Sunday, May 31, 2009


    Last night I made some shrimp with Jasmine Rice and now that I know how to make rice pudding, I always makes heaps and heaps of extra rice for leftovers. Now I have to remember not to contaminate the rice with the dinner serving spoon. I had an idea to combine the flavors of my favorite beverage, chai tea, with rice pudding, plus some coconut milk and cayenne. I ended up with a not too sweet, beautifully caramel colored rice pudding with a nice chai tea flavor, hints of coconut and a spicy cayenne kick. And its dairy-free.
    I made the chai tea as usual, then combined it with my rice and coconut milk. Since the chai tea is strained of the spices and the loose tea, I added those spices back into the rice pudding, plus some more sugar, lemon zest and some cayenne pepper. Its a play around, sweeten and spice as you go kind of recipe. Add or subtract flavors to your liking, if you like it sweeter add more brown sugar, thicker more coconut milk, or spicier more cayenne.

CHAI TEA (for rice pudding)
For drinking my water to milk ratio would be a little different, see CHAI TEA recipe.
3 C. soy milk (or regular)
1 C. water
1/8 tsp. cardamon or 1-2 pods
1/4 tsp. cloves
2 cinnamon sticks or 1/2 tsp.
Fresh grated ginger - 1/2 inch or 1/2 tsp ginger powder
3 bags of darjeeling tea or about 3 TBSP loose black tea
2 TBSP honey
3 TBSP brown sugar

Boil the water milk and spices, then add the tea, honey and brown sugar. Simmer for about 5 min, then strain.

About 2 1/2 C. cooked jasmine rice
About 3/4 C. Coconut Milk
Chai Tea (above)
1/2 C. brown sugar, to desired sweetness
1/4 tsp. cardamom or 1-2 whole cardamom pods
1/4 tsp. cloves
1 cinnamon stick or 1/2 tsp cinnamon
Fresh ginger - 1/2 inch grated (about 1 tsp) or 1/2 tsp of ground ginger
1 tsp fresh lemon zest
1/4 tsp cayenne, to desired heat

Bring rice, chai tea and coconut milk to a boil in a heavy sauce pan. Add the spices and simmer on low heat until the rice pudding is at your desired thickness. Cool in the fridge. Serve topped with toasted shredded coconut.

Saturday, May 30, 2009


I have been craving shrimp and I found these delicious frozen Blue Shrimp at Trader Joe's. Erik inspired me to this dish after he made a similar one with vegetable protein. I can't mess with that stuff but it sounded like it would go great with shrimp and I am very satisfied with the results. What really brings this dish together is the fresh grated ginger and lemon zest and the fresh basil garnish.

10-12 Shrimp, peeled and de-veined
1/4 pineapple cut into chunks (can is okay, too)
dash of hot chili flakes
1/4 onion chopped
1/2 green pepper chopped
2 garlic cloves chopped
2 tsp fresh grated ginger
2 tsp fresh grated lemon zest
fresh basil (or cilantro would be great, too)
fresh scallions
teriyaki or soy sauce
salt and pepper

For shrimp marinade:
curry powder
cayenne pepper
cumin powder
olive oil
salt and pepper

Marinate your shrimp in a little olive oil and the spices (curry, cumin, turmeric, cayenne & paprika - just a dash of each) and some salt and pepper. If you don't have one or a few don't worry about it. Salt and pepper is good enough. There will be plenty of other fresh flavors going on. 

While the shrimp is marinating, sautee a dash of chili flakes, onions, peppers, garlic and fresh ginger in olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. After a few minutes add the pineapple, then the shrimp, then some soy sauce or teriyaki sauce (optional). Add the scallions and the lemon zest. Don't overcook the shrimp. Once they turn pink on each side they are done. Tear some fresh basil over the top and serve with rice.

Friday, May 29, 2009


     As most people know a frittata is an Italian style omelet. Frittatini, (free-tuh-tee-nee), translated as "little frittate," are a little different. Considered a peasant dish, it has all the qualities of a meat dish, but without the meat. They look like chicken nuggets and are basically balls of chicken cutlet batter, without the chicken. And, you stew them in tomato sauce like meatballs. 
     Frittatini are a speciality of my Nonna's and as I prepared them it smelled exactly like her kitchen. Its such an easy dish to make, especially when the only protein you have in the fridge are eggs. First you start with a basic tomato sauce. I make many versions of tomato sauce based on what I have on hand and how much much effort I want to put in so I will consider this "chunky, low effort, half-fresh sauce". While the sauce is cooking down, you start to make the frittatini batter, fry them, then add them to the sauce. They soaks up all the delicious flavor of the tomato sauce. 
     Traditionally, like with meatballs, you would eat your pasta with sauce first, then the frittatini would be the second course with a salad. But here in the great USA we take our meatballs and our frittatini with our pasta, and our second course is our second helping.

First, the sauce. An excellent tomato sauce takes time. It calls for fresh tomatoes, a food mill to take out the tomato seeds and skin, and it calls for fresh basil. Today, my basil was rotten, I only had 2 fresh tomatoes and I was too lazy to take out the food mill with its many parts to clean. This did not stop me from making a very good sauce. I used a can of sauce to supplement my tomatoes and a frozen basil cube from Trader Joe's (Nonna would be offended by this). Its not the same as fresh basil and it leaves bits throughout the sauce that bother me aesthetically because it looks like canned sauce with all the unnecessary seasoning, but it gets the flavor in there. And, if you don't have any basil at all, you can still make a good sauce.

TOMATO SAUCE (chunky, low-effort, half-fresh)
2 fresh tomatoes (if you have them)
1 - 8oz can of tomato sauce (or chopped tomatoes or whole peeled tomatoes)
1/4 onion chopped
1-2 cloves of garlic chopped
olive oil
pinch of sugar
1 basil cube or a few fresh basil leaves (optional)

Sautee the onions and garlic in olive oil for a few minutes. If you have fresh tomatoes, add them and season with salt, pepper and a pinch of sugar. Once the tomatoes begin to release some of their juices, add the can of tomato sauce with a little bit of water. If you add whole peeled tomatoes, break them up with your wooden spoon. Season with salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, then simmer covered for 20-30 min., stirring occasionally. While the sauce is cooking down, prepare the frittatini.
3 eggs
2 heaping TBSP of grated cheese
4 heaping TBSP of unseasoned bread crumbs
2 TBSP milk (soy works fine, too)
1-2 cloves of garlic chopped
1 TBSP chopped parsley

Beat your eggs with milk, then add the rest of 
the ingredients gradually. You want to focus on
the consistency of the batter more than the 
exact measurements here. You want the 
frittatini batter to be firm but moist. Once the 
oil is ready, scoop the batter with a large spoon 
to make chicken nugget size pillows in the oil. 
The shape does not have to be perfect. Fry until 
golden on each side then add to the tomato sauce. 
By this point the sauce should be done and you can 
turn it off and let the frittatini stew in there while 
you boil your pasta.
Serve the frittatini with pasta and tomato sauce and garnish with grated cheese.

Thursday, May 28, 2009


While I was visiting the country I really wanted to try to only prepare dishes with ingredients that I could get locally. Usually, I do food shopping in NY and cart everything up here. It gets really cumbersome and I always end up running out to the store anyway. The first farmer's market I tried had nothing but plants, but Antidormi's up the road had a lot of nice fresh veggies and some delicious local honey. I imagined how pretty fresh cantaloupe and green peppers look together then began to imagine how would they taste together? I quickly sauteed the peppers in a little olive oil with hot chili flakes for a nice kick, then combined it with fresh raw cantaloupe, chopped parsley, fresh honey, balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper. The flavors combined really nicely. The crunchy pepper complimented the mellow cantaloupe flavor, and the sweetness of the melon and honey was rounded out well with the lemony parsley. The little bit of heat from the chili flakes and tang of the vinegar brightened up the whole salad. 

1/2 Cantaloupe shaved with a potato peeler
1/2 green pepper
Hot red pepper flakes to taste
Olive Oil
2 tsp. honey
2 tsp. balsamic vinegar
Chopped parsley for garnish
Salt and Pepper

Shave the cantaloupe with a potato peeler and set aside. Slice the pepper and sautee quickly, keeping the crunch, in oil with hot red pepper flakes to taste. Combine the pepper with the cantaloupe. Drizzle with honey and balsamic vinegar. Season with salt and pepper. Garnish with fresh chopped parsley.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009


      Another irresistibly delicious cookbook I took out of the library this week is Tate's Bake Shop Cookbook by Kathleen King. Whenever I work in South Hampton I always stop by Tate's to pick up her famous Chocolate Chip Cookies for Mike and a Lemon Pound Cake for the road, which I can eat in its entirety. Aside from her easy recipes, she includes some really great tips, like if you need to get eggs to room temperature soak them in hot tap water for a few minutes. I also thought it was interesting that all her recipes call for salted butter because its what most people usually have on hand. Tate's chocolate chip cookies have a distinguishable saltiness to them and thats probably why. I wanted to make the Lemon Pound Cake but didn't have sour cream, so I opted for Dot's Lemon Bars. They were really easy to make and came out not too sweet, very lemony and very buttery. I also used grapefruit zest and juice in addition to the lemon, just because I love grapefruit flavor. These would be great to bring to a picnic because they even look pretty stored in tupperware.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

BBQ Spaghetti from The Neelys

    Have you seen the new show on food network Down Home with the Neelys? I absolutely love it. First of all, they make some delicious BBQ and sides. Besides that they are such a hilarious and smokin' hot power couple. Today, while rubbin' down some ribs, Pat said, "now you got to flip her and rub her down," and Gina looked at him and said, "Are you talking about me? I'm about to get on that counter." And I thought Food Network was for the family! And Gina's competition with Pat's mother makes for some good TV. She's always trying to outdo her mother-in-law's secret recipes, adding her own twist to them and saying, "Watch out mamma!" Its great.
    Today they made BBQ Spaghetti and at first I was a little taken aback. I am a traditionalist when it comes to pasta, so this seemed very strange at first, but when they started pulling the pork for the sauce, I was sold. Its like a southern style ragu and if I ever get around to making my own ribs, I am going to try it and serve it to Rocco for some really raw commentary. Its all about an open mind, even when it comes to the sauce. 
    Let me know what you think about BBQ Spaghetti from The Neelys.


    My friend Jennie, the cookie genius who runs the best cookie company ever Sassy Sweet Treats sent me the message below in response to the jelly roll cake. Look how talented of a cake roller she is. She is even more talented at making amazing cookies. Check out her website and make someone's day by ordering some. Sassy Sweet Treats is my go-to Thank You Card when someone does something nice for me. I raved about her cookies so much to my friend Erik that he is always trying to figure out what nice things he can do for me to get a surprise of Sassy Sweet Treats cookies in the mail! He actually offered to come over and do my laundry! Very soon Jennie and I will be getting together to do some cooking and cookie-eating, which I will blog about so stay tuned.

Doesn't this look so good...
Jennie's message:
"I've attempted one rolled dessert in my life - last thanksgiving.  I saw it on the back of a can of Libby's Pumpkin and had to try it! I attached the pic I took of it! Here's the recipe! If you like cream cheese frosting and a delicious pumpkin cake....try this!! :)"

Thanks Jennie!


This super mellow peach slaw is perfect for an easy summer day and great with grilled goodies like kielbasa or hot dogs.
1 fresh peach
1 fresh tomato
2 inch of a fresh cucumber
1/4 red onion
2 TBSP chopped mint
1/4 C. sliced pecans
1 tsp. dried thyme

1/2 C. olive oil
1/4 C. balsamic vinegar
2 TBSP. honey

Julienne the all the veggies. Toss with dressing.

Whenever my parents make fried potatoes they call it heart attack on a plate. Bring on the heart attacks! This is a great way to use some leftover kielbasa or any sausage and some leftover potatoes. Just caramelize a quarter of an onion and a half of a pepper in olive oil in a cast iron if available with some hot chili flakes if available. Toss in some sliced grilled kielbasa and cooked potatoes. Season with salt and pepper. Enjoy with Peach Slaw. 

Monday, May 25, 2009


      I took this jelly roll recipe from Paul Dean's The Lady and Son's Just Desserts Cook Book, which I borrowed from the library. Aside from a million great desserts that are so easy to make, there are some really great and inspiring personal stories. Apparently Paula Dean was agoraphobic. Can you believe? Paula? But one day she decided to "live her life to the fullest" and thank god she did. What would the world do without the Butter Queen?
     I never made a jelly roll cake before and this seems like a technique that should be learned from Grandma and practiced. Baking the cake was pretty simple. Its a really light and fluffy, butterless cake, meant to let the jam flavor shine. And it only takes 10 minutes to bake. It was the cake rolling that was hard to interpret from the recipe directions. While still warm you have to roll the cake into a lint-free towel sprinkled with powdered sugar, let it cool, unroll, spread the jam, then re-roll. Well it worked out. 
    I used lingonberry jelly in it, which I don't think would be Paula's first choice, but I love lingonberries because they are like exotic cranberries. Lingonberries are tarter than they are sweet, so don't expect a sweet jelly roll cake if you use for lingonberries, but thats the fun, you can use any jelly you want. Mike felt that lingonberry jam was not the best choice because of its tartness, but there is no jelly roll cake left, so I am not too worried about it. It might be fun to do a red velvet roll cake or a black forest roll cake. 

Experiment with fun jams from Beth's Farm Kitchen, who make fig jam, gingered peaches jam, blood orange marmalade and many more.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Crepe Cake from Ceramic Canvas

While drooling over food photos as Food Gawker I came across a unique Crepe Cake with Chocolate Meringue Frosting from Ceramic Canvas. I definitely want to make this. Its looks like chocolate marble and seems like it would be really dense and rich from all those buttery crepe and chocolate layers. An impressive cake to bring to a party. Mmmmm. 


     We kicked off our Memorial Day Weekend with a canoe trip down the Deleware then back to our great friends Charles' and Martin's house, where we got to meet Ms. Pickles, their new wiener dog for the first time! There are no river adventure photos because Mike and I are famous for capsizing canoes, so I left the equipment back at the house. 
There were mounds of Southwestern BBQ Grilled Chicken.
Charles and Martin grilled up some Brussells Sprouts on a bed of bacon!!! They put some bacon on a piece of tin foil, then layered the sprouts over it and seasoned with salt and pepper and olive oil. Then with another piece of foil, they made a little tent, folding the edges up all around, and after about 15 minutes on the grill, those little green babies were juicy and bacon flavored.
Kathy from Ohio who makes amazing everything, made this outstanding Asparagus Salad. She steamed up some fresh asparagus, then mixed it with chopped grape tomatoes, fresh basil, fresh garlic, lime juice, salt, pepper and extra virgin olive oil.
     Kathy also threw together these amazing berry tarts. She baked up some puff pastry, let it cool then spread some instant coconut pudding on top. On top of that we got creative with the fresh strawberries, blueberries, blackberries and raspberries. For a glaze we thickened some apricot jam with water and a little bit of sherry, then brushed it over the top to give the berries that nice glisten.
     We double-desserted, which is becoming a bad habit. I wanted to make some fresh ice cream with avocado and bananas, but I never made ice cream before, because I have talked myself out of an ice cream machine so many times. After this concoction, I may reconsider. In addition to avocado and banana, we added fresh lime and grapefruit juice and zest, honey, a little salt and some fresh basil. The ice cream was super creamy from the avocado with a slight avocado flavor. The banana and basil flavors really combined in a nice way to make an all around delicious not to sweet pesto ice cream.
1 C. Heavy Cream
1 C. Half and Half
5 L. egg yolks
1/2 C. sugar
1 ripe avocado
1 ripe banana
2 TBSP honey
1/4 C. basil leaves
1 tsp. lime zest
1 tsp. grapefruit zest
1 TBSP. lime juice
1 TBSP. grapefruit juice
1/2 tsp. salt

In a food processor blend the avocado, banana, honey, basil, zest and salt until smooth. Warm the heavy cream and the half and half in a small sauce pan. Let it cool slightly. Beat the eggs then while beating the eggs add the cooled cream mixture to the eggs. Strain the egg milk mixture then combine with the avocado banana blend and cool in the fridge. Once cooled, stir in the lime and grapefruit juice, then put everything in the ice cream machine. 

Saturday, May 23, 2009


     One of my all time favorite lunch spots in Queens is Wafa's Mediterranean Kitchen. When you walk into the warm inviting shop right off of Metropolitan Ave in Forest Hills, you literally walk into a kitchen with a tiny dining area and you feel right at home. Wafa, who is the owner and authentic Lebanese chef could not be more friendly, gracious and accommodating. She opened up the shop within the past year, but from the flavors you can tell she has been making these dishes for a long time. Wafa came to the United States thirty years ago and has been cooking these delicious dishes she learned from growing up in her mother's kitchen for just as long. Finally, convinced by her friends whom she had been cooking for all that time who saw her potential and promised their support, she opened up her own shop right in her own neighborhood. Everyone who walks in is a friend, and Wafa knows everyone by name. Every time we sit at the windows eating our lunch, there is always a friendly face walking by waving in to Wafa. 
     Everything is so irresistably good at Wafa's from the Hummus to the Rosewater Baklava. I have tried just about everything on the menu. Today I got the Lamb Shawerma, which is fragrantly spiced lamb in a pita, with hummus, pickled vegetables, lettuce and tomatoes. I can never go to Wafa's without having a side of her Mousabaha, a flavorful eggplant stew, with chickpeas, garlic and pomegranate juice. I always look forward to what Mike orders because its just more for me to eat. 
     He ordered the Chicken Shawerma served with Rice and Lentils. Other favorite dishes are a special of Tilapia marinated in a garlic cilantro pistachio sauce, the meat pies, the spinach pies and the cheese pies. The split pea soup is really warm and hearty and the falafel is some of the best in the whole city. And we have never left without having the Baklava or taking some home because we are usually stuffed in a good way. Wafa's Baklava is like no other I have ever had. Its a crunchy yet smooth walnut Baklava flavored with rosewater and orange blossom. Just thinking about it makes my mouth water. Today we double-desserted and got Wafa's rice pudding, also with rose water and orange blossom and it was delightful. I always leave Wafa's with a smile on my face and a satisfied feeling in my belly, like I just ate a home cooked meal. And thats because I did. 
96-08 72nd Ave
Forest Hills, NY 11375
(718) 263-2757

Friday, May 22, 2009


This started out as a Shakertown Baked Zucchini, a recipe I found in my grandma's recipe box, but I chopped up all the zucchini then realized it was a stuffed zucchini recipe where you boil the whole zucchini, scoop out the pulp and mix it with round butter crackers and cheese, then stuff it into the zucchini shell and bake. I figured I'd make a stew instead since I had some canned tomatoes left from the fava bean pasta. This zucchini stew is the same way I would prepare Pasta with Cucuzza, which is that long green squash that looks like a baseball bat. An old Julia Child cookbook I read last night was so reassuring about poaching eggs that I felt inspired. I am so bad with eggs! This is something I have seen my Nonna do many times and it always works out. I think I did a pretty good job. I used the technique where you crack the egg and hold it in the shell in the hot liquid before releasing it so it can hold its shape. It worked. Then I put the top on to let the egg cook through and it absorbed all the wonderful flavors of the stew. This would be great served with pasta or on crusty peasant bread.

2 zucchinis cut in quartered then chopped
1/2 onion chopped
2 garlic cloves chopped
1-2 bay leaves
1 tsp hot red pepper flakes
2 Eggs
1/2 cup tomatoes chopped or crushed (canned or fresh)
Parsley and Grated Cheese for garnish (optional)
Salt and Pepper 

Sautee onions, garlic, bay leaf and red pepper flakes for a few minutes. Add the zucchini. Season with salt and pepper. After it reduces in size a bit, add the tomatoes with a sauce from the can and add about a 1/4 C of water. Season with salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, then simmer covered for about twenty minutes until the zucchini is tender. Then poach 2 eggs on top, by cracking the eggs on top of the sauce, seasoning with salt and pepper and putting the lid on for less than 5 minutes. Garish with chopped parsley and grated cheese. Serve plain with pasta or on crusty bread.


I was perusing through an awesome thrift shop on 12th St called the Cure Thrift Shop to support childhood diabetes and I found these three awesome old cookbooks. Simple Cooking for the Epicure is from 1948, Julia Child & Company and the Pillsbury Bake Off Desert Cook Book are both from 1978. The food photography inside is truly inspiring and a lot of fun! I will definitely be sampling some old fashioned recipes from all three of these books. Some interesting recipes in Simple Cooking for the Epicure by Jean Hamilton Campbell and Gloria Kameran are: Caucasian Rice, Armenian Dolma, Cheese Dreams and a Lazy Daisy Cake.

From the Pillsbury Bake Off Dessert 
Cook Book I would like to try: Spicey Pear Fiesta (upside-down) Cake, Sugarplum Cake and the Blueberry Boy Bait.

The legendary Julia Child make some complicated dishes, but there are step by step instructions with photos throughout the book plus all of Julia's lovable quotations like, "Without peanuts, it isn't a cocktail party," and "What to do about conversation you can't bear to miss? Cook at the table of course..." As a child watching her show on Channel 13, we never had cable, I remember her saying once, "Never apologize for anything your cook," and I always remember that phrase when I am unsure about how a cake turned out, or worried the sauce is too salty. I look around at my guests and think that I just made all of these people a meal so I shouldn't be sorry about nor should I make them think something is wrong even before they try it. 

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Have you taken your GMOs today?

Its a hard reality to face, but 70% of the food on grocery shelves is contaminated with GMOs. Or genetically modified food. There is a difference between selective breeding for desirable traits, which farmer's have been doing since the beginning of agriculture, to altering the genetic make-up of food in a laboratory, using DNA from other organisms. While there is an incredible amount of research that suggests GMOs are harmful to our health and to the environment, the USDA and FDA don't care because it is big business. The monster company behind the GMO take-over of agriculture world-wide is called Monsanto. An example of how insane GMO food is, Monsanto "created" a corn in the laboratory that has a pesticide in it that kills a crop eating worm. When you eat this corn you are eating a product that is considered itself an insecticide. 
Two great documentaries reveal how Monsanto has ruined the lives of thousands of farmers worldwide and severely threatens the health of everyone on this planet:
The World According to Monsanto directed by Marie-Monique Robin, 2008 which I watched on Sundance Channel and The Future of Food, produced, written and directed by Deborah Koons Garcia which I watched on Netflix
How to avoid GMOs? Its not that easy but there is a PDF you can download from Real Food Media that is really helpful. There are a few things to remember: anything organic is not supposed to have GMOs in it, but considering that the USDA's "organic" division has like 12 people on it, organic is not always trustworthy. Avoid processed food unless they are labeled GMO-free and definitely buy GMO-free bulk items, like flour, rice, corn, sugar and soy. These are some of the biggest offenders, since they are produced in such large quantity, not only for human consumption, but also for processed foods and for animal feed. And, if there are GMOs in the food, you won't know it because there is no mandatory labeling for it. has a more complete list of "the primary suspects" and a list of companies that produce GMO-FREE food, brands that I have found in Whole-Foods and Trader Joe's. Let's talk about animal feed; the animals you eat, eat feed, which is usually very low quality high GMO food, so try to make sure the meat you consume is organic, meaning the animals were fed vegetarian organic feed.  Protect your health and try to avoid GMOs.


      Panelle is one of my all time favorite snacks. I eat it everyday when I visit Sicily in the summer. Its a fried chick pea fritter usually served on fresh Italian bread. Not many places in New York make it but two of the few places you can get panelle is Bar Matchless in Greenpoint and the infamous Ferdinando's in Redhook. I have not tried either yet. 
      I made it for my Italian class party. Its pretty easy to prepare. You basically boil chick pea flour as if its porridge. Once its really thick you take it off the flame and add some parsley, salt and lemon juice and pour it into a greased mold. I use a water bottle with both ends cut off for the mold. Let it cool then slice and fry in canola oil.

1 lb. chick pea flour (also called garbanzo bean or cece flour)
1.5 Liters of Water
Fresh Lemon Juice
Chopped Parsley

Boil the water. Add the chick pea flour slowly stirring constantly. Lower the heat if it starts to boil over. Keep boiling until its thick. Keep stirring. Once it pulls from the side of the pot, season with salt, fresh lemon juice and chopped parsley. Pour the paste into a greased mold. Cooking spray works best. For the mold cut off the ends of the 1.5 Liter water bottle standing on one end. Push it down so its tightly in there. Let the panelle paste cool for a few hours in the fridge standing the bottle upright. Once its cool remove it from the mold and cut into thin slices. Fry in canola or gemma oil and season with salt. Serve on Italian bread. 

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Food Labels Explained

Check out Cheap Healthy Good's really helpful and candid post called, "26 Common Food Labels, Explained" It covers, grain vs. grass fed, cage-free, natural, 100% organic vs. organic and a bunch of other food lingo we all need to understand in order to make healthy food purchases and not be duped by advertising. 


I made this olive Oil Almond Cake for the Italian class party. I adapted it from an Almond Olive Oil Citrus Cake that Giada Laurentis made on her show Everyday Italian. Instead of chopped almonds I used raw almond meal, and I try to use blood oranges or grapefruit, when available for the zest. I subsitute soy milk to make it dairy-free and I usually add some orange liquor like triple sec or Gran Marnier to make it more citrus flavored. I didn't have any on hand so I added some almond extract to bring out the almond flavor more. I also don't do the citrus compote Giada's recipe calls for. Instead I just put some powdered sugar on top. It turned out great. It really has become a go-to cake in my family because its easy to make, pretty light and we love olive oil. And if you are feeling like citrus just add the Gran Marnier or Orange Extract or if you want more almond flavor, go with the Almond extract. And if you're feeling totally wild, just add it all! Its a really flexible cake on flavor and it has a light but dense texture because of the almond meal.

1 1/2 C. Flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1 C. sugar
3 large eggs
2 tsp orange zest (i like to use blood orange or even grapefruit)
2 tsp lemon zest
1/4 C. soy milk
3/4 C. of Extra Virgin Olive Oil (use the good stuff)
2/3 C. raw almond meal
1 tsp almond extract (optional)
1 TBSP Gran Marnier or any orange flavored liquor
Powdered Sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Use cooking spray to grease and 8-in cake pan. Whisk the flour baking powder and salt in one bowl. In another bowl beat the sugar, eggs, zest almond extract and orange liquor. Then beat in the soy milk then the olive oil. Stir the flour in until combined, then add the almond meal. Bake 35-45 min at 350 degrees. Let stand for a few minutes then flip onto a cake stand. If you want you can cut the crown of the cake to make it lay flat on the cake stand, but you run the risk of having a leaning cake if you don't cut straight. Once cooled, sift powdered sugar on top.


Here are photos from our Italian Class Festa from the other night. As you can see, these Italian students can rip roar party like nobody's business. Everyone brought in Italian food and partied Italian style. Plus, the whole family was there. It as a lot of fun. Rocco was his classic funny crazy self. So many people were like, "Who is that guy?" Uh, thats my dad. Gotta love him! Yes that is a conga line.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009


I photographed a party at The Box for Maidenform's release of a new bra. The cabaret performances were amazing, the dancing the singer, it was top notch entertainment. My favorite act were the most talented double dutch jump ropers who were tearing up the stage and making the crowd go crazy! As with all great party there were goodie bags, with bras inside and the best gift a delicious coconut dusted dark chocolate vegan truffle from Creme Fatale. It was hard to get this home to take a photo of it. I was honored to chat with Melissa Love, the truffle genius behind these remarkable treats. She was a doll and apparently makes everything, not only truffles, so I plan to feature some more of her delightful goodies very soon.


When my dad comes over he forgets his belongings, like keys, glasses, etc. Yesterday when we were making the fava pasta he forgot an entire loaf of rustic Italian bread. I was going to make plain old toast this morning but Mike came up with the idea of making french toast. Mike is a bread battering expert. He gets it from his dad, Robert who always makes us delicious french toast and omelets when we visit Mike's parents in New Jersey. Mike was full of compromise this morning and used soy milk in the batter and even some cinnamon. For the syrup, I segmented an orange and reduced it with some sake, honey, brown sugar, a tiny bit of vanilla and plain old Aunt Jemima Syrup to thicken it. I would have used Pure Maple but we were all out. The subtle orange flavor mingling with sake took it from plain country french toast to something I would imagine getting at an exotic bed and breakfast or at a fancy brunch. And we made it right at home in our pajamas with ingredients from our own cupboards. Next time I will use some nutmeg in the batter, and maybe a grapefruit or a blood orange and some orange liquor in the sauce. 

Monday, May 18, 2009


Nonna always tells me, "Jen, I gotta the sugah." She is saying she has "the sugar," pronounced shoo-guh, meaning she has diabetes. Nonna doesn't have diabetes, but in her off-kilter Sicilian mind filled with hypochondriac worry she does have "the sugar," among other Sicilian conditions like "the pressure" (high blood pressure) pronounced pre-sha and everyone knows this one, "the agida" (heartburn) pronounced ah-gee-duh. Nonna was so convinced she had the sugar that she demanded the doctor give her a skin prick diabetes sugar testing kit, which can only be obtained with a prescription. The doctor, knowing she didn't have diabetes refused, so Nonna threatened to go to another doctor, and he caved and gave it to her. This is why our healthcare is so screwed up!  Now Nonna follows cannoli eating with sugar monitoring and she is very pleased. She is also convinced that other people have the sugar, like my father, who doesn't have the sugar. But her friend across the street, Mrs. Lombardo, who is the strongest most hearty old woman I have ever met, (Ex. She is ninety and moved my refrigerator when I lived downstairs from Nonna.), according to Nonna, "Mrs. Lomardo really has gotta the sugah." And Mrs. Lombardo is in fact diabetic but it does not stop her from eating cannolis, either. I guess there is a difference between having the sugar and really having the sugar.  "I gotta the sugah," just means you are worried you might get the sugar. 


Midtown. Lunchtime. Grim. I'd walked by a place called The Kati Roll Company on 39th a few times but never tried it. The name and their signage were intriguing but nothing clued me in on what a Kati Roll is. Yesterday Erik and I took a "leap of faith" as he would put it and we were happy we did. At under $6, a Kati Roll is a very tasty bargain for a quick Manhattan lunch. I had imagined a Kati Roll to be Japanese, but its actually an Indian spicy filled paratha or flat bread that had the doughy consistency of a pancake. From their illustrated menu we ordered 3 Kati Rolls, an Aloo Masala which is spicy potatoes filled, an Unda Aloo Masala, spiced potatoes with eggs and an Achari Paneer, which is Indian cheese with pickled vegetables. 
The flavors were fresh, with hints of cilantro and the right amount of hot spice, but they were lacking in some type of sweet or spicy chutney sauce as a side. Asking for chutney for a Kati Roll may be like asking for grated cheese on seafood pasta, a major male figura, or no no. After all the spice, we were also craving some type of sweet dessert. Erik suggested some coconut rice pudding. I do respect how simple they run the operation. Its fast and efficient and I will definitely eat there again, next time trying the meat filled Kati Rolls. Plus, the bright orange interior and the giant Kung Fu Movie posters made me forget I was in Midtown for a minute. Other locations are Greenwich Village and London.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Don't make the mala figura!

Mala Figura (mah-luh-fig-ooh-da) is an Italian phrase that I asked Rocco to define:

First of all the term is mala figura. 
This is really a very central theme in Italian culture. A culture that has many "external" features i.e appearances or how things seem from the perspective of others.
The easiest way to translate it is "bad appearance." Something that should be avoided at all cost lest one is taken for a "cafone."
As an example, if you invite people over and realize that there is not enough dessert or if you go visit someone and do not bring enough dessert. If you go to a wedding and you realize that you have not put  enough cash in the "busta." Going to a function and being under dressed or over dressed is a mala figura as is driving a old Cadillac. 
Italians like to impress others, it's in their blood, it's part of the fact that the whole national ethos requires acting. A nation of actors upon a stage.
Whatever you do, never make a mala figura. If you invite people, always make food for an army and when you dress, always wear the best clothing etc. or else you will indeed make a mala figura.
You get the picture.


The first webisode of Morta Di Fame was filmed this morning. Rocco procured some fresh fava beans and made fava bean pasta. It was an adventure, a challenge and an all-around crazy fun time. The video will take a minute to edit,  so in the mean time, I am blogging the old fashioned way since fava bean season is short.
Cooking with fresh fava beans can be time consuming because you need to shell them twice. First out of their pod, then out of their shell. The shell is edible and delicious but can be bitter when cooked. But if you have some patience and a partner, its not so bad. Once you have the fava beans shells, they are really easy to make a delicious sauce out of.

3lbs. Fresh Fava Beans, Shelled Twice
1 small onion chopped
3 cloves of garlic chopped
1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes
Bay Leaf
Olive Oil
1/2 C. fresh or canned tomatoes

In a heavy saucepan sautee the onions, garlic and bay leaf in olive oil. After a few minutes add the tomatoes then the fava beans. Season with salt and red pepper flakes. Add enough water to 
cover the fava beans. Bring to a boil, them simmer covered for 1/2 and hour to 45 minutes, until the fava are soft and the sauce has cooked down. Season with salt and olive oil to taste.

For the pasta, use fettucini and break it up into small pieces. When boiling in salt water also add some olive oil since this type of pasta tends to stick together. Cook until al dente and strain, saving some of the pasta water. Add about 1/4 C. of the pasta water, along with the pasta to the fava bean sauce. Enjoy!

(all photos ©Jennifer Galatioto)

Saturday, May 16, 2009


I read about this fascinating and historical cake at Cake Spy.


Has anyone ever had grilled meatballs? I am not sure how I feel about grilled meatballs. I do like to repeat the phrase grilled meatballs. It is an intriguing idea and the new meatball grill basket from Williams-Sonoma  looks like something I need, but I know its something I would use once and curse a millions times over because I don't have any place for it in my kitchen. Then during a purge it would give me a great deal of stress because I spent like $35 on it five years prior and my intentions for grilled meatballs are still there even thought I know it will never happen so I try to find someone to pawn it off on some sucker so I don't feel bad about throwing it in the trash. I don't even have a grill or any chairs in my backyard yet, I don't need this thing, but there is still a small part of me that wants to get this crazy gadget. What would a grilled meatball taste like? Smokey? Burger-ish? Unlike a burger, this basket does not allow the meat to really have contact with the grill so unless you're using charcoal or wood it might not add a lot of flavor. Any thoughts? What's next, a specially molded fry basket for hamburgers? It hurts me to say this, but the meatball grill basket seems like an unnecessary waste of space on a container ship from China only to be taking up even more wasted space in a landfill. I'll stick to old fashioned meatballs for now, but if anyone tries this tempting tool please let me know how it goes.


(photo: ©Jennifer Galatioto)

Above: Country House With New Screened in Porch

This is an essay I entered into a contest to win a trip for my entire family to go on vacation to a luxury camping resort in Montana. I don't think I won, because I've never yet been to Montana, but I figured I'd  share. The topic was Memorable Family Get Togethers. 

An Italian American family get together is about food, food and more food. About thirty of us were visiting my parent’s country house. It was a special occasion because our cousin Leonardo was visiting from Italy and a gigantic feast was in order. It was a smorgasbord of delicious dishes, a hybrid of American barbeque like hot dogs, hamburgers and local corn, combined with Italian delights like eggplant, mozzarella and of course the pasta, which my father Rocco was in charge of. A meal in our family does not begin until the pasta is boiled perfectly al dente. The rest of the food was waiting, warm under aluminum foil, while my family was sitting, mouths watering at the table on the deck. I could see my father in the kitchen straining the pasta. He finally emerged. This would be a truly unforgettable meal. As the gigantic platter of pasta made contact with the table, the four feet high deck gave out from under the weight of us all. Everyone slid off the deck, followed by mounds of uneaten food. In a moment of crisis in an Italian American family, food comes before women and children. It was a hysterical effort on everyone’s part to grab flying sausages and tubs of mashed potatoes. Diving across the table to save a tray of my grandmother’s veal cutlets was worth the risk of breaking a limb. We were all so concerned with rescuing the food that it wasn’t until the madness was over that we realized poor Leonardo, our Italian guest, was pinned beneath the table covered in pasta and tomato sauce. It was the most memorable meal we never ate. 

Friday, May 15, 2009


Nothing takes me back to India like some hot Chai tea. Wait, I've never been to India, but Miguel has and he came back with video footage from his new Canon 5D, which is a digital camera that does HD video that rivals some professional video cameras. Enough with the geek tech talk. We watched his video on our big flat screen and it was like we were there. What was so great was that since Miguel was filming with the photo camera no one knew he was filming so everyone's body language was really natural like they are not on camera. It created such a vivid idea in my mind of what India must be like that last night I had a bizarre dream that I was there with my mom, my brother Mike and Nonna. What a group! The hotel put us in this really strange room that was basically a public restroom with a subway train above it. I was not happy and got a refund and we drove all over Indian all night long in a rental car looking for a new hotel. Very strange. One thing I loved about India, from living vicariously through Miguel's trip was that everyone invited him into their house for Chai Tea. Here's my version, which I adapted from Padma Lakshmi's recipe in her book Tangy Tart Hot and Sweet. She uses 1/4 cardamom powder which I find a bit overpowering and I began using the pods which have a fresher flavor. Also, she doesn't use cinnamon in her recipe but I have seen it in other Chai Tea recipes. I need no excuse to use cinnamon anywhere. I also substitute regular milk for soy milk.

Chai Tea
1/2 inch of fresh grated ginger or 1/4 tsp ground ginger
1/8 tsp cardamom powder or 2-3 cardamom pods
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1 cinnamon stick or 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
3-4 darjeeling tea bags or regular black tea
1 C. soy milk (or regular)
1 TBSP honey
1 TBSP brown sugar

Bring the spices to a boil in 4 C. of water, then add the rest of the ingredients. Bring down to a simmer and steep for 5 min. Strain. This makes about 4 C. I store the leftover in a mason jar in the fridge and enjoy it cold.  

Thursday, May 14, 2009


       My favorite drink of all time hands down: Manhattan Special. For those of you not fortunate enough not to have experienced this exhilarating drink, its expresso soda. The best of both worlds. A perfectly sweetened not-bitter espresso with the right amount of fizz. They should call it Middle Village Special because every store in my neighborhood in Queens carries this superb beverage, but that just doesn't sound as good.
        While finding a spot on Eliot Ave to get a sandwich at the famous Andy' Deli, an  amazing old fashioned German-style deli, I saw two men crossing the street wearing Manhattan Special T-Shirts. I literally jumped out of the car and followed them across the street to their Manhattan Special Van! I thought I was hallucinating.
         It got even better, I met Louis, who is none other than the owner of Manhattan Special. What a day for me and what an honor to meet the man responsible for creating the best drink ever that I can always rely on when I need a sweet pick-me-up. I almost bowed down in honor. 
      Louis invited me to the plant in Greenpoint, where he brews Manhattan Special with his own two hands. He even agreed to let me feature him and his amazing business right here on Morta Di Fame. I won't be able to see the secret behind the scenes operations, which is understandable but he did agree to let me take some photos of the equipment and he was a little coy about his own portraits, but I am going to do my best to charm him into letting me take a few. Afterall, Louis is a true hometown hero. Stay tuned for my visit to the plant!
         In the meantime, visit Manhattan Special's Website. There's a great video on there about the history of the company, plus a store locator, and if there's not a store in your area you can order it to be shipped to you. 

Sorry for this crappy iphone photo.


This recipe was inspired by a madeline-like Japanese green tea cake I had the other day at lunch at the Japanese Market near work. It tasted like green tea and had that like dense fluffiness of a madeline. I am obsessed with madelines and green tea, so I made them get married and I am very happy with the result. I used a Emeril's Orange Madeline Recipe as my starting point and added to it the green tea and instead of oranges I substituted grapefruit. I also used castor sugar instead of regular sugar so they would be silky smooth and used cooking spray to grease the molds. Last, I omitted the chocolate dip. 
Words of advice: don't forget the eggs. For my first batch my batter was like green delicious crumply play dough. I knew something was wrong but I had to follow through. They came out like green tea biscuits and Mike had one and got sick. I had one too and I am fine. I think its his nerves. It wasn't smooth sailing. Instead of coating the pan with butter and flouring, I used cooking spray. They didn't pull completely off the pan. Then I tried to experiment. I did half the pan just with cooking spray and the other half with the butter and flour. The winner: cooking spray on its own. Those babies slid right out, and were delicious! 

For the green tea powder I used Mariage Feres Matcha Uji Green Tea that I got when I visited Paris. It tastes just like green tea ice cream and its really fine and perfect for baking. 

Green Tea Madelines
4 eggs at room temp
3/4 C. castor sugar
1/4 tsp vanilla
1 stick melted butter, cooled
1 C. flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. grapefruit zest
1 tsp. green tea powder

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray the molds with cooking spray.
On high speed beat the eggs sugar and vanilla for 8-10 minutes until they are light and fluffy.
In a separate bowl mix the flour, baking soda and green tea. 
To the egg mixture add the grapefruit zest and about half of the flour mixture. Mix until combined. Add the other half of the flour mixture and mix until combined.
In a steady stream pour the butter into the mixture while beating, until combined.
Let stand at room temperature for 10 min.
Spoon batter into molds so they are 2/3 full and bake for 18-20 minutes until golden brown.
Let them cool a few minutes before popping them out of the molds.