Tuesday, October 27, 2009


I just got a couch! My first brand new, flame retardant soaked couch! The timing was perfect. It was the most miserably rainy day, perfect for watching movies all day and night. I realized since I had moved to my new place I have never stayed there all day, not leaving once. My squirrel like activity level doesn't permit this luxurious behavior.
It can be fun to go into temporary lock-down as far as food goes too because you have to eat only what you have and need to get a little inventive. But usually you realize you have a lot of good stuff on hand that you normally skip over when you take a trip to the market, then end up throwing it away later.
I woke up with pancakes on my brain. Apple Pancakes. They were winged. Flour, Eggs, Water (because there was only rotten soy milk), a little salt and grated apples in the batter. I ate this with Chili Honey Butter which is like butter crack that I got out of Padma Lakshmi's Tang Tart Hot and Sweet. Its the easiest thing to make, 1 stick of butter, 1 1/2 TBSP. honey plus 1 tsp. cayenne and salt. Heaven.
For movie watching it was sliced fresh radishes and salt. Such a great and refreshing snack.
Movie watching, and basically not moving off the couch for hours on end can lead to extreme lethargy and the feeling of general dirtbagness. If I was going to make dinner I needed to pep up so I took a shower and dressed up like I was going out. I like to do this with fancy dinners, too. Get into a fancy dress and convince your man to wear the one outfit he has on hand in case someone dies. It can be very romantic and can make a regular dinner at home an extravagant affair.
For my private dinner at home, I made Miso Cod that I marinated in miso, mirin and sake, salt and pepper. When grilled it became sweet and caramelized on the outside and flakey inside, but this fish is easy to overcook and can fall apart, so I try to take it off before I think its done, and its usually perfect. As a side I prepared sauteed collared greens and rosemary roasted potato wedges. For dessert apple crumble. I tend to buy giant bags of apple at the Farmer's Market.
And to think, all of this food was already in my house. Next time I get the urge to go to the store I am going to take a closer look to see what I have on hand. Then I am going to wrap myself up in blankets hermit style and pray for rain.


It was always there right in front of my nose: roasted fennel. Fennel I've always eaten like potato chips; open a bag and done, fennel gone. Its so refreshing on its own.
Then I promoted it to shaved fennel salad with blood oranges and pistachios. Some watercress, maybe some shaved parmesan cheese. But I just don't like to eat salad in the cool weather.
On the train coming home I remembered I'd had some brussel sprouts in the fridge, which are great for roasting (especially with bacon) and some fennel. I just knew magic would happen when I put that crispy white fennel in a hot oven with perfect extra virgin olive oil, sea salt and ground pepper. Divinity. Fennel is absolutely perfect for roasting. It holds up to the heat and oozes a sweet mellow licorice goodness. Why did you only appear to me now roasted fennel?
Stay tuned I am on a roasting kick!


Great friends Yui and Miguel (or Migui) moved to Japan this year. While I sorely miss them, I am so very happy for the new healthy life they have found in Yui's native country. This entry is dedicated to friendship and new beginnings.
When I planned Japanese night, even though they were not here, Yui and Miguel were in my heart. Yui taught me some really amazing authentic dishes while she was in the states. She used to bring me to the Sunrise Mart downtown and help me stock up on items, patiently helping me read through the labels. She got me and Rocco hooked on brown rice (Gen-Mai-Cha) tea and turned me totally off to any miso soup from a powder pack. I hope I can do her proud.
Yui also taught me how to be a great friend and a compassionate person, how to live life fully with a bright smile on my face and how to find the "light" within myself. And Miguel showed me how to look at the world as if I am waking up everyday for the first time. And I hope to one day find such a unique and special bond that the two of them have. They are both daily inspirations in my life and I know though they are far away, distance is not something that changes what they mean to me.
Yui warned me when visiting Japan if you're feeling tipsy then stop drinking when your cocktail glass is full. In Japan they get you sauced because it is rude for a guest to have an empty drinking glass. So to toast to getting wasted in Japan, my Japanese dinner party guest presented a "Tim" Cocktail, the Rain Forest Green Tea-Ni, in which he infused Vodka with Green Tea and Ginger, then mixed in cointreau, lime juice and agave nectar. Wow! It was strong and delicious. He really knows how to shake 'em. It was reminiscent of a really good margarita in a gingery dangerous way.
First course, homemade miso soup. You just boil some fish broth (they come in little tea packets), add to that some miso paste, some dried seaweed, tofu, scallions and mushrooms. What a difference making it homemade is, and its so simple and easy.
Next, mushroom ginger dumplings. I first sauteed some shitake mushrooms with shallots and ginger zest then let this cool. Then I wrapped them in wonton wrappers and sauteed them one by one, then steamed the whole pile with a drop of water in the same pan covered to cook everything through. (This is more important with meat dumplings.) We had them with a yummy concoction of soy sauce and hot chili garlic sauce. They were too good to stop eating.
As a veggie side, I made some Japanese Sweet and Spicy Eggplant.
And dessert was a funny hodgepodge of leftover Vegan German Apple Cake, boxed and individually wrapped green tea cookies and Pocky, which are basically crack sticks.

Monday, October 26, 2009


There's nothing like coming home from work, eating amazing butternut squash soup that a friend was kind enough to share with me, then getting a call about more dinner at Nonna's. Fresh Homemade Pasta with Fava Beans. How can I say no to that, even though I would be double dinnering? I can't.
I haven't learned the homemade pasta technique from Nonna yet but she was particularly obsessed with moving it around on this wooden board, most likely so it wouldn't dry up and stick together before putting it into the water.
The fava sauce is made from dried fava beans that have been stewed with garlic. Rocco, please enlighten us here. Do you soak the beans? It becomes this garlic flavored fava bean paste and is so hearty with the homemade pasta, and a lot more filling that regular pasta. Extra virgin olive oil plus salt is key on top of this dish.
There is Rocco enjoying his dinner. He is eating pasta out of a serving bowl. A regular bowl is not quite generous enough of a portion. These days Rocco is preoccupied by the notion that he is too skinny.
Wouldn't Nonna's apartment be such a great place to have a supper club? I might even be able to convince her to take the plastic off the furniture! God Forbid!
And this is a photo of a young Rocco with his little brother back in the day in Old Brooklyn.

Friday, October 23, 2009


   I don't believe in time. First of all, it makes everyone stressed out and in a rush. I hate rushing! And it makes people get old, which I certainly don't believe in. Time as we perceive it, passes us by so quickly I can hardly comprehend it. Its been 2 weeks since Dorcas, Elina and myself got together to make a kick-ass girl's dinner. And its been 10 years since the three of us graduated from high school! 
   But when we get together time stops and thats when the fun begins. Get us in one room eating and wining and we become a laugh so loud that I have to close the windows wild bunch.   
    It makes me realize that life should always be lived in the present. To live in the past is regretful and to live in the future is worrisome. Its when we live in the present that we are truly alive. And you know how I like to live: eating.
      On a fine Friday afternoon I met Dorcas in Union Square and we picked up the fixins for a local feast. With some scallion sauce from a farm stand, red peppers, broccoli, bok choy and gorgeous shrimp, we put together a delicious one pot shrimp and veggie stir fry over basmati rice that was so quick and easy it left plenty of valuable girl chat craziness.
    We can't talk about time awareness without talking about the lovely Elina. Admittedly always late, she offered to make an appetizer. The stir fry was hot on the table by the time Elina arrived and began casually assembling a traditional Greek dish called Dako, which is stale bread soaked in water and vinegar then topped with fresh tomatoes, cucumbers and lots of cheese. We ate it as a side and it was superb. F off time!  
   For dessert we made a simple apple crumble with local apples. This is such an easy quick recipe you can make in a cinch if you have apples and a few things in the pantry.
    After dinner we headed to Brooklyn to the diviest dive bar ever. The bar had a boxing game and Dorcas, mighty Dorcas, kicked ass and made us so proud by punching harder than all the wimpy boys in there! YES!!!
And the night ended with Frito Pie...

Thursday, October 22, 2009


Broccoli. It really is my all-time favorite food, ever! If I had to pick one food to survive the apocalypse it would definitely be broccoli. Mommy always reminds me its an anti-carcinogen, too. Even better in case of nuclear fallout!
I wanted to experiment with the same anise ginger flavor I had prepared my Cauliflower Cashew soup with last week, so I browned the anise seeds in oil, added some shallots, garlic and fresh grated ginger, plus some peperoncino. Then I added the broccoli with enough water to cover it, salt and pepper then some potatoes. I simmed it until everything was soft, then decided not to puree it. This is a perfect lunch food, very filling and energy packed.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009


Driving in Amagansett, my favorite town on the way to Montauk, we saw a sign for Balsam Farm Market. It is a good ways down the gorgeous woodsy back roads and when we pulled up, the first thing I saw were chickens! Wouldn't this photo make a great wedding invitation? Is it two roosters or two hens? I can't tell.
The colors of this farm stand were enough to pull you right in. It was such blinding eye candy, the tomatoes, the pumpkins, the squash, I didn't know what to get.
I found these irresistible turkish eggplants. They look like mini pumpkin tomatoes.
The farmer, posed in the hero shot above, told me to fry them. No problem! They were delicious with a little plum chutney.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009


Oktoberfest means two things: beer and potato pancakes. The line outside of Zum Schneider's in the Lower East Side was offensively long but we somehow scored a table outside after not too long. We ordered the potato pancakes and a vegetarian plate.
I know I know, What is German food without sausage? But I was in the company of a vegetarian, who I always insensitively tempt with meat, plus we were headed to another restaurant right after, so I didn't want to fill up too much ... on food that is. I drank a liter of Spaten which was bigger than my head and the rest of the night and much of the next day was history.
This is how I looked with beer goggles.
This is how my German date looked. Cute, eh?

Monday, October 19, 2009


   After a few casual "Eye-talian" (Sicilian to be exact) Girls Club Get Togethers, we decided why not start a Sicilian Inspired Supper Club? It would have to be on Sunday naturally, around 3pm, and the food must be served family style. We would call it Sunday Propers and would serve local, simple and home cooked meals by the "Guido Girls," Melissa Love and myself. 
   First we'd have to get to know each other in the kitchen. As everyone woman knows, her kitchen is her territory. You know how that saying goes, "too many cooks in the kitchen..." Well one too many Sicilians in the kitchen can be a volatile situation to say the least. 
   Melissa and I have never cooked together before, so before we start serving guests, we thought it would be a good idea to see how compatible we are as cooking partners. It really turned out great. It was all about compromising, not taking things personally and being open to new ideas. With that winning combination we really cooked up a delicious vegetarian Sunday dinner, Guido Girls style! 
    To keep things local, we picked some fresh herbs from my garden then hit the Graham Ave then the Dumbo Farmer's Markets, picking the freshest seasonal veggies. The peppers and eggplants looked fantastic and to keep with the harvesting season we wanted to make some pumpkin ravioli. We also picked up some apples for a surprise Melissa Love dessert.
   We grilled the eggplant and topped the slices with fresh basil pesto drizzle and toasted pine nuts. They were so delicious, almost buttery. A great starter. 
     We came up with the idea of Peppers Stuffed with Bruschetta. To do this we roasted tomatoes, shallots and garlic. In the meantime, we browned some cubed bread in butter. We mixed the roasted tomatoes with the browned bread and some fresh oregano, fresh basil,olive oil, and grated pecorino romano, then stuffed it into the colorful peppers. This was an incredibly surprising dish with all the fresh herbs and roasted flavors. 
   For the pumpkin ravioli, we went with a simple butter sage sauce served a side of fresh roasted beets with tarragon.
   Not only is Melissa a genius cook and baker, but she is a professional pretty maker. Her food styling transformed what would look like a regular home cooked dinner into a elegantly eye catching, mouth drooling tablescape.
   For dessert Melissa made an amazing homemade apple gallette and she Sicilianized it with a secret crumbly cookie filling. These babies, topped with Paul's homemade ice cream, that wasn't ready for in time for dessert, but which we sampled anyway, was outstanding. The perfect way to end a perfect Sunday meal.
   Melissa and I are going to do some more Sicilian kitchen testing before we announce our first Supper Club, but stay tuned! Next up, butter nut squash gnocchi and maybe some homemade canolis...

Friday, October 16, 2009


    I am always baking up something and I always bring whatever I make to work for Erik to consume. Erik is one of my favorite types of people, a human food vacuum. Whatever you give Erik he will eat (except meat), which is great because nothing I make, especially baked goods,   goes to waste. Erik is super duper tall and slim, so I don't even feel bad about making him fat because he can eat ridiculous amounts of food and never seems to gain a pound. Its perfect. 
    His gorgeous wife Carrie is a vegan, so she doesn't get to enjoy a lot of my baked goods, so I made this Vegan German Apple Cake with her in mind, hoping that it would make it home to her without Erik sucking it down. It did and she enjoyed it very much. 
   I got this recipe from the Joy of Vegan Baking, which is actually in Erik and Carrie's possession so I had to have Erik scan the recipe and email it to me. Its is the easiest cake to make, super light, a perfect dessert with some ice cream and really great for breakfast with some hot coffee.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

The Other Brooklyn

     I am from Queens, (let this be clear) but when my grandparents came here from Sicily, they first settled in Brooklyn, in Bushwick to be exact. And Rocco went to Bushwick High School when it wasn't cool to live in Bushwick. Very not cool. I remember this awesome orange Bushwick HS Reunion T Shirt he used to have. Beacon's Closet would pay big bucks for that one these days.
    Back in the day there was a funny phrase that distinguished two different areas of Brooklyn. If you lived in the northern area, where Knickerbocker Avenue is, where a lot of Italian immigrants lived, you lived in "Brooklyn." Then there was, "The Other Brooklyn," way over in the South part of the borough, which referred to Italian neighborhoods like Bensonhurst and Bay Ridge. Nonna still says, "He lives in l'altro Brukulino." On the other hand, if you lived in Bensonhurst, you considered that to be "Brooklyn" and you called Bushwick, "The Other Brooklyn." Its all a matter of one's perspective.
    Like when I was a kid on the block in Queens I had a friend named Jen. I called her "Jennifer Down the Block," to distinguish her from myself who was "Jennifer Up the Block." When I called her "Jennifer Down the Block" one day she said, "No, you are Jennifer Down the Block!"
We  still have not resolved that one.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009


     I made some sweets for my sweet. Carrot cupcakes from Eats Well With Other, who adapted it from Smitten Kitchen. I topped them with regular cream cheese frosting with some fresh lemon zest instead of Maple Cream Cheese. I also didn't have enough apple sauce so I replaced it with olive oil. Yes, olive oil. And they were as moist and delicious as can be.  Next time I will use fresh grated ginger and some orange or lemon zest in the batter to freshen them up. 
    I also wanted to make some cute carrot designs but wanted to avoid Yellow No. 5, which as a kid after eating cheetos and grape soda made my throat close up and I broke out into hives, so I experimented with a few colorful things from my pantry and garden. 
   For orange, I used a combination or saffron, turmeric and cinnamon. And for the green stems, I used mint leaves. I ground everything up in a mortar. The colors were a lot more natural in a nice way. They also had subtle spice hints, which were a fun surprise.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Pasta with Leeks, Pine Nuts and Toasted Bread Crumbs

    I don't come up with new ideas for dishes often, but when I do and its a hit I like to break down the brainstorming process. Hunger and craving are steps 1 and 2. I'd been dreaming about Nonna's specialty dish, pasta with sardines, which is topped with delicious browned bread crumbs. But, the CSA packs my fridge with veggies, not sardines and I had a bunch of leeks. I went on my google reader and came across a post titled, "Leek Pasta: who loves ya baby?" Pasta with Leeks. (On a side note: No wonder why Gourmet magazine went out of business. Food bloggers are in mourning but we are to blame. Who needs Gourmet when there is a wealth of glorious free food porn and recipes!?)
    Leek Pasta equals genius, but Judith's recipe calls for heavy cream and cheese and frankly dairy and myself are lover's at war and I am a sad loser. Picture me running longingly toward a bowl of fresh whipped cream. I am mouthing, "I love you! Let's be together again." Just as I am about to take that sweet cream into my loving and forgiving embrace it smacks me in the face then punches me in the gut, double time. Its so wrong, so I am trying to walk away quietly. 
    Then there it was leeks and bread crumbs, some toasted pine nuts and pasta and it was delicious and dairy-free! I don't need you after all, cream!
    I sauteed some shallots and garlic with peperoncino in lard (substitute butter or olive oil here). With lard, if you got it flaunt it, right? I cut the leeks into little rings (after soaking them in water; they are dirty!) and sauteed them. Salt and pepper. I got everything nice and caramelized then added some pine nuts and toasted them. In a separate pan, I browned some bread crumbs in olive oil or butter while the pasta was boiling. I only had angel hair but I would recommend spaghetti. After draining the pasta, I coated it in a little olive oil, added the leeks on top and the toasted bread crumbs on top of that. Some pecorino romano or parmesan cheese would be delicious to finish this off. There I go again, taking that dairy back. Some parsley would be nice, too. 
    So fresh and so vegan minus the lard! But, dairy-free is all that matters to me.


    I am not really a cook book person. I have this thing about having too many books, so I usually either take my cook books out of the library and make photo copies of recipes or when I need a quick recipe I look in Grandma's tin, online or I just freestyle it. A little onion and garlic is the start of something special every time.
    I got Padma Lakshmi's Tangy Tart Hot and Sweet cook book from a Secret Santa one year (Thank You Dasha!) and I didn't open it for a while, but when I did, it was like an entire new world of Indian flavors opening up to me. Now I am no longer scared to sautee cumin seeds, make chutneys and grate ginger into everything. 
   A while back I made this excellent Sauteed Cauliflower with Anise and Cashews from the cook book. Cashews for the record are not my favorite nut, but with a little heat and spice they come alive. And now its soup season and Cauliflower Soup is an all time favorite, so I experimented with adapting this recipe for pureed soup. I am very satisfied with it. The smooth cauliflower texture combined with the crunchy ground cashews is remarkable on the taste buds. 
  Try it. Its such simple revamp for Cauliflower Soup.

Original Recipe from Padma Lakshmi's Tangy Tart Hot and Sweet:
Sauteed Cauliflower with Anise and Cashews
2 to 3 TBSP canola oil
1 tsp anise seed
3 or 4 long dry chilies
1 C diced shallots
1 1/2 TBSP minced ginger
2 1/4 lb Cauliflower broken into small florets
1/2 tsp salt
1 C cashews

1. Heat the oil in a skillet over medium heat. When it is hot, add the anise seeds and saute for 2 to 3 minutes.

2. Roughly break up the chilies, add them to the anise seeds and stir. After 5 minutes, add the shallots, ginger, and cauliflower. Add 1/2 C. of water and salt and stir. Cook for 10 minutes.

3. Stir in the cashews and cook for an additional 10 minutes or so uncovered, until all the moisture is gone, stirring occasionally. The cauliflower will reduce greatly in size and should have some charred brown bits at the edges. The cashews should also be toasted brown. SERVES 4-6

Cauliflower Cashew and Anise Soup 
    I wanted to get the flavor of the browned cauliflower and cashews so I basically followed the recipe exactly with a few modifications before I turned it into soup. I used olive oil obviously instead of canola oil and I used peperoncino instead of the hot chilies. I also added some ground nutmeg for fun. I followed the recipe then added enough water to cover the cauliflower plus a vegetable bouillon. I diced up a red potato, skin on, and added that for thickness and depth. I simmered it for about 15 minutes, then I pureed it with the hand blender. What a tool! I served it with fresh cilantro which really took it to another level flavor wise.

Sunday, October 11, 2009


The Lamb Takedown was on Sunday. I love any type of competition, anytime, anywhere, but I was kind of tired on Sunday. I wanted to just sit at home and do nothing. But I had already paid $15 for my ticket and there were goody bags. I love goody bags second to competitions so I headed to the Highline Ballroom on Manhattan's West Side and I am happy I went.
They gave out awesome "I Love Lamb" fake tattoos!
There were 20 competitors, chefs who were given 15 lbs of lamb meat from the American Lamb Board (thanks y'all) and they created delicious bite sized lamb dishes. There would be 2 first prize winners, one judged by "the experts" and another judged by the audience. Host Matt Timms was so hilarious. He kept everyone amped on lamb the whole day.
For $15 bucks I ate a whole lot of lamb. Three giant plates to be exact. It was so worth it. Stand outs to me were the sexy lamb stew, the lamb tacos and the vietnamese lamb sandwiches. Don't ask me who? what? or when?
After a while everything started to kind of meld into one lamb taste, but not in a bad way. There were so many different dishes I just couldn't keep track. For a more thorough analysis visit Underground Dining. Yvonne kept really good track of everything and took great photos. I was just like, "Lamb? Where? More lamb? Yay!"
This chef topped his lamb dish off with a fig and some yummy creamy sweet sauce.
This chef made the sexy lamb stew I liked and said something about lamb being a major aphrodisiac. Whatever takes you there.

Visit THE TAKEDOWN to see who won.