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11 posts from February 2011


~ How to: Remove the Silverskin from Spareribs ~

Desert Blend Ribs (Finished #1)

It is a  relaxing, quiet, calm Sunday in February here in Happy Valley.  After the busy week I just encountered, my dear husband Joe suggested I take the day off and asked me if I wanted him to cook or grill something for us to eat while watching this evenings Academy Awards.  Twist my arm!  After all of the cooking I did this past week, I am in the mood for a complete change of pace and since the weather is pretty cooperative today, we decided to make a quick run to the store and returned a couple of hours ago with three racks of baby-back spareribs.  I already have a pretty big bowl of ~ My Favorite Potato & Egg Salad ~, recipe found in Categories 4 & 10, in my refrigerator (leftover from my shoot with WHVL-TV on Wednesday).  Ribs hot off the grill and ice cold potato salad in February with my feet up watching the Oscars tonight?  That's what I'm talkin' about and I can smell the ribs cooking as I write this post!

When we got home from the store, I did what I always do.  I removed the ribs from the package, rinsed them in cold water and patted them dry in paper towels.  Joe came into the kitchen just as I was getting ready to remove the silverskin from the underside of the racks.  Joe asked, "Why do you always do that Mel... is it really necessary?"  Now, here I sit, on my day off, writing a post about removing the silverskin from spareribs!

A bit about silverskin:  Silverskin is the thin (but tough), white, silvery looking connective tissue on the underside of every rack of ribs.  The reasons for removing it are quite simple:  it makes the ribs easier to cut/eat, and, once it is removed it allows any rub you are using to flavor/penetrate the meat.  It is quite easy to remove, especially if your ribs are at room temperature, and I like to let my ribs sit out on the counter for about an hour before doing it.  Silverskin is also found on other cuts of meat, like tenderloin of beef, lamb and pork.  I remove it from those as well, but that is a different technique and will require another post.

Desert Blend Ribs #2 (Removing Silver Skin) Starting at the narrow end of each rack, use the tip of a boning knife (or a very sharp paring knife) to separate a small 1/2"-3/4" piece of the silverskin from the meat.  Using your fingertips and a firm grip, pull/tear the silverskin off of the entire surface.  If it does not come off in one piece, use the knife to separate a second piece and continue.  This entire process only takes 1-2 minutes per rack of ribs!

Removing Silverskin from Ribs #3 (Closeup) This simple technique is going to make for a beautiful presentation at the end and will actually allow your spice blend to penetrate the meat, rather than just sit on top of the silverskin and do absolutely nothing. 

Listen to me on this one folks:  be a pro and remove the silverskin!  As you can see from the picture at the head of this post, which  I just inserted after the fact, ribs with the silverskin removed are happier ribs! 

Removing Silverskin from Ribs #5 How to:  Remove the Silverskin from Spareribs:  Recipe yields the technique to remove the silverskin from the underside of all ribs!

Special Equipment List:  boning knife or very sharp paring knife

Cook's Note:  Remember to rinse your ribs, pat them dry in some paper towels and give them time to come to room temperature prior to removing the silverskin!

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos Courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2011)  


~ My Basic Baked Ziti w/Sausage & Three-Cheeses ~

Baked Ziti #3One of my regular readers asked me if I could/would share a main-dish pasta casserole recipe that was not lasagna.  She went on to say that while she likes lasagna, she wanted a recipe that she could prepare quickly on a weeknight or casual Friday for her family and friends.  She wanted something she could "just scoop out and serve with a salad to the side".  What I found interesting was, she sounded a bit apologetic for asking me for this type of recipe -- as if a casserole would be "beneath me."  Trust me, I love a great casserole as much as next person!

IMG_3395Every really good cook or chef, of any level, ALWAYS has a couple of this type of delicious and quick-to-put-together casseroles in their repertoire.  If they don't admit to that, they are not telling you the truth.  After pondering this for a few moments, I started asking myself why I hadn't posted  any casserole recipes like this on my blog to date.  The truth be told, I have shared this recipe with so many people over the years, it probably should have been one of my first posts.  

Make someones day -- make a great casserole!

IMG_3422When our boys were growing up, I made this recipe quite often.  Our kids, their friends and even the parents could not get enough of it.  Over the years I've served it at cub scout meetings, grade school fundraisers, Penn State tailgates, various church pot-lucks, and, sadly, even one neighborhood funeral.  My son Jess makes this, so does my cousin Victor, and Joe's mother loves it, which is fine by me, because it is really quick and easy to prepare.  After our boys "left the nest", this recipe gradually made its way to the bottom of my recipe box, where it stayed for several years.  Then, in 1999, the sensational HBO series The Sopranos hit  the television airwaves.  Suddenly, after the very first episode aired, everyone wanted to know how to make baked ziti... and I found myself handing out printed copies of my recipe to all of my friends!

Baked Ziti #4 (Ingredients)
















1  pound ziti, penne, rigatoni, or a combination of tubes, shells and spirals

1  stick butter, cut into pieces, at room temperature

4  tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

2  pounds sweet or hot Italian sausage, links or rings, the best available

1  cup port wine

2  24-ounce jars, store-bought marinara or tomato-basil sauce, your favorite brand (I usually use my own homemade sauce, which I have on hand in my freezer, so by all means use your own if you've got it.)

8  ounces store-bought, pre-grated provolone and mozzarella cheese (You can pre-grate these two cheeses if you want to, but it is not going to make much of a difference so:  "let it go"!)

1/2  cup  finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese (Always use the real thing and grate it yourself.)

Italian seasoning blend or dried oregano, for sprinkling over the top

red pepper flakes, for sprinkling over the top (optional)

no-stick cooking spray, for preparing casserole dish

Baked Ziti #5 (Sausage Coined)

~ Step 1.  Place 4 tablespoons of olive oil in a 12" skillet, preferably nonstick.  Without removing casing from the sausage, slice it into 1/2" coins, placing them in the pan as you work.  Note:  In kitchen terminology, the verb "coin" means to create a coin shape, either by stamping, like a dough with a round cookie cutter, or slicing a cylindrical object, like a carrot, with a knife.

Baked Ziti # 6 (Browned Sausage and Deglaze with Wine) ~ Step 2.  Over medium-high heat, saute the sausage coins until they are just cooked through and lightly browned, stirring frequently, about 12-15 minutes.

The coins will resemble little browned meatballs!

Slowly add the wine.  Using a nonstick spatula, deglaze the pan by gently scraping all of the little browned bits from the bottom of the pan.

Baked Ziti # 7 (Sausage Balls in Sauce)~ Step 3.  Add the marinara or tomato-basil sauce.  Adjust heat to gently simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, for about 15-20 minutes.

Remove  skillet from heat.  Set aside for about 1 hour, to allow the flavors to marry, or, until ready to cook the pasta and assemble the casserole.  Doesn't this look just wonderful?

Baked Ziti # 8 (Cooked Pasta  Butter)~ Step 4.  In an 8-quart stockpot, bring 5 quarts of water to a rolling boil over high heat.  Add and cook the pasta until al dente, about 9 minutes.  Do not overcook:  remember, the pasta is going to bake in the oven!

Drain thoroughly and immediately return the steaming hot pasta to the still warm stockpot.  Place the stockpot on the still warm stovetop.  Add the butter.  Gently stir until butter is melted and pasta is evenly coated.  Allow to rest, about 2-3 minutes, stirring occasionally, until there is no longer any butter puddling in the bottom of the pot. 

Baked Ziti # 10~ Step 5.  Gently add and stir all of the sausage pieces and sauce into the cooked pasta.

At this point, I personally like to let the mixture sit in the warm stockpot for about 10 additional minutes, stirring occasionally.  This is not an absolute requirement, but it allows the pasta a bit of time to pre-absorb some of the sauce and I highly recommend it!

IMG_3392Step 6.  Transfer the mixture from the stockpot into a 9" x 13" x 2" casserole that has been sprayed with no-stick cooking spray.  Do not pack or press mixture down.  Distribute grated mozzarella and provolone over all, followed by the Parmigiano-Reggiano.  Sprinkle with the Italian seasoning blend and optional red pepper flakes.

IMG_3404~ Step 7.  Cover loosely with aluminum foil.  Bake on center rack of preheated 350 degree oven, about 20-25 minutes.  Uncover and bake an additional 10-15 minutes, or until cheeses are lightly browned, bubbly and the casserole is heated through and steaming.  Remove from oven and allow to rest, 15-20 minutes prior to serving:

IMG_6185My Basic Baked Ziti w/Sausage & Three-Cheeses:  Recipe yields 8-12 servings.

Special Equipment List:  cutting board; chef's knife; cheese grater; 12" skillet, preferably nonstick; 1-cup measuring container; spatula; 8-quart stockpot; colander; large spoon; 3-quart (13" x 9" x 2") casserole dish;  aluminum foil

Cook's Note:  This is one of those easy "go to" recipes that you will use over and over again.  There is nothing fancy or gourmet about it... just unpretentious and delicious goodness.  I hope you will share this recipe with as many people as I have over the years!

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2011) 


~ Culinary Q&A & Kitchen Therapy Too (2/25/11) ~

Culinary Q & A #2

We're at the tailend of February here at Kitchen Encounters and this, February's last week, has been one of Melanie's Kitchen's busiest since starting this blog.  More people than ever are following Kitchen Encounters via my Facebook posts.  Three of my Facebook friends (Jeanne, Loretta and Pam) requested that I start linking my blog posts directly to Facebook.  "So it shall be written, so it shall be done!" ~ Rameses


Corned Beef Sandwich #2Tuesday and Wednesday of this week were in preparation for and another shoot with WHVL-TV. 

Kitchen Encounters fourth segment will air in March on their Sunday morning Centre of It All show, and will be featuring me preparing my recipes for:


~ Braised & Brown Sugar-Glazed Spiced Corned Beef Sandwiches ~

~ Home-Baked Crusty Caraway Seed Rolls ~

~ My Favorite Egg & Potato Salad ~

This St. Patrick's Day menu will air the first and third Sundays in March at 11:30AM on our local channel 235!  I'll be posting all of the recipes in the next couple of days, so check back soon!  We're still working on you being able to watch the segments right here on my blog, but in the meantime, you can watch them at!

Chocolate-Dipped Coconut-Almond Macaroons #1Thursday and Friday (today) were spent making A LOT of my Chocolate-Dipped Coconut-Almond Macaroons for my friend Faith who owns The Philips Hotel and The Philips 1921 Restaurant!

The Philips featured these sweet treats this evening and plans to make them a signature dessert, as well as take orders and sell them.

I am really excited to be their new consulting pastry chef and will be representing Faith and her hotel in April at a Sweet Treats professional pastry chef cooking demonstration in Dubois, PA!  To read more about this, go to and click/link onto their facebook page!

THERE IS MORE!  On Tuesday I got a really nice comment and request from one of my regular readers here at Kitchen Encounters:

Q.  Bethanie comments, then asks:  OMG!  I made your recipe for coconut shrimp and they were the best I ever tasted.  I didn't have a deep-fryer and they still turned out perfectly using a pot on the stove.  Thank you so much for sharing this with me and my seafood loving husband!

Do you have any "simple" recipes for a baked main-dish pasta that isn't lasagna, but similar?  By that I mean:  something I can quickly put together to feed my family and/or friends on a casual Friday night.  It's not that I don't like lasagna, I just want a delicious pasta casserole that I can scoop out and serve with a salad to the side.  I hope this makes sense.

Baked Ziti #1 (Intro Picture) A.  Kitchen Encounters:  Great to hear from you again Bethanie!  You TOTALLY make sense to me and I think I have just the recipe you are looking for:  Baked Ziti, Sausage & Three-Cheese Casserole.  It is a recipe I used to make a lot when my kids were young, then resurrected when HBO's hit show The Sopranos's made baked ziti casserole famous.  You can count on me making this over the weekend and posting the recipe for you in the next day or two.  Once again Bethanie, I REALLY enjoy hearing from you!!!

Have a great weekend everyone, and once again:  To leave a comment or to ask a question, simply click on the blue title of any post, scroll to the end of it and type away!

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2011)


~ Crunchy Thai-Style Deep-Fried Coconut Shrimp ~

IMG_5481Winter, Spring, Summer or Fall, this is one of my most requested appetizers of all.  Once people eat it, they remember it, make note of it, then want more of it.  As I've mentioned before, back in 1993, I had the pleasure of becoming good/pretty close friends with a Home Economist from Thailand.  In the three years that Kanya lived in State College, Pennsylvania, she taught several series of cooking classes that attracted all of the foodies in our community, including me.  All of her recipes were made-from-scratch and served family-style, just like they would be in a Thai home.  Coconut shrimp was not a recipe she taught in any of her classes, but it was a dish she served privately to Joe and I at her home one evening where we instantly fell in love with it:  golden-brown, crispy, coconut-coated shrimp on the outside, perfectly-cooked, moist, succulent, sweet shrimp on the inside.  As my sad tale goes, Kanya and her husband Fu moved back to Thailand before Kanya had the opportunity to share the recipe... which she had promised to do, and gladly would have done, had there been enough time!

IMG_5450I did, however, get enough of "off the cuff","cook to cook" instructions from Kanya to give me a great starting point for a recipe.  Firstly, because the shrimp are dredged in flour, dipped in a light, drizzly batter, coated in coconut, then deep-fried, the shrimp must be large enough in size to allow the coconut ample time to turn golden brown while being deep-fried, about 2 1/2-3 minutes.  The larger the shrimp, the better, but not so large that in the time it takes the coconut to turn golden the shrimp remain uncooked in the center.  What this means is:  use only jumbo/21-25 count, shrimp in this recipe.  Secondly, this is a recipe that is best left for last.  What this means is:  prepare these 1-2 hours in advance of serving, with 1 hour being better than 2.

IMG_5510A bit about the batter, which I am sure authentically is not similar to tempura.  Tempura is a light batter that is made using ice-cold sparkling water, wheat flour and cornstarch.  The batter is whisked very briefly and very quickly, in very small batches, with the bowl itself being placed in a larger bowl of ice.  Having fun so far?  Me neither.  I love tempura, but in my lifetime I just had to figure out an easier to manage batter to deep-fry a somewhat large quantity of coconut shrimp in.  It was not an easy task and most of my experiments turned out heavy and bready no matter how I adjusted the quantities of flour, baking soda and baking powder.  Then, one afternoon, while very close to the end of my rope, I took a bottle of my favorite light beer (the perfect substitute for sparkling water) and mixed it with some boxed pancake mix (the perfect premixed substitute for flour, baking soda and baking powder), until it was of a very drizzly consistency.  I added some soy sauce for flavor and the rest is coconut shrimp history!

Thai-Style Coconut Shrimp #2 (Ingredients) 
















2  pounds jumbo (21-25 count) shrimp, peeled and deveined, tails left on

2  cups pancake & waffle mix, for dredging

3  cups pancake & waffle mix, for batter

2 1/2  cups light beer, plus up to 1/2 cup additional beer (2, 12-ounce bottles)

1/4  cup seasoning soy sauce, preferably Golden Mountain brand

1  14-ounce bag sweetened, flaked coconut

corn or peanut oil for frying

Mae Ploy sweet chili sauce, for dipping or drizzling

Thai-Style Coconut Shrimp #3 (Whisking the Batter) ~ Step 1.  In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the 3 cups of pancake mix, 2 1/2 cups of beer and soy sauce, until a smooth drizzly batter is formed.

Set the mixture aside for about 3-5 minutes, to allow the batter to thicken.

Add additional beer, until the batter is drizzly again.  How easy was that!

Thai-Style Coconut Shrimp #4 (Dredge Shrimp in Flour) ~ Step 2.  Place 2 cups of pancake mix in a small mixing bowl.

Working in batches of 6-8, no more at any given time, dredge each shrimp in the pancake mix, without coating the tail.  Shake the shrimp to allow any excess mix back into the bowl.  Note:  Keeping the tail uncoated will make for a prettier finished product and presentation.


Thai-Style Coconut Shrimp #5 (Dip Shrimp in Batter) ~ Step 3.  Dip each shrimp into the batter.  Once again, shake the shrimp to allow excess batter to drip back into the bowl. 

Again, use the tail as a handle and do not coat it in the batter.






Thai-Style Coconut Shrimp #7 (Batch Ready for Fryer) ~ Step 4.  Place the coconut in an 8" x 8" x 2" baking dish.  Place the dredged and batter-dipped shrimp into the coconut.

Again, holding the tail like it is a handle, drag each shrimp through the coconut until it is coated on all sides.

These six shrimp are ready for the deep-fryer already!

Thai-Style Coconut Shrimp #8 (Batch Out of Fryer) ~ Step 5.  Preheat oil in deep-fryer following the manufacturer's directions.  Line a large baking pan with 3-4 layers of paper towels.  When the oil in the fryer has reached the proper temperature:

Add the first batch of shrimp and fry until the coconut is golden brown, about 2 1/2-3 minutes.

While the first batch is frying, dredge and coat a second batch.  Repeat this process until all shrimp are coated and fried.

~ Step 6.  Using an Asian spider or a large slotted spoon, transfer the shrimp to paper towel lined baking pan to drain and cool slightly.  I do  not like to use tongs for this task because they tend to rip and tear the delicate coconut coating.  Decoratively arrange shrimp on a large serving dish and serve with Mae Ploy for dipping or drizzling!

IMG_5446Crunchy Thai-Style Deep-Fried Coconut Shrimp:  Recipe yields 3 1/2-4 dozen appetizers.

Special Equipment List:  large mixing bowl; medium mixing bowl; 8" x 8" x 2" baking dish; deep-fryer w/oil according to manufacturer's specifications; 17 1/2" x 12 1/2" baking pan; paper towels; Asian spider or large slotted spoon

Cook's Note:  If you are not a shrimp lover and would rather make coconut chicken, you'll need 16 large chicken fillets or tenders (about 6 per pound).  Cut each fillet into four chunks or "nuggets" and follow the recipe as directed.

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2011)


~ Silky Moroccan-Spiced Butternut Squash Soup ~

Moroccan Squash Soup #1 (Intro Picture)

I just had to follow up my last post ~ How to:  Make a Basic Vegetarian Stock a la Lidia ~, also found in Categories 14, 15 & 22, with one of my favorite uses for it:  a silky smooth, exotically spiced, vegetarian, butternut squash soup.  Because my vegetarian stock is flavored with hints of lemon and red pepper (flavors commonly used in Moroccan cuisine), it transforms this soup recipe into a exquisite experience.  If you don't happen to have my vegetarian soup stock on hand, or are using your own or a store-bought version, you'll want to add a bit of fresh lemon or lime zest, a pinch of red pepper flakes, and maybe some salt, to your ingredients list.  If you don't have butternut squash, you can substitute acorn squash or pumpkin, but in my opinion, butternut squash is the best.  My husand Joe grows it for me each year in his garden and I keep it in our cold storage room all winter long!

I don't claim to be an authority on Moroccan food, but I've enjoyed enough of it over the years to purchase a tagine and always keep a box of couscous, a tube of harissa and a bottle of ras el hanout in my pantry at all times.  Moroccan cuisine is very old and very diverse, having been influenced (to name just a few), by the bordering countries of Algeria  and Tunisia, an Arab invasion and a French colonization.  Morocco, which has a climate similar to California, is described by some as paradise.  Its fertile coastal plains and lush valleys make it rich in produce and ideal for raising herds of sheep and goats.  Fragrant spices commonly found in their cooking are ground:  allspice, anise, cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, coriander, curry, nutmeg, paprika, saffron, turmeric and all sorts of peppercorns.  Ras el hanout, which means "top of the shop", is a complex spice blend that changes from region to region and household to household.  Common herbs are:  cilantro, flat-leaf parsley and mint.  Common flavorings are:  readily available fresh citrus fruits, like lemons, limes and oranges.  Moroccan flavors are very sophisticated, yet very subtle, without any one flavor ever being overwhelming.  You will know you've eaten authentic Moroccan food because it will appeal directly to your sense of smell, sight and taste.  It is indeed a very sensual experience!

Moroccan Squash Soup #2 (Ingredients)1/4  cup extra-virgin olive oil

1  very large yellow or sweet onion (about 1 pound), diced

1  large butternut squash (about 2 pounds), peeled, halved, seeded and cut into 1" chunks  

6  medium-sized carrots (about 12 ounces), trimmed, peeled and cut into 1/2" lengths

1  teaspoon sugar

1/2  teaspoon ground cinnamon

3/4  teaspoon ground coriander

1 1/2  teaspoons ground cumin

1/2  teaspoon smoked paprika

3/4  teaspoon ground turmeric

6  cups vegetable stock, preferably homemade (recipe found in Categories 14, 15 & 22)

1/2  cup vanilla-flavored yogurt, for topping soup (You can use plain yogurt, but the exotic vanilla flavor tastes sublime when combined with all of the fragrant spices in the soup.)

1/2  cup minced, fresh cilantro leaves, for stirring into soup (optional)

freshly ground sea salt and peppercorn blend, for garnishing soup

Moroccan Squash Soup #3 (Cleaned Squash) ~ Step 1.  Prep the onion, butternut squash and carrots as directed, separately setting each one aside.

In case you've never peeled, cleaned and chopped a butternut squash, I'm illustrating it here for you in this picture.  Because it has a very tough skin, you will need a chef's knife to do both the peeling and the chopping (a vegetable peeler will not work well in this application).  You will need an ordinary tablespoon to scrape out the seeds.

Moroccan Squash Soup #5 (Sauteed Onions) ~ Step 2.  In a wide-bottomed, 4-quart stockpot over low heat, warm the olive oil.  In the event you do not have a wide-bottomed 4-quart stockpot, use just enough of oil to evenly coat the bottom of your pot.  Add the diced onion.  Adjust heat to saute, stirring frequently, until the onions are soft and translucent, about 10 minutes.  Adjust the heat, as necessary, to keep the onions from browning.

Moroccan Squash Soup #6 (Sauteed Squash & Carrots) ~ Step 3.  Add the cubed butternut squash, carrot chunks and sugar.

Continue to saute, stirring almost constantly, for another 10 minutes.

Once again, adjust the heat, as necessary, to keep the vegetables from browning or scorching.  If need be, you can add a teaspoon or two of additional olive oil to the pot, which will prevent browning.

Moroccan Squash Soup #8 (Sauteed Vegetables) ~ Step 4.  Stir in the ground spices:  the cinnamon, coriander, cumin, smoked paprika and turmeric.

Continue to saute, stirring almost constantly, another 10 minutes.  The vegetables will be very soft and will have cooked down significantly.  The mixture will also smell heavenly!

Moroccan Squash Soup #10 (Soup Simmered and Reduced) ~ Step 5.  Add the vegetable stock.  Adjust heat to simmer steadily but gently, uncovered, for 30-40 minutes, or until the butternut squash and carrots are very, very soft.  Remove from heat, partially cover and set aside to cool for 1 hour.  Cooling the soup is very important, because if you try to puree a steaming hot soup in a food processor or a blender, it will be explosive.  What a mess!

Moroccan Squash Soup #11 (Puree with Immersion Blender)~ Step 6.  My tool-of-choice for pureeing this soup is a hand-held, immersion blender.  In about 2-3 minutes, this suberb soup will be silky smooth and ready to eat.

If you do not own an immersion blender, ladle the soup, in 2-3 cup-sized batches, into a food processor or a blender.  Process or blend until smooth.

~ Step 7.  Return the pureed soup to the pot.  At serving time, gently reheat until soup is steaming but not simmering or boiling.  Ladle into eight warmed serving bowls and serve immediately with a dollop (about 1 tablespoon) of yogurt, 1-2 teaspoons of the optional minced cilantro and some freshly ground sea salt and peppercorn blend.

Moroccan Squash Soup #12 (Exit Picture on Spoon)Silky Moroccan-Spiced Butternut Squash Soup:  Recipe yields 2 quarts or 8 cups.  Recipe serves 8 as a starter course or 4 as a main course.

Special Equipment List:  cutting board; chef's knife; ordinary kitchen tablespoon; vegetable peeler; 4-quart stockpot w/lid, preferably wide-bottomed; hand-held immersion blender, or a food processor or blender; 8, 1-cup sized serving bowls or 4, 2-cup sized serving bowls; soup ladle.

Roasted Pumpkin Seeds #1 (Intro Picture)Cook's Note:  This soup can be made 2-3 days in advance of serving and reheats beautifully in the microwave.  To make a double batch, increase the stockpot size to 8-quarts.  This is a really hearty and filling soup, which is why it is perfect served as a main course for a luncheon or a starter course at dinner.  FYI:  like pumpkin seeds, the seeds from butternut squash and acorn squash make a great snack to accompany or garnish this soup.  To learn more, read my recipe for ~ How to:  Roast Pumpkin Seeds ~, found in Categories 2, 15 & 18!

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2011) 


~ How to: Make a Basic Vegetable Stock a la Lidia ~

Vegetable Stock #1 (Intro Picture)Up until five years ago, unless I was entertaining one of my vegetarian friends, like my mixed-doubles tennis partner and close friend Bob, I always chose to use my homemade beef, chicken or veal stock when preparing my recipes.  Up until five years ago, I had a lovely vegetable stock recipe in my own repertoire, plus, had tasted my share of vegetable stocks in fine restaurants,  but, quite frankly, I always found them to be slightly lack luster and less than impressive.  To me, vegetable stock was nothing more than a necessary evil.  Then, in 2006, I had the pleasure to meet and work with cookbook author, owner of Filidia's restaurant in NYC, and, host of PBS's "Lidia's Italian Kitchen", Lidia Matticchio Bastianich.

Lidia was visiting Penn State and Penn State's PBS station WPSU-TV for their annual Connoisseur's Dinner/fundraiser.  She was also doing a live cooking demonstration in front of an audience of about 100 people the morning of the event.  As WPSU's brand new cooking consultant, it was my job to prep all of her food for her demo and prepare all of the food their audience would taste.  This was the first time I ever met a real cooking celebrity, let alone worked with one, and there was no time for nervousness.  Lidia's menu consisted of items like Roasted Acorn Squash w/a Balsamic Reduction Syrup, Risotto w/Grana Padano Cheese and Apple Crisp Parfaits w/Freshly Whipped Cream.  For Lidia's risotto demonstration, she required several quarts of her vegetable stock recipe.  I'm here to tell you that her recipe changed my thoughts on  vegetable stock in general and how I could/should use it in my kitchen.

Her simple-to-prepare recipe is best described by me as golden-colored and full-flavored.  It didn't require roasting or caramelizing any of the vegetables (which culinarily has its place, but not in this application), wasn't weighed down with earthy mushrooms (which I don't always care for in vegetable stock) and used fresh lemon zest and red pepper flakes which gave it bright acidic flavor and peppery flair.  As Lidia points out in her book Lidia's Family Table, "all you need to make your own clean-flavored and cost-free stock is a saucepan, a few cups of water, a cup or two of fresh vegetable pieces and a few sprigs of herbs".  In true Italian tradition, this was a basic but flavorful homemade stock that could be used as a simple moistener (as in the case of risotto) or the base for any vegetarian soup.  In her book, Lidia lists ingredients to make her stock, but does not provide specific amounts for them, meaning:  there is no specific recipe, so, make a version of it that makes use of what you happen to have on hand and suits you.  The recipe I am going to share with you combines her list of ingredients using my quantities, or, the quantities that please my family's palate -- feel free to make your adjustments after trying it.

3  pounds yellow or sweet onion, peeled and left whole, cut in half or chunked 

1  pound carrots, peeled and cut into 1"-2" lengths

1/2-1  pound celery, rinsed and cut into 1"-2 " lengths

1/2  ounce garlic cloves, left whole, about 10 large garlic cloves

1 1/2  ounces lemon peel (no white pith, just yellow peel), strips taken from 2 lemons

1/2  teaspoon "Pepperoncino" (red pepper flakes)

1/2  ounce fresh parsley, rosemary or thyme sprigs

1  tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

1 1/2  tablespoons fine sea salt

enough of water to cover all ingredients to within 1" of the top of the pot

Vegetable Stock #2 (Prepped Ingredients in Pot) ~ Step 1.  Prep all of the ingredients as directed, placing them in an 8-quart stockpot as you work.







Vegetable Stock #3 (Water in Pot) ~ Step 2.  Add water to within 1" of the top of the pot.

Place on stovetop and bring to a boil over high heat.  Reduce heat to a gentle, but steady simmer.  Continue to simmer, uncovered, for about 1 1/2 hours.

This being said:


Vegetable Stock #4 (Removing the Rosemary) ~ Step 3.  About 5 minutes into the simmering process, remove the rosemary or thyme sprigs.  The herb will have just lost its bright green color.  If you are using parsley, you can let it remain throughout the simmering process, but, if you leave the rosemary or the thyme in, their flavor will overpower the stock.

Vegetable Stock #6 (Reduction) ~ Step 4.  After 1 1/2 hours of gentle, steady simmering, the liquid will now be reduced to about 2" from the top of the pot.  Remove the stockpot from the heat, cover and let the stock steep for 1-2 hours.  This will truly develop the flavors.

Using a large slotted spoon, remove and discard the vegetables.  Ladle or pour the stock through a fine mesh strainer into desired size food storage containers and use as directed. 

Vegetable Stock #8 (In Pyrex Containers Closeup)


How to:  Make Basic Vegetable Stock a la Lidia:  Recipe yields 3 1/2- 4 quarts.

Special Equipment List:  cutting board; chef's knife; vegetable peeler; 8-quart stockpot w/lid; large slotted spoon; fine mesh strainer; soup ladle (optional)

Vegetable Stock #9 (with Jar or Tomatoes) Cook's Note:  You can refrigerate this stock for up to 1 week or freeze for up to 6 months.  Note:  occasionally I like to add 1 pint of my home-canned tomatoes to this stock at the beginning of the 1 1/2 hour simmering process.  If you don't have home-canned tomatoes, one 14 1/2-ounce can of diced tomatoes will do just fine.

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2011)


~ Today is Valentine's Day (2/14/11)! ~

Breakfast in Bed

Happy Valentine's Day!  What are you doing to make today special for your special someone?  When Joe is taking me out for dinner on Valentine's Day, I like to reciprocate by starting his Valentine's  Day off with breakfast in bed.  He gets to eat, read the morning paper and watch Mike & Mike in the morning on ESPN! 

That being said, because I am not a morning person, whatever I am preparing not only has to be luscious, it has to be easy!  This year I've decided to serve my man my recipes for:

Creamy Crabmeat Quiche B (Crustless Finished) ~ Easy & Elegant Creamy Crustless Crabmeat Quiche ~, found in Categories 9 & 20, with:








Crispy Pan-Roasted Bacon #6 (Finished) ~ Crispy Oven-Roasted Bacon ~, found in Categories 9, 15 & 20, and:








Croutons & Toasts #13 (Finished Toasts) ~ Heart-Shaped Brioche Toasts ~, recipe found in Categories 2, 5, 9 & 15 under the name of ~ How to:  Make Croutons (& Toasts) ~. Then, for a late-night, after-dinner surprise:




Mexican Chocolate Brownies ~ Mexican Chocolate Cinnamon-Orange Brownies ~, found in Categories 7 & 13!








"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2011) 


~ Culinary Q&A & Kitchen Therapy Too (2/11/11) ~

Culinary Q & A #2

2/11/11!  A date to remember!  There has been A LOT going on here in Melanie's Kitchen this week and  I am writing this on the morning of what is going to be a remarkable weekend!

As I've mentioned to you before, every February I volunteer my time to WPSU-TV for their annual Connoisseur's Dinner.  Each year, they invite a different PBS Celebrity Chef, who oversees the preparation of his or her recipes from his or her latest cookbook.  The dinner itself is held in the evening, in the grand ballroom of The Nittany Lion Inn.  It is an extravagant event, which also includes a silent auction of all sorts of locally donated items ranging from cruises and museum tours to autographed Joe Paterno Penn State memorabilia.  On the morning of the event (which is tomorrow), the Celebrity Chef gives a live cooking demonstration at WPSU-TV in front of a studio audience of about 125 invited guests.  This is the part where the Melanie's Kitchen team comes into play:

Steven Raichlen & Nittany Lion 2-11-11 Once the celebrity chef has given WPSU his/her menu, who in turn gives me his/her demo menu, my team (myself, my assistant Jeanne and my great and good friend Chef Jami) goes to work to make it happen.  Melanie's Kitchen preps all of the food for the Celebrity Chef's personal cooking  demonstration, as well as prepares all of the food served as a tasting to all of the guests.  At about 4:00 PM this afternoon, I will have the pleasure of welcoming the grillmaster himself, Steven Raichlen, into my kitchen.  Tomorrow I will have the pleasure of personally assisting him in the studio during his demo.  This year's menu, from Steven's latest book, Planet Barbecue, is:

~ South African Grilled Cheese Sandwiches ~

~ Spanish Grilled Shrimp Sprayed w/Olive Oil and Wine ~

~ Caveman T-Bone Steaks w/Hellfire Hot Sauce ~

~ Cambodian Coconut Grilled Corn ~

~ Brazilian Grilled Pineapple ~

Steven Raichlin #3 (Joe at Grill) This is an aggressive menu to say the least, and let me tell you this:  preparing it in February in Central Pennsylvania has presented its challenges:

Meet my husband Joe, who shoveled the snow off of the deck and in this picture is spraying shrimp with EVOO and wine, then grilling them... enough to feed 125 people!

Steven Raichlin #4 (Grilled Shrimp) Don't these look just yummy?  Let me tell you, they are!  Let me also tell you that all of Steven's recipes are well-tested and well-written because:   each and every item has been pre-prepped, prepped, and/or finished by us and each recipe has worked perfectly for us.  Steven's Planet Barbecue book is also a great read and I recommend you add a copy to your culinary library!

Steven Raichlin #5 (Grills)I think I forgot to mention that in addition to preparing the food, I also supply all of the hardware necessary to perform the demo.  This list changes with each year and every chef, and, when the grillmaster is coming to town, that means having grilling utensils as well as grills, tabletop grills, butane cooktops and even a smoker or two on hand!

Steven Raichlin #6 Over the past five years, I've acquired quite an arsenal of kitchen utensils, pots, pans, dishes, and glassware.  Thusfar, I've worked with Lidia Bastianich, John Folse, Joanne Weir and Martin Yan.  This afternoon I will have a kitchen encounter with Steven RaichlenIn central Pennsylvania, it is indeed the winter doldrums, but it is anything but dull here in Melanie's Kitchen.  Gotta run... it's almost showtime!!!

Have a great weekend everyone, and once again:  To leave a comment or to ask a question, simply click on the blue title of any post, scroll to the end of it and type away!

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2011) 


~ How to: Make Homemade Mayonnaise ("Mayo") ~

6a0120a8551282970b0147e274afe9970bA couple of days ago I showed you how to to make my recipe for ~ My Favorite Tartar Sauce (for Crab Cakes & Fish) ~, which can be found in Categories 8 & 20.  In that post I mentioned that if you had the time or expertise to make mayonnaise from scratch, you could take that recipe to a truly decadent level by doing so.  The truth be told, when I'm making that recipe, I don't always have the time to make and pre-chill homemade mayonnaise (and it should always be chilled for at least one hour before serving it), so, let me tell you when I do make the time to make it:  when I make my #1 all-time favorite sandwich, the classic turkey club!   

Turkey Sandwich #2 (The Evan Royster) This triple-decker sandwich on  homemade toasted brioche bread, slathered with made-from-scratch mayonnaise and layered with crispy bacon, my roasted rosemary turkey breast,  sliced tomatoes, shaved onion and baby greens, is a sandwich to die for!

So, now that your mouth is watering:   today I'm going to show you just how super quick and easy it is to make mayonnaise from scratch that is amazingly better than any you can buy at the store!

A bit about mayonnaise:  It is a thick, rich and creamy dressing made from the emulsion of egg yolks, lemon juice (or vinegar) and vegetable oil.  If egg yolks are not used, the product is called and marketed as salad dressing.  In Europe, the recipe is essentially the same as the one I am about to share with you, but they use olive oil in place of vegetable oil.  A bit of Dijon mustard is commonly added, which helps to stabilize the emulsion, along with a pinch of salt, pepper and occasionally sugar.  Herbs and/or spices can be added at any point during the process, or you can use an oil or a vinegar that has been infused with herbs and/or spices.  It is important to use an exact ratio of lemon juice (or vinegar) to oil, so, DO NOT GUESS and:  get out your measuring cup and spoons before attempting this process.  For best results, I, personally, also recommend having all of your ingredients and utensils at room temperature.

Making homemade mayonnaise is a basic and simple chemical process, but, if you don't play by the rules, you will not have success.  For instance:  if you throw all of the ingredients into a bowl, blender or food processor at the same time, you'll get an odd-textured, offensive mess.  Another for instance:  if your ratio of acid to oil is not precise, or you add your oil too quickly, you'll get what is called "breaking", meaning: no matter how much you whisk or mix, the oil and acid will remain separate.  If your end result does not have the texture and creaminess of what you buy at the store (meaning if it is drizzly, drippy, or thin), you pretty much need to start over.  If it is "broken",  there is a trick I know to bring it back to its creamy consistency:  

To revive a broken mayonnaise, even if you have made it in a food processor or blender, the best thing to do is:  in a clean bowl, whisk together another egg yolk and a teaspoon of slightly warm water.  Whisking constantly, whisk in the broken mayonnaise, followed by just enough of oil, 3-4 tablespoons, until is returns to its creamy, emulsified state. 

No matter how you prepare mayonnaise, using a classic bowl and wire whisk, or, a modern food processsor or blender, the key is to add the oil, in a thin, steady stream, as slowly as you can manage, while whisking constantly.  If you are planning to do this using the bowl and whisk method, plan to whisk like a bat out of hell and have a sore arm the next day.  I will not be showing you this method of making mayonnaise!!!

Mayonnaise #2 (Ingredients)











1  cup minus 1 tablespoon vegetable oil, meaning: ever so slightly less than 1 cup of oil, never slightly more

2  extra-large egg yolks, at room temperature (the size of the eggs do matter) (discard the whites or use in another recipe)

4  teaspoons fresh lemon juice (bottled concentrate is a compromise)

1  teaspoon Dijon mustard

1/4  teaspoon sugar

1/8  teaspoon sea salt

1/8  teaspoon ground pepper, any kind you like (optional)

Mayonnaise #3 (Ingredients in Processer) ~ Step 1.  Place all of the ingredients, except for the oil, in the workbowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade. 

You can do this in a blender, which I used to do, but when I switched to the food processor, this recipe became foolproof!





Mayonnaise #4 (Ingredients Whisked) ~ Step 2.  Place the top on the processor.  Turn the motor on and let it run for 10-15 seconds. 

The mixture will be very smooth and slightly frothy.








Mayonnaise #5 (Adding the Oil) ~ Step 3.  With the motor running, in the slowest, steadiest stream you can manage, add the oil. 

When all of the oil has been added turn the motor off.





Mayonnaise #6 (Finished) ~ Step 4.  You now have made-from-scratch mayonnaise!  How easy was that!

Using a large rubber spatula, transfer to a food storage container, cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour and for up to 1 week.

Mayonnaise #7 (Exit Picture with Cover)







How to:  Make Homemade Mayonnaise ("Mayo"):  Recipe yields a little less than 1 1/2 cups.

Special Equipment List:  food processor; 1-cup measuring container; measuring spoons; rubber spatula; 2-cup size food storage container w/lid

Cook's Note:  Homemade mayonnaise can be stored in the refrigerator for up to one week.  If you have an issue using regular egg yolks, feel free to substitute yolks from pasturized eggs.

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2011) 


~ Today is National Fettuccine Alfredo Day (2/7/11)! ~

PICT0810 Happy National Fettuccine Alfredo Day!  To read all about the origin and  history of this very famous and scrumptious dish, take a moment to read my recipe for: ~ Fabulous Fettuccine Alfredo a la Primavera Style ~, found in Categories 4, 12 & 14.  This recipe was especially fun for me to research and I'm pretty sure you'll enjoy the read as much as you will enjoy eating the Alfredo!


PICT0819 P.S.:  Did you know that fettuccine Alfredo with blanched vegetables added to it is called Alfredo Primavera?  For more "fettuccine facts" check out my recipe! 

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2011)


~ Spicy, Miniature Eastern Shore-Style Crab Cakes ~


Rule #1.  If you want a party to be a success, serve crab cakes!

 Rule #2.  You can never make too many crabcakes!

I've never hosted a party or attended a party where, if crab cakes are being served, crab cakes aren't the first item inhaled by the guests.  I may live in Central Pennsylvania, but "back in the day", the mid-'70's, when I was first married, we visited Philadelphia quite often, and my favorite place to eat was The Frog Commissary/Delicatessen.  Later, when we were raising children, we took them to Ocean City, Maryland, to vacation each year, which always included at least one meal at Phillips Crab House (the Phillip's chain's original restaurant which first opened its doors in Ocean City in 1956) .  The "true" Eastern Shore is located along shores of Virginia on the Chesapeake Bay, and, it is there where fishermen (or watermen as they are locally called), make their living catching crabs.  That being said, the surrounding areas do their part to produce amazing crab cakes, so try not to be too big of a crab cake snob.  Let's suffice it to say:   On my travels, I have eaten my share of fabulous crab cakes!

PICT0009"So", you ask, "what makes a great crab cake?"  Beauty is always in the eye, or palate, of the beholder, but for starters, the crabcake should always be hand-made, light and have a texture and consistency that barely holds itself together.  The "true" Eastern Shore versions are pretty much always sauteed (sometimes you'll find them grilled), using just enough of fresh, white, crustless breadcrumbs along with an egg or two to bind them together with the luscious lumps of fresh, sweet, jumbo lump, blue crabmeat (but any white crabmeant can be used).  Mayonnaise, mustard, Old Bay seasoning and Worcestershire sauce are commonly added to the mixture.  They are typically accompanied by a wedge of fresh lemon and tartar sauce.  These are decandently marvelous, and I do have a great recipe for them, which will be posted at another time, as I serve them as a main course rather than an appetizer.  The "alternative" versions, and the one that I am preparing today, are deep-fried.  Tried-and-true purists do not approve of this tactic, but I for one say, "don't knock 'em until you've tried 'em", and I first tried them and fell in love with them at The Frog Commissary in Philadelphia where they were:  crispy on the outside, soft in the center, full of spicy flavors and held together with pieces of starchy baked potato instead of breadcrumbs!

Note:  Adding potato to the mixture is not as odd as you might think.  Crab cakes are said to have been introduced to America in colonial times by the English settlers.   In England, it is common practice to mix mashed potato with crabmeat to prepare crab cakes and deep-fry them until they are crisp and brown on the outside with a soft, tender center  (which is similar to preparing traditional croquettes)!

I worked quite hard at trying to duplicate "the Frog's" tasty deep-fried version just because their recipe was so delicious and unique that I didn't want it to slip through my personal recipe file undocumented or forgotten.  I've been serving my version of these at cocktail parties and caterings for about 25 years now and everyone just loves them.  The baked potato is indeed a nice touch, and, my version can be mixed, formed and refrigerated one day in advance of frying them, which is fantastic if you are making them for a large get-together!

Crab Cakes #4 (Ingredients)















2  pounds jumbo, lump crabmeat, the best available, undrained

2  11-12 ounce russet potatoes, baked until soft and cooled

8  ounces diced yellow or sweet onion

8  ounces diced celery

4  tablespoons salted butter (1/2 stick)

2  tablespoons Old Bay Seasoning

1/2  teaspoon white pepper

2  jumbo eggs, at room temperature

2  tablespoons lemon juice, preferably fresh, or bottled concentrate

1-2  tablespoons cayenne pepper sauce, more or less, to taste (I use 2 tablespoons)

1/2  cup plain, dry breadcrumbs

1 1/2-2 cups additional plain, dry breadcrumbs for coating crab cakes

lemon wedges and your favorite seafood sauce for dipping and/or drizzling

corn oil or peanut oil for deep-frying

Crab Cakes #5 (Scooping Out Potatoes) ~ Step 1.  In microwave, bake the potatoes.  In my microwave, this takes about 18 minutes.  Remove the potatoes from the oven and set them aside to cool completely or until you can manage them comfortably with your hands.  Slice the potatoes in half and using a kitchen tablespoon, scoop out their soft centers.  Place the centers in a large mixing bowl and using the same spoon, chop them into bite-sized pieces.  While the potatoes are cooling:

Crab Cakes #6 (Sauteed Onions and Celery) ~ Step 2.  In a 10" skillet, preferably nonstick, over low heat, melt the butter.  Stir in the Old Bay Seasoning and white pepper.  Add the prepped onion and celery.  Increase the heat and saute until the onion and celery are tender, but not browned, about 4-6 minutes.  Remove from heat and set aside to cool slightly, about 15-20 minutes.  Transfer to mixing bowl with chopped, baked potatoes.

Crab Cakes #7~ Step 3.  Add the 1/2 cup of dry breadcrumbs to the mixing bowl containing the potatoes and vegetable saute.

In a 1-cup measuring container, using a fork, whisk together the eggs, lemon juice and cayenne pepper sauce.  Drizzle this mixture into the bowl.

Using a large rubber spatula, fold and combine these ingredients together.

Crab Cakes #8 ~ Step 4.  Gently add, fold and thoroughly incorporate all of the crabmeat into the mixture, doing your best to make sure it remains in relatively large lumps.  Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and set it aside, to rest, for 45-60 minutes.

This rest period will allow the starch in the potatoes and the breadcrumbs to absorb moisture and keep the crab cakes from falling apart when fried.

Crab Cakes # 9 (Scooping into Bowl)~ Step 5.  Line a 17 1/2" x 12 1/2" baking pan with a sheet of parchment paper. 

Place the additional breadcrumbs in a shallow bowl or baking dish. 

Using a 1 3/4" ice cream scoop as a measure, divide the mixture into 48-54 balls, firmly packing each scoop. 

Lightly toss or roll each crab cake/crab ball in the breadcrumbs, just enough to give each a thin, even crumb coating.

Crab Cakes #10 (Uncooked Tray) ~ Step 6.  Place the coated crab cakes on the prepared baking pan as you work.

Cover the pan with plastic wrap and refrigerate until it is time to fry them.  The ideal time frame is anywhere between 2-4 hours or overnight, but no longer than that.

Preheat oil in deep-fryer to 360 degrees according to directions.

Crab Cakes #11 (Finished) ~ Step 7.  Fry crab cakes, in batches of 3-5,  a (or what the basket of deep-fryer will hold  without crowding the fryer basket), 3 minutes per batch, or until deep golden brown.  Using a pair of tongs, gently remove the cooked crab cakes from the fryer and transfer them to a paper towel lined baking pan.  Continue this process until all crab cakes are deep-fried.

~ Step 8.  Transfer crab cakes to a large platter and serve warm or at room temperature with lemon wedges and your favorite seafood sauce.  This being said, if you are frying the crab cakes just prior to the arrival of your guests and want to serve them warm, you can place the baking pan of deep-fried crab cakes in a 200 degree oven for 30-45 minutes prior to serving them.  Don't keep them in the oven for too much longer than this, as they can and will dry out quickly.

Crab Cakes #12 (Exit Photo)Spicy, Miniature, Eastern Shore-Style Crab Cakes:  Recipe yields 4-4 1/2 dozen small but mighty crab cakes.

Special Equipment List:  cutting board; chef's knife; tablespoon; 10" skillet, preferably nonstick; 1-cup measuring container; fork; large rubber spatula; plastic wrap; 17 1/2" x 12 1/2" rectangular baking pan; parchment paper; 1 3/4" ice cream scoop; deep-fryer; tongs

Cook's Note:  As with all crab cakes, they are really at their best when eaten immediately, or at the very least, the same day they are cooked.  Leftovers can be reheated in the oven or the microwave (because lets face it, they still taste great for lunch the next day), but are somewhat compromised in texture.  If you would like to serve your crab cakes with tartar sauce, you can get my recipe for ~ My Favorite Tartar Sauce (for Crab Cakes & Fish) ~, in Categories 8 & 20.

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2011)