Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Chopped Italian Style - Naples vs. Bari

My Italian club, Triangle Sons of Italy, held a cooking contest recently that pitted cooks from the Campagnia (Naples) region vs. cooks from Puglia (Bari).  It is always intimidating cooking Italian food for other Italians, it's really nerve racking competing for the best regional food and having to cook for 45 people.  However team Naples came through for me and we won the competition. Here is the winning menu with links to recipes for two of the dishes.

Appetizer: Roasted Zucchini & Fontina Frittata with a side of roasted red peppers.
Dessert: Baba au Rum with Cannoli Cream

One of our judges was Andrea Weigel, from the News and Observer, and she wrote a nice article about our event She commented "What wooed me? I would be tasting food that I can’t order at an Italian restaurant and wouldn’t be able to taste unless I traveled to Italy."


Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Roasted Zucchini & Fontina Frittata

Frittata’s are Italian omelets without all the fuss.  They are easy to make and extremely versatile for both brunch and dinner.  For this frittata I roasted the zucchini to bring out its deep sweet notes.  This was complemented by the flavorful fontina and the salty Parmesan cheeses. It is just as good hot as it is cold or at room temperature.  I’ll make it and save the leftovers for breakfast or lunch. You can serve it with a salad or an antipasto as pictured here. 

Makes 4-8 servings

Roasted Zucchini
1 Medium Zucchini, (sliced ¾”)
2 Tbs Extra Virgin Olive Oil
¼ tsp Kosher Salt
Black Pepper (to taste)

1/8 lb Pancetta (chopped small)
8 Eggs
¼ C Grated Parmesan
4 oz Shredded Fontina Cheese
½ C Milk
¼ tsp Kosher Salt
2 TBS Butter
Italian Bread or Baguette

Preheat the oven to 425F.

NOTE: This recipe requires a large 10”, well-seasoned, cast iron pan.  You will be placing the pan under the broiler.  If the pan is old and scratched the frittata will stick.

Using a mandolin or sharp knife, cut the zucchini ¾” thick.  It’s important that they are all sliced the same thickness.  Place the cut zucchini and sprinkle with ¼ teaspoon of table salt, pepper and 2 tablespoons of oil.  Mix to make sure that the zucchini are well coated. Pour the zucchini into a large sheet pan and place in the preheated oven. Cook for approximately 30 minutes or until the bottom of the zucchini has started to turn a light golden brown.  Immediately remove from the oven and place them in a bowl to cool.

Slice the pancetta very small and fry over medium heat in a small frying pan until crisp.  Remove from the pan with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels.

While the vegetables are cooking, whisk the eggs in a medium bowl until uniform in color them add the salt, milk, Parmesan, fontina cheese and the cooled zucchini until thoroughly mixed. 

Heat your cast iron skillet over medium high heat on the stove and add the butter.  When the butter melts and is foaming lower the heat to medium and add the egg-vegetable mixture to the pan.  Sprinkle the cooked pancetta over the top.

DO NOT STIR. Cook until the edges have started to set, then place the pan in the preheated oven for 5 minutes or until the middle is set. USING AN OVEN MIT, shake the pan to see if it looks firm.  Change the oven to High Broil.  Keep it under the broiler until the top of the frittata has turned a light golden brown. 

Carefully remove the frittata from the oven—the handle will be hot.  Run a spatula around the edge and slide it out onto a cutting board.  Cut and serve immediately with crusty Italian bread.


One of the great things about frittatas is that you can use almost any leftover vegetable in them.  One of my family's favorite meals is grilled sausage with peppers and onions.  I will often have leftover peppers and onions and use them in a frittata for dinner the next night.  You can even add cooked, roasted potatoes that have been thinly sliced.  Only your imagination limits this dish.

• Mozzarella instead of Fontina
• Romano instead of Parmesan
• Bacon instead of Pancetta 
• Bell Peppers
• Asparagus
• Spinach
• Broccoli
• Sausage
• Potatoes 

To print a copy of this recipe go to Roasted Zucchini and Fontina Frittata.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Prawn Cannelloni

Prawn Cannelloni is an elegant dish that perfectly marries savory shrimp sautéed with pancetta, onions and garlic with creamy ricotta, mozzarella and Romano cheese all wrapped in a delicate crepe and topped with a spicy marinara sauce. It just melts in your mouth with a symphony of flavors that meld into the perfect overture that sings the joys of the Amalfi Coast.

Servings: Approximately 20-25 Cannelloni

Shell Batter
3 Lg Eggs
1 ¾ - 2 C Water (Room Temp)
2 C of Sifted AP Flour
Pinch of Salt
Crisco Shortening for greasing the pans

1/8 lb Pancetta (diced small)
1 small yellow onion (diced)
2 tsp Minced Garlic
4 tsp Tomato Paste
1/3 C White Wine
1 lb Shrimp (36 count)
1 lb Whole Milk Ricotta
3 Lg Eggs
6 oz shredded mozzarella
¼ C grated Parmesan or Locatelli Romano
1 tsp dried parsley
4 C Marinara Sauce

Preparing the Shells

Beat 3 eggs and 1 ¾ cups of water with a whisk in a large bowl.  Add the flour and salt a little at a time with the beaters on low until completely incorporated.  It should have the consistency of a very thin batter. If it is too thick, add ¼ cup of additional water.

Heat a 6", number 3, greased iron skillet or nonstick pan.  Using a paper towel spread some Crisco on the frying pan to coat, being careful not to touch the pan with your hands.  Place 3 TBS of batter in the center of the frying pan and, using an oven mitt, pick up the frying pan and swirl the batter so that it is spread evenly across the skillet.  Once the batter has stopped bubbling and the edges are dry, flip the shell using a spatula or butter knife.  Cook another 15 seconds or until the shell is a very light cream color.  Stack the shells on a dish until you have completed frying all the batter.  You will end up with 20-24 cannelloni shells.

Prepare the Filling

Peel and devein the shrimp, then cut each shrimp into 4 pieces.

Cut the pancetta very small and sauté on a large skillet over medium heat.  Cook until crispy.  Remove with a slotted spoon into a small bowl. Put the diced onion in the pan with the pancetta grease and cook until translucent. Add the minced garlic and the shrimp.  Cook until the shrimp are barely opaque and pink. Immediately remove the cooked shrimp to a bowl to cool.

In a large bowl, mix the cooled shrimp, ricotta, mozzarella, eggs, parmesan, and parsley until uniform.

Filling and Baking the Cannelloni

Preheat the oven to 325°F.  Take a large roasting pan and cover the bottom with 1 C of marinara sauce.  Take a cooled shell in your hand (see photo) and fill with two tablespoons of filling and fold over like a crepe or tortilla.  Place the cannelloni seam side down in the roasting pan.  Cover the completed cannelloni with tomato sauce. Cover the roasting pan with aluminum foil and bake in a preheated 325°F oven for 30 minutes. Serve immediately with extra marinara and grated Parmesan cheese. 

To print a copy of this recipe go to Prawn Cannelloni.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Strawberry & Mozzarella Garden Salad

It is almost time to pick some vine sweetened strawberries – let’s make a salad with them. This salad will blend sweet strawberries, creamy mozzarella, crisp greens, and crunchy pine nuts, with the sweet tang of balsamic vinaigrette. It’s a bright accompaniment to any meal from pasta to that grilled sirloin steak.

4 servings
2 TBS Pine Nuts 
½ Pint (~1 C) Strawberries 
4 oz Fresh Mozzarella
¼ C Balsamic Vinegar 
½ C Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Salt and Pepper
1 bag Mixed Greens


Place the pine nuts in a dry skillet over medium heat. Keep moving the pan until they start to turn a light golden brown.  Do not walk away or they will burn – they brown quickly.

Wash and hull the strawberries (*) and cut them into quarters.

Dice the mozzarella into ¼ inch pieces.

Place the balsamic vinegar in a bowl and drizzle in the olive oil while whisking. Add salt & pepper to taste and whisk to incorporate.

Just before serving, place the salad greens in a large bowl and pour on some of the balsamic dressing until the greens are coated.  You may not need to use all of the dressing. Top the salad with the strawberries, mozzarella, and pine nuts. Serve immediately.

* Pronto Substitutes
Fresh Strawberries – If you can’t get fresh strawberries and must use grocery store strawberries, sprinkle 2 tablespoons of sugar over the strawberries and let them macerate for at least 30 minutes to sweeten them.
Pine Nuts - Substitute sliced almonds
Balsamic Vinegar – This is a great opportunity to use one of those fruity balsamics that you bought.

To print a copy of this recipe go to Strawberry & Mozzarella Garden Salad.

Monday, February 15, 2016

Risotto with Goats Cheese and Butternut Squash

During the winter I enjoy a meal that is both savory and hearty.  I was inspired one night when I was looking in the refrigerator and saw some roasted butternut squash that I made the previous evening. What resulted was a risotto that had the savory taste of goat cheese, the sweetness of roasted butternut squash and the creaminess of the risotto.   

Makes 4-6 servings.

Roasted Butternut Squash
1 Medium Butternut Squash
2 TBS Olive Oil
½ tsp Kosher Salt
¼ tsp Ground Black Pepper

6 C Chicken Broth (simmering on stove)
1 TBS Olive Oil
1 Small Onion (diced)
3 Cloves of Garlic (minced)
2 C Arborio Rice
½ C Dry White Wine
2 oz Goat’s Cheese (crumbled)

Directions for Roasted Butternut Squash
If you have left-over roasted butternut squash, dice it into ½ inch squares until you have enough to fill 1 cup. If you are starting from scratch preheat oven to 425°F.

Cut the ends off of the butternut squash then peel completely. Cut the squash in half and remove the seeds. Slice the squash into ½ inches thick slices – they will look like half moons. Place the slices in a bowl and coat them with the olive oil, salt and pepper, coating each slice completely.

Cover the bottom of a rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil. Lay the slices on the baking sheet in a single layer.

Place in the preheated oven for 35-45 minutes or until soft and they have started to brown at the edges. Flip halfway through. After they have cooled, dice the slices into ½ inch squares until you have enough to fill 1 cup. Save the remaining butternut squash for another dinner.

Directions for Risotto
Put the chicken broth in a small saucepan and bring to a low simmer. 

In a large saucepan heat the oil over medium-high heat and fry the onions until the onion is translucent. Add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds. Add the rice and cook for an additional 1 minute.  Reduce the heat to medium and add the white wine.  Keep stirring until all liquid is absorbed, about 3-4 minutes. 

Add 3 cups of the hot chicken broth to the rice and continue to stir until the liquid is almost absorbed.  At this point you will see patches of the sauce pan as you stir.  It will probably take about 7-8 minutes.   Add additional hot broth ½ cup (I add a ladle full) at a time, until the liquid is absorbed after each addition.  It will take longer and longer for the liquid to be absorbed after each addition. 

As soon as you have added the last bit of hot broth add the diced roasted squash and the goat’s cheese.  Quickly stir until the cheese has melted and everything is creamy and hot.  Serve immediately.

To print a copy of this recipe go to Risotto with Goats's Cheese and Roasted Butternut Squash.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Thrice Cooked Sweet Potato Skins with Buffalo Chicken

If you love the taste of Buffalo wings but you want something more substantial here’s your answer, triple baked sweet potato skins stuffed with buffalo shredded chicken then topped with melted mozzarella. It’s super easy if you just use a store bought rotisserie chicken. Your family and guests will love the contrast of the sweet potato with the heat of the chicken – this makes a great game-day snack or just a good way to use left-over chicken.

Servings: 8

Buffalo Sauce
2/3 C Hot Sauce (only use ½ C if you want a mild sauce)
½ C cold unsalted Butter
1½ TBS White Vinegar
¼ tsp Worcestershire Sauce
¼ tsp Cayenne Pepper (optional for a milder sauce)
1/8 tsp Garlic Powder
Salt to taste

Cooking Spray
4 Medium Sweet Potatoes
Olive Oil (for brushing)
Salt & Pepper
1 Rotisserie Chicken (discard skin & shred chicken)
8 oz Shredded Mozzarella
4 oz Sour Cream (optional)

Preheat oven to 350°F. Coat a rimmed baking sheet with cooking spray. Pierce each sweet potato several times with a fork and bake until soft for about 1 hour. Cool for 15 minutes then slice in half lengthwise. NOTE - you can microwave the potatoes on high for ~ 10 minutes instead of baking them if you prefer. Scoop out the flesh keeping a 1 inch layer of potato. Brush the potato skins with olive oil and season with salt & Pepper.  Bake the potato skins for about 15 minutes or until the skins are crispy.

Place all of the ingredients for the buffalo sauce into a small pot over medium heat.  Bring to a simmer and whisk gently until all ingredients are incorporated. Remove from the heat. 

Discard the skin from the chicken and shred all of the meat into a bowl. Pour the Buffalo sauce over the shredded chicken and stir until all of the chicken is coated.

Fill the twice cooked potato skins with the Buffalo shredded chicken, top with the shredded mozzarella. Place the filled potato skins on a rack in a baking sheet. Place them back in the oven for 15-20 minutes or until the mozzarella is bubbling and has started to brown.  Top each potato with a dollop of sour cream.

NOTE: This dish can be prepared up to 12 hours in advance.  Keep the stuffed potatoes tightly covered in the refrigerator until it’s time to bake.

To print a copy of this recipe go to Thrice Cooked Sweet Potato Skins with Buffalo Chicken.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Roasted Honey Balsamic Acorn Squash

 We have a new favorite vegetable in our house, roasted honey balsamic acorn squash. I have long struggled to find an acorn squash recipe that is both easy and tastes great.  I’ve combined wonderful richness of roasting, the sweetness of honey and the savory tang of balsamic vinegar you deliver acorn squash that could be served as a main course.

Makes 4 Servings


1 Acorn Squash
2 TBS Honey
1 TBS Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 TBS Balsamic Vinegar
¼ tsp Kosher Salt
4 grinds Black Pepper


Preheat the oven to 400F. Line a rimmed cookie sheet with aluminum foil.

Wash the acorn squash and cut it in half with a large kitchen knife.  Remove the seeds and cut each half into 6 equal wedges.

Place the acorn squash flat on the cookie sheet (see photo).

In a small bowl, whisk together the honey, oil, vinegar, salt and pepper.

Brush the vinaigrette evenly over the slices, flip and repeat.

Roast for 20 minutes, flip then roast for an additional 10 minutes. Serve immediately.

Note: I cut off the rind before I eat the squash but some people like the crunchy texture and eat it.

To print a copy of this recipe go to Roasted Honey Balsamic Acorn Squash.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Taschen Trees

Makes 44 cookies

These chewy rolled cookies instantly assault your mouth with the taste of dark chocolate and orange.  They are semisweet, with a firm chew that melts in your mouth. They evolved from an experience in my youth where I first tasted Hamantasch and fell in love with those delicacies.  This recipe is a variation of the dough used for Hamantasch where I added chocolate and orange peel and then drizzled melted semisweet chocolate over the top.

4 C All-Purpose Flour (plus more for dusting)
1½ tsp Baking Powder
¾ tsp Kosher Salt
2 sticks Unsalted Butter (room temperature)
1½ C Sugar
2 tsp Orange Zest (finely grated)
1 tsp Pure Vanilla Extract
3 lg Eggs
8 oz Semisweet Chocolate
- 3 ounces very finely chopped
- 5 ounces melted

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder and salt. In another bowl, beat butter and sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Beat in orange zest and vanilla, then add 2 eggs, 1 at a time, scraping down bowl as necessary.

Reduce speed to low and gradually beat in flour mixture until combined. Add finely chopped chocolate and beat until just combined. Form dough into three 1-inch-thick disks, wrap tightly in plastic, and chill until firm, at least 1 hour and up to 3 days.

Preheat oven to 350°F with rack in center.

On a floured work surface, roll out dough to a scant 1/4-inch thickness. Cut out the trees using a cookie cutter or any other shape that you want; place on parchment-lined baking sheets 1 inch apart. Gather scraps, chill, and repeat.

Bake cookies, 1 sheet at a time, until golden on their edges, 12 to 14 minutes. Let cool 5 minutes, then transfer to wire racks to cool completely.

After the cookies have cooled completely, melt 5 oz. of semisweet chocolate in a double boiler or in the microwave.  Pour into a bowl and let it cool 10 minutes. Cut the tip off of a quart zipper bag leaving a VERY SMALL hole.  Put the chocolate into the bag and pipe the chocolate onto the cookies (see photo). Place the cookies back on the wire rack and let it cool until the chocolate is set. Store in an airtight container for up to 1 week or freeze for up to one month.

To print a copy of this recipe go to Taschen Trees.

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Prosciutto Wrapped Salmon with Pesto

As Christmas approaches my thoughts go to what am I going to make for Christmas Eve’s Feast of the Seven Fishes. This easy dish features salmon filet coated with savory basil pesto and wrapped with prosciutto that crisps up in the oven.  They can even be prepared ahead of time and popped in the oven when your guests arrive.

Makes 4 Servings

2 large Salmon filets (1-1½ lbs.) *
Salt and Pepper
¼ C Basil Pesto
1/8 lb. Prosciutto (sliced very very thin)
Cooking Spray

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Cut each salmon fillet in half. Sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper. Cover each piece with 1 tablespoon of pesto. If the salmon is thin roll it up. Wrap the salmon with prosciutto and place in a baking tray coated with cooking spray.

Bake for 15-20 minutes or until the fish reaches 125°F or becomes flakey. Serve immediately.

To print a copy of this recipe go to Prosciutto Wrapped Salmon with Pesto.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Frisco Rice

Makes 4-6 servings

This is a homemade version of that San Francisco treat Rice-a-Roni®. An exotic combination of rice, pasta, and Italian spices that will have your guests asking for seconds and your kids for thirds.

Ingredients *
2 TBS Butter
1/3 C Vermicelli (broken into 2 inch lengths)
1 C Long Grain Rice
2 Cloves Garlic (minced) *
2 ½ C Water
2 Chicken Bouillon Cubes
1 ½ tsp Dried Parsley
5 grinds Pepper
You will only need a small amount of vermicelli for this recipe (~1/8 lb.).  Break up the vermicelli into 2 inch lengths until you have 1/3 C.

In a medium saucepan with a tight fitting lid, melt the butter over medium high heat until it just starts to bubble.  Add the rice and vermicelli to the hot butter until it starts to turn a pale brown color (see photo). Add the garlic and cook for another 30 seconds. 

Add the water, bouillon cubes and parsley.  Bring up to a simmer, reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer for 20 minutes or until the rice is soft and tender.

* Pronto Substitutes
Chicken Bouillon Cubes – Use Beef or Vegetable Bouillon in place of the Chicken Bouillon Cubes.

To print a copy of this recipe go to Frisco Rice.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Italian White Chili

Makes 6 one-cup servings

This is an Italian version of a classic southwestern recipe that will challenge your taste buds while bringing back fond memories at the same time.  Serve with a loaf of crusty Italian bread and you have a meal that the whole family will enjoy, especially on a cool fall evening.


2 Tbsp. Olive Oil
1 medium Onion, chopped
2 tsp (2 cloves) minced Garlic
1 lb. boneless Chicken Breasts
1 tsp Dried Parsley
1/8 tsp Crushed Red Pepper Flakes
1 Tbsp. White Balsamic Vinegar *
2 15 oz. cans Cannellini Beans, undrained *
1 can (14-1/2 oz.) reduced-sodium chicken broth
1 can (4 oz.) chopped Green Chilies, undrained
1 tsp. ground Cumin
1-1/2 cups Italian Cheese Blend
2 Tbsp. fresh Cilantro or Italian Parsley (chopped)
1 Loaf of crusty Italian Bread (optional)


1. Dice the onion and cut up the chicken into bite-sized pieces.  Heat the olive oil in large pot on medium-high heat. Add the onions and cook for 1 minute, then add the chicken, and garlic; cook 6 additional minutes or until chicken is cooked through (smash a big piece in the pot and make sure it is no longer pink on the inside), stirring frequently.
2. Add the dried parsley, crushed red pepper flakes, vinegar, beans (do not drain, this will help thicken the chili), chicken broth, chopped chilies and cumin. Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer for 10 min., stirring occasionally.

3. Serve in bowls with some crusty Italian bread and top it with the Italian cheese blend and either fresh cilantro or Italian parsley.

* Pronto Substitutes

White Balsamic Vinegar – Use White Vinegar in place of the White Balsamic Vinegar.  Do not use classic balsamic vinegar, ehe dark caramel color will adversely affect the color of the dish and impart too strong a flavor.

Cannellini Beans – Replace with Great Northern Beans

White Balsamic Vinegar is made in Italy in the same manner as classic Balsamic Vinegar: The grapes are cooked under pressure which prevents the vinegar from caramelizing and taking on the dark rich color of a traditional balsamic. The vinegar is then aged only one year in barrels that are not charred, so that the white color of the grape remains. It has a lighter, distinctive flavor than traditional balsamic vinegar.  White balsamic vinegar is used for aesthetic reasons, so as not to color sauces/dressings. It’s primarily used in salads and perfect for pasta salads.  

To print a copy of this recipe go to Italian White Chili.