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

11/26/2014

~ Basic, Moist & Classic: Soft White Bread Stuffing ~

This is the stuffing that takes us back to the beginning. Grandma ripped up some stale bread then tossed in some sauteed celery and onion seasoned with salt, pepper, and perhaps an herb or two. Once she mixed those together, she slowly added some turkey stock, just enough to make the mixture really moist without any liquid puddling in the bottom of the bowl. Sometimes she added a lightly-beaten egg too. "Back in the day", oven space in the home kitchen was almost always limited, so, stuffing was almost always baked inside the bird -- a smart way to get...... View full recipe for "~ Basic, Moist & Classic: Soft White Bread Stuffing ~"

11/24/2014

~ Nobody's Pizza - For the Somebody in All of Us!!! ~

Pizza makes me happy. I'm not alone. It's my belief that next to watching baseball, eating pizza is America's favorite past time. Everybody goes to the ball park and the pizza shop to have a good time. If you're a traveler in search of the perfect slice, the one made just for you, you already know it's important to not give too much credence to personal recommendations and published "pizza shop reviews". I've been burned way too many times paying attention to that over-rated banter. Pizza, like toothpaste, is personal. Some of the best pizza is the simplest, and, is...... View full recipe for "~ Nobody's Pizza - For the Somebody in All of Us!!! ~"

11/06/2014

~ Tettie's Baked Mashed-Potato Stuffing Casserole ~

If you're sarcastically mumbling, "just what the food world needs, another stuffing recipe", you are going to regret it. This is my Great Aunt Mary's recipe -- she lived to be 99 and was one of the best cooks I have ever known. This is a trip back to a kinder, gentler time. A time before self-appointed gourmets and TV celebrities started adding everything from chorogi artichokes to whortleberries to stuffing. This is pure, simple, unadulterated, beloved, comfort food: that warm, soft, subtly-flavored white bread stuffing that nobody talks openly about but everybody remembers, loves and longs for. Cathy Guisewhite,...... View full recipe for "~ Tettie's Baked Mashed-Potato Stuffing Casserole ~"

09/12/2014

~Italian Basil, Tomato, Garlic, Parm & Pepper Butter~

Historically, the French and the Italians agree to disagree often over "who invented what" culinarily. While writing Tuesday's post ~ The Savory-Sweet Simplicity of Compound Butter ~ (click on the Related Article link below to read it), I told you the French word for it is "beurre compose". Try as I did, research didn't turn up any historical references to what the formal Italian name for compound butter is. This surprised me, so, I asked my Facebook friend (an authority on authentic Italian regional cooking). "As far as I know, in general Italian cooking, there is no use of compound...... View full recipe for "~Italian Basil, Tomato, Garlic, Parm & Pepper Butter~"

09/06/2014

~ Farfalle w/Butter, Basil, Peperoncino & Parmesan (Basic Pasta al Burro con Formaggino w/Panache) ~

When I'm having a serious late night snack attack, the kind that two or three slices of cheese, some salty deli meat and a few crackers can't cure, for me, a one-pot pasta dish is always on my short list. The criteria: it must be simple, straightforward, seriously flavorful, and, on my plate in the time it takes to pour a glass of wine and cook the pasta -- start to finish: 15 minutes tops! Pasta al Burro con Formaggino (Pasta w/Butter & Cheese): The Italians came up with a solution for the snack attack centuries ago in the form...... View full recipe for "~ Farfalle w/Butter, Basil, Peperoncino & Parmesan (Basic Pasta al Burro con Formaggino w/Panache) ~"

09/04/2014

~ When Life Hands You a Basket of Grape Tomatoes: Get Sauced - Make a Batch of Oven-Roasted Magic ~

Savvy cooks all know that roasting tomatoes (which contain quite a bit of natural sugar) concentrates their flavor, rendering them a truly succulent and sweet ingredient with a myriad of uses: condiments, dips, salsas, sauces, soups and side-dishes to name a few. If you are a tomato lover like me, this is great news because high-quality store-bought tomatoes can be transformed into a tasty treat with some EVOO, an herb, a spice or two, and, a stint in the oven. Unless you live in an area where high-quality store-bought tomatoes, like Campari tomatoes, ("the tomato lovers tomato") are available, the...... View full recipe for "~ When Life Hands You a Basket of Grape Tomatoes: Get Sauced - Make a Batch of Oven-Roasted Magic ~"

06/29/2014

~ Conchiglie Pasta tossed with Crispy Pancetta, a Creamy Gorgonzola Sauce, Spinach & Walnuts ~

I really did encounter this dish in a restaurant at a tennis club in Taipei! Damn straight. The year was 1986. Joe's engineering company was doing business with a manufacturing company in Taiwan. It was owned by an interesting American businessman who, having being stationed in Taipei after the Korean War, decided to return to Taiwan to live for the rest of his life. Thanks to Lee's English-speaking Taiwanese secretary, while the men were conducting business, I spent ten days being chauffered around to sight-see, eat and shop. On the last day of our stay, Lee, who knew that Joe...... View full recipe for "~ Conchiglie Pasta tossed with Crispy Pancetta, a Creamy Gorgonzola Sauce, Spinach & Walnuts ~"

06/09/2014

~The Saucey Scoop on Sugo & Ragu (& Bolognese)~

Tomato sauce. There isn't a cook that doesn't have at least one tomato sauce recipe in their repertoire. In tomato-eating cultures, there are as many versions of tomato sauce as there are cooks. They can be fresh or cooked, thick or thin, chunky or smooth, spicy or plain, simple or complex. Some can be made in five minutes, others can take five hours. Hot or cold, tomato sauce can be a condiment or a sauce for meat, poultry, fish, seafood or vegetable dishes, but, it is most commonly associated with Italian cuisine, more specifically, saucing Italian pasta dishes. A little...... View full recipe for "~The Saucey Scoop on Sugo & Ragu (& Bolognese)~"

06/06/2014

~ Mel's Rosemary-Kissed Pork Sugo w/Strozzapreti ~

This dish tastes every bit as good as it sounds and just saying it makes me salivate. If you haven't noticed, my past few posts have all included pasta in some form: bucatini (thick, hollow spaghetti), cellentani (hollow corkscrews), pappardelle (wide flat egg pasta), orecchiette (little ears), and now, strozzapreti (priest stranglers). At the end of May, a friend gave me a beautiful box of very special Italian meats, cheeses, all sorts of marinated vegetables, and, a variety of imported organic pasta. It was a thank-you gift, and, for me, it's as appreciated as jewelry. I immediately opened this treasure...... View full recipe for "~ Mel's Rosemary-Kissed Pork Sugo w/Strozzapreti ~"

06/02/2014

~ Steak Peperonata (Steak with Peppers & Onions) ~

I love almost all vegetables. When I was growing up, fresh vegetables were served with just about every meal. My mom wasn't a fancy cook, but, roast beef was served with roasted carrots, baked ham came with cabbage or brussels sprouts, meatloaf got peas, pork chops got baked beans, spaghetti got tomato sauce, T-bone steaks got corn in some form, and, hot dogs came with home fries. My dad grew some of the vegetables in his garden, my mom bought the rest at the local Hometown Farmer's Market. What's my point? Veggies weren't a threat. They were a natural part...... View full recipe for "~ Steak Peperonata (Steak with Peppers & Onions) ~"

05/30/2014

~ Roasted Campari Tomatoes with Asiago & Basil ~

Over the past couple of days I worked on a very special panzanella salad recipe. I was asked to come up with a twist on this classic Italian salad recipe by my friend and local restauranteur extrordinaire Scott Lucchesi. Let me cut to the chase, he loved my spin on this salad, and, announced it will be appearing on his sports bar and/or restaurant menus very soon. You can get my recipe for ~ Roast-Chicken Caprese-Panzanella Pasta-Salad ~ by clicking on the Related Article link below. After developing and posting any recipe, I'm often faced with primo leftover ingredients --...... View full recipe for "~ Roasted Campari Tomatoes with Asiago & Basil ~"

05/27/2014

~ Roast-Chicken Caprese-Panzanella Pasta-Salad ~

Here in the Northeastern part of the United States, the Memorial Day weekend is the official unofficial kick off to the Summer season. Gardeners fertilize their soil and plant their seeds while barbeque grillers iron their aprons and sharpen their knives. Public swimming pools and beaches open, and fishermen put their boats in the water. The young, the old and everybody in between is ready to set up their lawn chairs and move outdoors for a few months. As of yesterday afternoon, I have switched gears. I am officially in Summer meals mode, meaning: During the Summer, what I enjoy...... View full recipe for "~ Roast-Chicken Caprese-Panzanella Pasta-Salad ~"

05/21/2014

~ Pappardelle Pasta & Crispy Pancetta tossed with a Creamy Sauteed-Mushroom Asiago-Cheese Sauce ~

If this sounds like a dish you would be happy to find late at night on a restaurant "after hours" menu it is: my own. Here in Melanie's Kitchen (also known as The Preschutti Bar & Grille), we call this: "The House Pappardelle". Just like another of my house specialties, "Spaghetti a la Carbonara", it is pure, simple, perfection. Don't ask me why, but, there is just something magical about feasting on spaghetti at midnight any time of the year under any weather conditions. We've been inundated with a few days of cooler than usual, AC off/put the heat back...... View full recipe for "~ Pappardelle Pasta & Crispy Pancetta tossed with a Creamy Sauteed-Mushroom Asiago-Cheese Sauce ~"

05/15/2014

~ Roasted-Chicken Caesar-Salad Focaccia-Panini ~

Those of you who know me know that I consider a high-quality, well-constructed sandwich to be the perfect, well-balanced, portion-controlled meal. For me, a sandwich is much more than just putting a few ingredients between two slices of bread to stave off a hunger attack. Like meal making, sandwich making requires thought, and, I consider myself to be a very thoughtful sandwich crafter. I have eaten enough good and bad sandwiches in my lifetime to qualify as a sandwich snob. Sandwich ingredients can be cheap or expensive, simple or exotic, but, right down to the choice of bread and condiment,...... View full recipe for "~ Roasted-Chicken Caesar-Salad Focaccia-Panini ~"

05/13/2014

~ Peppered Ham & Eggs on Roasted Red Pepper & Foccacia Toasts w/a Tangy Asiago Cheese Sauce ~

Don't you just hate it when the title of a recipe is so long that by the time you've read it in its entirety, you've lost track of what it was describing? I do too, but, there is no short way to explain all of the amazing flavor components that come together on one plate for these eye-opening, open-faced, knife-and-fork breakfast sandwiches. Oh yea, these are surprisingly VERY easy-to-make too. All you have to do is slice some high-quality focaccia, whisk together a super-quick four-ingredient spread, stir together a three-minute cheese sauce, and, scramble some eggs! Meet my Italian answer...... View full recipe for "~ Peppered Ham & Eggs on Roasted Red Pepper & Foccacia Toasts w/a Tangy Asiago Cheese Sauce ~"

05/11/2014

~ My Rosemary & Cracked Black Pepper Focaccia ~

Focaccia is not pizza and pizza is not focaccia! Although the two resemble each other (they are both relatively flat breads), pizza dough, in comparison to focaccia dough, uses less leavening (yeast), resulting in a thinner, denser, flatter, somewhat flexible crust. Even thick-crust, square-shaped, Sicilian-style pizzas are not as thick and firm as a properly-made focaccia. Focaccia dough, which contains more yeast, rises quite a bit higher, enough for it to be sliced in half lengthwise and used as the bread for all sorts of great sandwich or panini combinations. The added leavening firms the crust to the consistency of...... View full recipe for "~ My Rosemary & Cracked Black Pepper Focaccia ~"

04/27/2014

~ Open-Faced Ham, Swiss & Rye Egg Sandwiches ~

It is for my love of Sunday brunch I am posting this, and, you can thank my husband Joe that I am posting it at all. It all started yesterday. Correction, it started at Easter. I baked my usual Berkshire ham, which gifted me with luscious leftovers. Leftovers prompted me to bake a loaf of ~ Try My Rye: It's Homemade in the Bread Machine ~ so we could enjoy ~ Melanie's Hot Russian Ham & Cheese Meltdowns ~ (grilled cheese sandwiches with a special hot Russian mustard on them). You can get these recipes by clicking on the Related...... View full recipe for "~ Open-Faced Ham, Swiss & Rye Egg Sandwiches ~"

04/24/2014

~ Try My Rye: It's Homemade in the Bread Machine ~

Rye bread is a staple of Eastern European cuisine, so, I grew up eating rye bread and loving it. We ate it toasted for breakfast, on sandwiches for lunch and as our bread course for dinner. Some of the best rye breads I have ever encountered have come out of the Jewish bakeries of New York and New Jersey. I'm no innocent when it comes to knowing great rye bread. My favorite rye breads are light ryes (as opposed to dark ryes) containing caraway seeds (a staple in the Eastern European pantry). In fact, it is the nutty, pungent, slightly-musky...... View full recipe for "~ Try My Rye: It's Homemade in the Bread Machine ~"

04/22/2014

~ Melanie's Hot Russian Ham & Cheese Meltdowns ~

Does anybody besides me have leftover holiday ham in their refrigerator? Raise your hands. I thought so. If you're like me, you bake a big ham for Easter, to insure you will have leftovers. I do the same thing for 'that other' traditional feast -- I roast a really big turkey at Thanksgiving. For a day or two after both of these holidays, I am the first one to make the first sandwich. In case you didn't know, I consider a perfectly executed sandwich one of the greatest gifts to mankind! Say cheese! April 11th was National Grilled Cheese Sandwich...... View full recipe for "~ Melanie's Hot Russian Ham & Cheese Meltdowns ~"

04/20/2014

~ Happy Easter to You All: Enjoy Your Family Feast ~

Happy Easter! I've been cooking up a storm for the past few days in anticipation and preparation for my family's annual Russian Orthodox Easter feast. Whatever your heritage, if you are of the Christian faith and the family cook, you are well aware of the organizational skills it takes to 'pull off' this yearly extravaganza. If your heritage dictates that you serve the same traditional ethnic food each year, from time-honored recipes handed down from generation to generation, you didn't learn how to do this by osmosis. Somewhere along the line you took it upon yourself to learn how to...... View full recipe for "~ Happy Easter to You All: Enjoy Your Family Feast ~"

03/26/2014

~An End of Winter Ricotta & Spinach 'Pizza' Quiche~

Pizza quiche? If you're thinking those two words don't belong together in the same sentence, you have two choices: read on or move on. Busy moms who know how to cook are notorius for pulling an inventive, delicious meal out of their apron pocket in the blink of an eye. Busy moms who have the creativity to give it a kid-friendly name, especially if it's got spinach or broccoli in it, are natural born story tellers. As I always say, "there is more to a recipe than a list of ingredients. There is either a history or a story behind...... View full recipe for "~An End of Winter Ricotta & Spinach 'Pizza' Quiche~"

03/24/2014

~ Ricotta & Spinach Gnudi (Dumplings) w/Marinara ~

There was a period in my life when I taught cooking classes on a regular basis (which I'm just too busy to do nowadays). It was a rarity if I chose the subject matter. When a group of people or an organization wants to take a class, they usually know what it is they want to learn before they come a calling. In every class, one of the things I enjoy the most are the questions that get asked. Questions reveal two things: What is spinning around in the heads of people interested in food, and, what food trends are...... View full recipe for "~ Ricotta & Spinach Gnudi (Dumplings) w/Marinara ~"

03/19/2014

~ Ditalini Pasta con le Lenticchie (Pasta with Lentils)~

Over the past week I've shown you how to make two of my favorite "legume meals". I soaked some dried kidney beans to make hearty red beans and rice, then I made some luscious split pea soup in my slow cooker. In a nutshell, legumes are the dried seed pods of beans, peas and lentils. It wouldn't be right for me to close the pantry door on legumes without cooking some lentils, so, I'm tying a bow on the trio by making my favorite lentil dish today: pasta with lentils! In Italy, pasta with lentils is very common. Here in...... View full recipe for "~ Ditalini Pasta con le Lenticchie (Pasta with Lentils)~"

03/17/2014

~Mom's Traditional Ham, Cabbage and Potato Soup~

What makes this ethnic, hearty, peasant soup traditional? Every time my mother has a meaty ham bone in her hand, she makes "ham and cabbage". It is a brothy concoction of ham, carrots, celery, onions and potatoes seasoned with nothing but salt and pepper. I grew up loving cabbage and I adore this "boiled dinner". I am Russian Orthodox (Eastern European). Cabbage juice runs through our veins -- Russian babies are born into the world loving cabbage (and potatoes). This soup was one of my father's mother's specialties! Over the course of the past week I've been extolling the joys...... View full recipe for "~Mom's Traditional Ham, Cabbage and Potato Soup~"

03/14/2014

~ Under Pressure: Ham, Cabbage and Potato Soup ~

After months of reading two of my Facebook foodie friends (Melissa Trainer and Teresa Gottier) extoll the virtues of their pressure cookers, I finally gave in. I bought one. I didn't want one, but I bought one anyway. After consulting with both friends, I decided on the kind that I believe every virgin pressure cooker owner, or, anyone who has ever witnessed one explode should buy: An electric model that can be plugged in out in the garage or down in the root cellar (and run away from as an added precaution). It arrived Wednesday. Here's why I don't trust...... View full recipe for "~ Under Pressure: Ham, Cabbage and Potato Soup ~"

02/25/2014

~ Mel's Got Spaghetti "a la Carbonara" on Her Mind (A Simple Recipe w/Fond Memories & Rich History) ~

Carbonara. A word every foodie is familiar with. Not familiar with it? Not a foodie. Don't like the word foodie? Go write your own material. Carbonara is Italian, and, if you have ever eaten it in its city of origin, Rome, or had it prepared for you by someone from Rome, you have little patience with American bastardizations. Carbonara is the definition of "simply extraordinary"! Carbonara = Pasta, Pork, Eggs, Cheese & Pepper A bit about carbonara (kar-boh-NAH-rah): (The following is a run-on sentence.) Carbonara is a dish of al dente pasta (usually bucatini or thick spaghetti) tossed into a...... View full recipe for "~ Mel's Got Spaghetti "a la Carbonara" on Her Mind (A Simple Recipe w/Fond Memories & Rich History) ~"

02/21/2014

~ Rainy Days & Lazy Fridays: My Winter Minestrone w/Anelletti Pasta & Garnished w/Parm & Pancetta ~

After almost two months of weather-related captivity, I am declaring a ban on weather forecasts. They stop now. I will no longer listen to them or watch them. It's high time I stood up to these masters of disasters. I've wasted precious time allowing them to affect me. I am a domestic goddess -- this title comes with priviledges. I do not have to go outside. From this day forward: "What happens outside, stays outside. All that really matters each day is what's cookin' on the inside!" ~ Melanie Today is a soup day. I decided to make minestrone because...... View full recipe for "~ Rainy Days & Lazy Fridays: My Winter Minestrone w/Anelletti Pasta & Garnished w/Parm & Pancetta ~"

02/13/2014

~ Chocolate, Vanilla and Butterscotch 'Icebox' Cake~

My three favorite flavors of pudding are chocolate, vanilla and butterscotch. Banana pudding comes in a close fourth. About the only thing I like better than any one of them is all of them layered on top of each other with graham crackers separating each flavor. This dessert was one of my mother's specialties and was my favorite. Whenever she would make it, after I got done "counting, cracking and crushing" the graham crackers for her, I would sit motionless on the counterstool, eyes transfixed on the glorious process, patiently waiting for my lick of the spoon as each pudding...... View full recipe for "~ Chocolate, Vanilla and Butterscotch 'Icebox' Cake~"

12/13/2013

~ Joy's Italian-American-Style Stuffed Bell Peppers ~

Shiver me timbers, my parade of snowstorm dinners continues! I usually make stuffed peppers once a year, in the Fall, when Joe has an excess of peppers in his garden (as pictured here). When I'm using poblano peppers, I make a Mexican-seasoned version, and, when I'm using bell peppers I go to Italian-American seasonings. While picking up a short list of staples for this weekend, I found some big, beautiful bell peppers at Wegman's today, which fast-tracked me into writing this blog post. Joe will be pleased as he really enjoys these! "Mango" is a term for "green bell pepper"?...... View full recipe for "~ Joy's Italian-American-Style Stuffed Bell Peppers ~"

11/30/2013

~ I Just Love My Mom's Cracker Stuffing Casserole ~

I just love my mother's "stuffing". When I was growing up, I could not wait for her to make it for Thanksgiving. Truthfully, I always wished she would have made it more than once a year, but, alas, that was not the case. It's a simple mixture of saltine crackers soaked in milk and eggs with sauteed celery, onions and ground beef added to it. Yes, I said ground beef. My mom disliked turkey giblets (thankfully I did not inherit that gene), so, she substituted the ground meat to mimic the look and mouth feel of them. That substitution makes...... View full recipe for "~ I Just Love My Mom's Cracker Stuffing Casserole ~"

11/23/2013

~ How to: Make 'French' Crepes (Sweet or Savory) ~

I'm pretty certain everyone knows what a crepe is, but, I'm not so sure everyone knows how simple they are to make. I say this because almost every time I serve them, someone inevitably remarks how intimidated they are at the thought of "tackling" them. While I can't say crepes are a staple in my kitchen, I don't hesitate to get out my crepe pan and make a few for breakfast, lunch, dinner or dessert. That is how easy they are. Crepes are to a chef what an empty canvas is to a creative artist: they are the perfect foil...... View full recipe for "~ How to: Make 'French' Crepes (Sweet or Savory) ~"

09/04/2013

~Fall's Coming: Potato Chowder w/Caraway Cheese~

While Mother Nature is a force that can't be reckoned with, like any woman, she is quite predictable. If you live in a part of the United States that celebrates four distinct seasons, you know there comes a day at the end of August or the beginning of September when you walk outside and say "Fall is in the air". Today is that day here in Happy Valley, Pennsylvania. The air is crisp, cool and clean, and, people are murmuring about a possible frost this weekend! Joe spent the Labor Day weekend picking pumpkins and butternut squash (destined to become...... View full recipe for "~Fall's Coming: Potato Chowder w/Caraway Cheese~"

08/20/2013

~ "Russian" Sweet & Sour Poppy-Seed 'Vinaigrette' ~

"Russian" is in quotes because I have no idea if this salad dressing is authentic Russian! What I do know is, I grew up in an Eastern European household and ate my fair share of poppy seeds. My grandmother made a honey-sweetened paste of them to fill her poppy seed and walnut rolls for all holidays, and, sprinkled them on top of small, soft, dinner rolls too. Note: This photo is courtesy of Wikipedia. I promise to post and share my own recipes for poppy seed and walnut rolls closer to the Christmas holiday! A bit about poppy seeds: Because...... View full recipe for "~ "Russian" Sweet & Sour Poppy-Seed 'Vinaigrette' ~"

08/17/2013

~Russian Red Salad: Potato, Beet, Onion & Radish~

It's 'that' time of year here in Central PA: Mid-August. Joe's two vegetable gardens are gifting me with almost more produce than I can process. His cucumbers, Summer squash and zucchini are finally starting to wane, tomatoes and peppers are going to take up a lot of my time next week, and at present, I'm looking at a few bunches of freshly-picked radishes and red beets! I've been a lover-of-vegetables my entire life, and, growing up in an Eastern European household, root vegetables like potatoes, carrots, radishes, red beets, parsnips and turnips made regular appearances on our dinner table. Most...... View full recipe for "~Russian Red Salad: Potato, Beet, Onion & Radish~ "

08/15/2013

~ Sour-Creamy Russian Cucumber & Radish Salad ~

Most of you already know, but, for those who don't: my heritage is 'White' Russian. My husband Joe's heritage is Italian. We often joke about ours being a marriage made in culinary heaven: blini, borscht, pirogi and stuffed cabbage meets bruschetta, minestrone, ravioli and ossobuco. Thanks to the Russian Orthodox church calendar, for the most part, we get to celebrate two Christmas's and two Easter's too. These and all ethnic celebrations revolve around tables full of fabulous food and plenty of alcohol: Vodka for the Russians, Anisette for the Italians! I have an affinity for Russian fare and the Eastern...... View full recipe for "~ Sour-Creamy Russian Cucumber & Radish Salad ~"

07/16/2013

~Tapioca Pudding: Just like Grandma used to make!~

Tapioca (tap-ee-oh-kuh). You've seen it in your grocery store. Perhaps you keep a some form of it in your pantry. Tapioca is a starch commonly used as a thickener, and, because it was a staple in my grandmother's and mother's pantries, it is in mine too. My grandmother used tapioca powder to thicken jelly, quick-cooking tapioca granules to thicken pie fillings, and whole tapioca pearls to make one of my favorite childhood comfort-food desserts: tapioca pudding! A bit about tapioca: The name tapioca comes from the South American, Brazilian Tupi name "tipi-oka", which means "starch". Tapioca doesn't grow on trees...... View full recipe for "~Tapioca Pudding: Just like Grandma used to make!~"

07/09/2013

~ My Buttery Sour-Cream Sour-Cherry Pound-Cake ~

Pound cakes are a personal thing. I would never proclaim to have the best pound cake recipe, because almost everyone's mother or grandmother made the best pound cake they ever tasted and I am no exception: my grandmother made the best pound cake I ever tasted. Like all pound-cake-baking grandmas, she used the same basic pantry ingredients as everyone else (flour, sugar, butter and eggs) then embellished her cake with ingredients common to her heritage. Being of Eastern European descent (Russian), those ingredients included sour cream, sour cherries and dried sour cherries, all of which are very common to Russian...... View full recipe for "~ My Buttery Sour-Cream Sour-Cherry Pound-Cake ~"

04/12/2013

~ A Real-Deal Italian Ingredient: Balsamic Vinegar ~

The Italian word "balsamico" means "balsam-like or "curative". Balsamic vinegar was introduced to the United States in the late 1970's and quickly became the darling of restaurant chefs, followed by gourmet cooks. It is hard to believe that thirty-some years ago almost none of us in America had even heard of it. This wonderful condiment is still made in Modena, Italy, where it is aged in oak or other wooden kegs. While it is technically considered a wine-vinegar, it is not made from wine. It's made from grape pressings that have not been permitted to ferment into wine. During the...... View full recipe for "~ A Real-Deal Italian Ingredient: Balsamic Vinegar ~"

04/10/2013

~ Strawberries with (Fig-Infused) Balsamic Vinegar ~

Don't quote me on this, but strawberries just might be the most popular berry in the world. I can say with certainty they are the most popular berry in my kitchen, and I don't use them just to make desserts. I use this versatile fruit in salads, pair them with proteins (mostly chicken and pork), and, even use them to make vinaigrettes, sauces and barbeque sauces. Here in Pennsylvania, we don't typically see strawberries in our garden, or really good strawberries at really good prices in our grocery stores much before the end of April. That being said, on Saturday...... View full recipe for "~ Strawberries with (Fig-Infused) Balsamic Vinegar ~"

03/25/2013

~ Traditional Eastern-European Easter Egg-Cheese ~

Growing up in an Eastern European family and attending a Russian Orthodox Church and Sunday School etched all sorts of time-honored family and religious traditions for both the Christmas and Easter holidays in the recesses of my mind. Because I was born with a wooden spoon in my mouth, whenever my grandmother and mother were preparing the food for these two holidays, neither one of them had to coax me into the kitchen to assist. As each year passed, my responsibilities increased. By the time I was a new bride in my twenties, I was capable of preparing all of...... View full recipe for "~ Traditional Eastern-European Easter Egg-Cheese ~"

03/22/2013

~ Reunited w/a Treasured Preschutti Family Recipe: Peppery Egg & Cheese Crescia for an Italian Easter~

At Easter, Italian cooks bake a very unique, peppery egg and cheese bread called crescia (kray-shah), which means "to grow". As with almost all ethnic recipes, there are as many versions as there are cooks. My husband and his brother Tom grew up loving this bread, and I admit to being intimidated when I was faced with developing a recipe for the two of them based solely upon how they recalled it from their youth in Jessup, PA (without any first hand knowledge of it personally). After talking to a few Italian relatives from Jessup, who actually make the bread...... View full recipe for "~ Reunited w/a Treasured Preschutti Family Recipe: Peppery Egg & Cheese Crescia for an Italian Easter~"

03/20/2013

~ Winters Last Gasp: Pasta w/Ground-Meat Sauce ~

ANNOUNCEMENT: I interrupt my Spring blog posts to bring you one last comfort-food meal for a Wintery evening. Yes, 'tis true, 4"-5" of snow is falling in Centre County, PA, today! I'm sick of snow, but honestly, I've been hungry for a bowl of spaghetti with ground-meat sauce for over a week now, so, this nuisance storm is "the perfect storm" for me to cook up a pot of my version of this sauce on the stovetop. I say "my version", because, I never tasted spaghetti with ground-meat sauce until I was a teenager, and, I've never been served it...... View full recipe for "~ Winters Last Gasp: Pasta w/Ground-Meat Sauce ~"

01/02/2013

~A Blast from Jessup PA's Past: Pioneer Club Pizza~

I am starting off my 2013 posts with a "lost recipe request" from a very important Kitchen Encounters reader (and my biggest supporter): my husband Joe. On New Years Eve he reminisced to me about a pizza he used to eat when he was growing up: Pioneer Club Pizza. He asked if I would try to replicate a version of this pizza, which was unique in itself, and, to his hometown of Jessup, PA. Developing a recipe for something that you've never seen or tasted, as well as a product that hasn't existed for 30 years, is: tricky business. I...... View full recipe for "~A Blast from Jessup PA's Past: Pioneer Club Pizza~"

12/12/2012

~ Jumbo Pasta Shells Stuffed w/Four Cheeses, then: Topped & Baked in Balsamella & Marinara Sauces ~

If you are Italian, or, you've ever been in an Italian family's home over the Christmas and New Years holidays, you know it is the ultimate carb-lover's experience. I know. I am a carb lover, and I married into an Italian family back in 1980. Every Italian cook "turns up the heat" for his or her festive feast. You can smell the sauce simmering on their stovetops from all of the street corners. Women in each family gather around kitchen tables (weeks ahead of time) to make and freeze ravioli, assemble lasagna, and, oh yea, bake zillions of cookies. The...... View full recipe for "~ Jumbo Pasta Shells Stuffed w/Four Cheeses, then: Topped & Baked in Balsamella & Marinara Sauces ~"

12/02/2012

~ "Baba's Chicken": A Braised Casserole w/Gravy ~

My grandmother lived to be 98. As the oldest granddaughter, who grew up living just nine miles from her, I found myself "glued to her side" quite a bit of the time, usually in her vegetable garden or kitchen. Baba was a foodie before the word existed. Her husband, my grandfather, was a coal miner in Coaldale, PA. Baba stayed at home, raised three children, and, operated a neighborhood grocery store located on the street level of their three-story, single-family-dwelling. These were two hard-working people, making the best of their lives in a times-are-tough era. Thankfully, they passed their work-ethic...... View full recipe for "~ "Baba's Chicken": A Braised Casserole w/Gravy ~"

11/30/2012

~ Two-for-One Effortless Straightforward Side-Dishes: Roasted Caraway-Seeded Carrots & Red Potatoes ~

Roasted chicken or turkey? Pot roast or prime rib? If you're making gravy (or not), these two super-easy, quick-to-put-together, cook-at-the-same-time, seriously-delicious side-dishes will turn your weeknight table into a holiday. Too many discriptive words in the last sentece? Too bad. These two accompaniments to dinner deserve all the accolades I can give. This dynamic duo has appeared on my dinner table more times than I can count, and, I have no recollections of there ever being any leftovers. In my family, they get eaten like candy! So, last Thursday, when a reader (Susan) e-mailed to ask if I could post...... View full recipe for "~ Two-for-One Effortless Straightforward Side-Dishes: Roasted Caraway-Seeded Carrots & Red Potatoes ~"

10/27/2012

~ Sumptuous Beef-Barley,Tomato-Vegetable Soup ~

My relationship with and love of beef-barley soup goes back fifty-something years, and, my own recipe evolved over a period of the last twenty-something years. It started in my mother's kitchen. Her recipe is an old-world, Russian-style peasant soup. It is flavored with bay leaves and contains onion, celery and carrots, but, it is absent tomato products or other vegetables (mostly because my dad won't eat it if she puts tomatoes in it). My mother almost never kept homemade beef stock in her freezer, and, she didn't used canned stock for her soup either. She "made her stock while making...... View full recipe for "~ Sumptuous Beef-Barley,Tomato-Vegetable Soup ~"

05/24/2012

~ Melanie's Bolognese Sauce & Bolognese Lasagna: Veal & Rosemary-Tomato Cream Sauce & Lasagna~

This is one of my signature recipes. No, I didn't invent Bolognese sauce or Bolognese lasagna, but, my personal recipe is so special, it will suffice to say: I do not believe you will find one anywhere that is better than mine. That is that. This is a recipe I have never taught in a cooking class. It is, however, a recipe I have taught to several upscale restaurant chefs, which they have been selling/serving seasonally for more than a few years now. At The American Ale House & Grill in State College, PA, I'm proud to say it appears...... View full recipe for "~ Melanie's Bolognese Sauce & Bolognese Lasagna: Veal & Rosemary-Tomato Cream Sauce & Lasagna~"

05/10/2012

~ Fresh Chives: The 1st Herb of Our Spring Garden ~

As far back as I can remember, freshly-picked chives meant Spring had arrived and Summer was right around the corner. My dad had quite a large vegetable garden back then, and, he loved chives. My mom always stirred them into mashed potatoes and sprinkled them on top of baked potatoes. To this day, mashed or baked potatoes without chives seem naked to me. As soon as I was old enough to play with scissors, on almost a daily basis, my mom would say, "go down to daddy's garden and snip me some chives for supper". I loved their pretty purple-pink...... View full recipe for "~ Fresh Chives: The 1st Herb of Our Spring Garden ~"

04/05/2012

~ Italian Easter: Peppery Egg & Cheese Crescia ~

At Easter, Italian cooks bake a very unique egg and cheese bread called crescia (kray-shah), which means "to grow". As with almost all ethnic recipes, there are as many versions as there are cooks. My husband Joe and his brother Tom grew up loving this bread, and I must admit to being very intimidated when faced with developing a recipe for the two of them, based upon how they recalled it from their youth in Jessup, PA. After researching many recipes, and talking to a few Italian relatives from Jessup, who actually make the bread (who, I must report, in...... View full recipe for "~ Italian Easter: Peppery Egg & Cheese Crescia ~"