurora's 'Famous' Chicken Pepperoni Seems Like Old Times (Dinner and a Funny Movie Review too!) ~"

02/15/2015

~ My Grandma's Butter-Braised Cabbage & Carrots ~

Both of my grandmothers' kitchens were close to home -- dad's mom lived 4-5 miles from us, mom's mom lived 9-10. We visited them both often, and, both of them every Sunday -- lunch at mom's mom's, dinner at dad's mom's. Until I was age ten or eleven and invited to my girlfriend Cathy's house for Sunday dinner, I assumed everybody's house smelled like cabbage on a Sunday. We Eastern Europeans cook "Sunday cabbage" like Italians cook "Sunday gravy"! Braised cabbage is buttery & melt-in-your mouth tender! I like cabbage a lot, but I wouldn't say I'm "crazy for cabbage"....... View full recipe for "~ My Grandma's Butter-Braised Cabbage & Carrots ~"