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

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 ~"

02/09/2015

~ A Dream of a Creamy Caraway-Spiced Carrot Soup w/Carrot Coins & Caraway-Seeded Rye Croutons!!! ~

I believe I've loved carrots since the day my mom fed me my first spoonful of Gerber strained carrots -- right out of the jar. Next to onions and celery, the carrot gets used often in my kitchen. I'll eat carrots raw, boiled, sauteed, steamed or roasted. I like them candied, pickled or marinated. I have no ax to grind with folks using canned or frozen carrots as a time saver. I love carrots in soups, stews and braises, I make a great carrot souffle, and, let's not forget carrot cake! Did you know that besides being a great source...... View full recipe for "~ A Dream of a Creamy Caraway-Spiced Carrot Soup w/Carrot Coins & Caraway-Seeded Rye Croutons!!! ~"

02/07/2015

~ Rich & Creamy Mushroom & Baked Potato Soup ~

If you are a mushroom lover, this rich, creamy and hearty version of mushroom soup is comfort food for a cold day. A big bowl along with a slice of warm bread with a slather of sweet cream butter is a delicious dinner. A small bowl with a crouton floating on top is a sumptuous start to a delicious dinner or a lovely lunch. My recipe is a spin-off from an Eastern European recipe that many refer to as "Russian Mushroom and Potato Soup". I can't use that title. Similar versions of this humble, rustic, peasant soup appear in cold-weather...... View full recipe for "~ Rich & Creamy Mushroom & Baked Potato Soup ~"

02/04/2015

~ Decadent & Divine Silky Shiitake Mushroom Soup~

I was a child 'shroomer. I loved mushrooms. Faced with a plate of sauteed mushrooms or a bowl of mushroom soup, most kids I knew would cry or retch, or both. Mushrooms tend not to bring out the best in children. Not me. I'm pretty sure it was because 'hunting 'shrooms' (picking mushrooms) was one of the things my dad and I did together. We went 'shrooming together. Interestingly enough, I was not an outdoors kinda kid. My mother always called me "her little mushroom" because I preferred to stay in my neat and organized pink bedroom quietly reading, drawing...... View full recipe for "~ Decadent & Divine Silky Shiitake Mushroom Soup~"

01/25/2015

~ Philadelphia's Famous Cheesesteaks a la Melanie~

If you have never eaten a cheesesteak sandwich in Philadelphia proper, you've never eaten a cheesesteak. Like the soft pretzel, the iconic Philly cheesesteak just tastes better in The City of Brotherly Love. Whether you're standing outside on a sticky-hot sidewalk next to a street vendor in Summer, or, standing inside against a counter in a sweaty-windowed sandwich shop in Winter, the experience, on several levels, cannot be duplicated elsewhere. Many have tried, many have come remarkably close, but everyone agrees: Philadelphia owns this sandwich. A bit about the Philadelphia Cheesesteak: Back in the 1930's, Philadelphians Pat and Harry Olivieri,...... View full recipe for "~ Philadelphia's Famous Cheesesteaks a la Melanie~"

01/19/2015

~ Black Pudding, Boudin Noir, Bloedwurst, Verivorst, Sanguinaccio, Morcilla, Kishka (Blood Sausage)!!! ~

Almost every country has a name for it, and, in any language, unless you've actually tasted it by force or otherwise, the mere idea of blood sausage is repulsive -- these two words can screw you up for life. I had a Ukranian uncle in Trenton, NJ. He ate kishka sauteed in a skillet with cabbage and potatoes -- I think Uncle Al added some form of red beets to it too, but, I didn't stick around the stove long enough be certain. I ran. As a child, it was a horrifying experience! Time marched on, I grew up, and,...... View full recipe for "~ Black Pudding, Boudin Noir, Bloedwurst, Verivorst, Sanguinaccio, Morcilla, Kishka (Blood Sausage)!!! ~"

12/16/2014

~ Savory Pecorino & Pepper Mini-Pizzelle Snackers~

'Tis the season for cookie baking, and, if you own a pizzelle iron, it undoubtedly is or will be out on your kitchen counter. Pizzelle, which is plural for pizzella (pronounced "pit-sell" with a "ts" sound like in "pizza") are large, thin, crisp, embossed wafer cookies that are formed using a special iron. It is said they were born in central Italy, in or around Rome, and were served to honor important government celebrations and family weddings because they were so beautiful to look at (not to mention delicious). Historically, each family's pizzelle iron was embossed in the center with...... View full recipe for "~ Savory Pecorino & Pepper Mini-Pizzelle Snackers~"

12/14/2014

~ When in Rome, start with: Bucatini all'Amatriciana ~

Amatrice is a town in the mountainous northeastern panhandle of Lazio, near Abruzzo (central Italy). "All' Amatriciana" means "made in the style of Amatrice and sugo Amatriciana is one of the oldest Italian sauces. It's a humble, rustic pasta dish commonly found on the restaurant menus of Rome. This immortal sauce is bold-flavored, and, like many Italian classics, it is easily prepared with a short list of ingredients, but, the list is specific and the dish is only as good as the quality of said ingredients. Recipes vary, so there is some room for improvisation, but this is seriously not...... View full recipe for "~ When in Rome, start with: Bucatini all'Amatriciana ~"

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 ~"