Monday, November 30, 2009


You have to really like celery to appreciate this soup. I had boiled some chick peas and was left with the nutritious liquid. What to do? I grabbed some dying celery from the fridge and boiled it until soft in the chickpea water and some salt and pepper. I blended it, topped it with some fresh walnuts and that was it. Very Celery Soup. Very nutritious. Great for post Thanksgiving food hangovers!

Saturday, November 28, 2009


Saturday morning, 9am, I was sleeping and the phone rings. Its Rocco and Mommy. We three- way call all the time. Usually I have no idea what is going on.
"Jen, what are you going to make for Nonna's?" Rocco says. No "hello."
I think to myself, what day is it? It isn't Sunday, is it? I'd been out late the night before.
"For tomorrow?"
"Yeah, what are you going to make?"
"I don't know. I just woke up."
"You have this fancy blog, and you make all these fancy things, and you don't know what you are going to make at Nonna's tomorrow?"
At this point I feel cursed for having food obsessed Sicilian blood.
Then Mommy, who is non-Sicilian and the only one with common sense in our family, chimes in, "Leave her alone, Roc, its Saturday morning, she doesn't have to make anything for tomorrow." Thanks, Momma!
There's not much point in me making anything because Nonna, who is 89, runs the Sunday Dinner show. Pasta with red sauce is always on the menu made with fresh tomatoes. Some fried eggplant to top it. Not complaining.
Mommy made her special breaded shrimp with parsley.
There were like 9 other side vegetable dishes, a cauliflower and string bean salad, a lettuce salad, olives, cheese, and loaves and loaves of bread. I focused mainly on sopping up sauce with bread. And then eating a second bowl of pasta.
I made this orange cauliflower I picked up in Union Square. All I did was roast it with salt, pepper and olive oil. Thats it. Rocco could not believe that story.
"Did you fry this cauliflower, Jen G?"
"No, Dad. I roasted it with salt, pepper and olive oil. 450 degrees."
"This is good. Is there garlic in here?"
"No just cauliflower."
"Wait, did you fry this?"
This conversation continued longer than I can write without having a mental freak out.
I also brought a spiced quince brown butter cake. I got the recipe from Zen Can Cook blog. I am really having a hard time getting used to quince. The aroma of quince, or in Sicilian pronouced cutuna (coo-tune-ya), is remarkable. Something went wrong with this cake, but my parents insisted it was delicious and accused me of being falsely modest. It was just not right. Tasty, but not perfect. I think I just added too many quince pieces and it didn't cook evenly so I had to keep it in the oven and it dried out a bit. I am hard on myself, but never modest, gawd fahbid!
I think I need to get back to basics with quince and start out by poaching or baking it. Then I can take on making baked goods out of it.
My brother Mike paid us a visit with his cat Ziggy. Ziggy is obscenely obese and has an extra thumb which makes him more raccoon than cat. He scavenges for food and is known to open cabinets and pull plates of food off the table. My brother had to put a lock on his refrigerator because Ziggy can open it. Ziggy likes to get onto the table. Nonna hates this. She has no problem smacking him to make him get off the table. She's a total animal abuser. There he is, ready to eat a whole loaf of bread. Can you see his "hand" resting on Nonna's cane?

Friday, November 27, 2009


This post is a few holidays too late ...
A lot of my fellow bloggers expressed their wish to puke after engorging themselves with turkey and all the fixins' on Thanksgiving. I hear you people. And Nonna has the nerve to insist on making lasagna which precedes the rest of the gluttonous meal. So don't read this unless you want to puke. I am merely writing this post for posterity, so next year I know what we had and what changes we will need to make. Like do we need lasagna?Lasagna- perfect but an insane way to start the meal.
Turkey - awesome, Mom! Next year I may actually try to shoot my own wild turkey. If not I want to not wait until the last minute so we can get a more affordable local turkey. Also, what's up with the plastic baking bag? The skin took on a bit of a plastic taste, in a delicious way. Mom stuffed a apple in the turkey and seasoned it with rosemary, which were both great ideas!
Cranberry Sauce - The first sugar water ratio seemed like too little, 1:1:4 sugar: water: cranberries. I saw another 2:2:4. I didn't realize the cranberries would release so much water, and it was more saucy than I would have liked. I also didn't know when you cool them they become gelatinous and I think I cooked them down too long. Just until they pop the recipe said, which I didn't read through. The flavors were delicious and I will definitely keep that the same.
Grated Ginger, Grated Lemon and Orange Zest, Cayenne Pepper (just a little), 2 cinnamon sticks, nutmeg, bourbon and salt, plus some tangerine juice. Next year, cardamom!
Stuffing - stove top! This is the last year for stove top. Sorry brothers. I could really taste all the sodium, even though Mommy used the pan juices. Next year, corn bread sausage stuffing. I am sure Mommy will still make the stove top for you. I will supplement.

Mashed Potatoes- The texture of these was funny. Mike was like, "these potatoes have a wonderful textures like chewing gum." Then he said he could caulk the bathroom with them after dinner. They were so glutenous. The flavor was unbelievable, and when covered in homemade turkey gravy they loosened up a bit, but maybe we go with Mommy's gut and get "regular" potatoes, not the crazy ones I picked out at the Farmer's Market.

Brussel Sprouts - These were good, and baconey. Rocco, I wish the bacon were crispy. Maybe fry the bacon, remove it, the add it back so it doesn't soften, like how Mommy makes the corn. Honestly, I liked this dish, but I prefer my brussels sprouts roasted with salt, pepper and olive oil.
Corn Maque Choux - perfect every time, Mom.
Wow is that it? Usually we have way too many sides. I think we did a good job keeping it too a good minimum, even though instead of 90 little things on my plate, I just had a few giant mounds and still stuffed myself to the point of near death. Next year, maybe we do some yams and maybe a different green veggie, like creamed spinach. Let's rotate yearly.
Chocolate Mints: a Grandma Isabelle tradition.
Pumpkin Pecan Pie: not crazy about this. Next time, just pecan. Love a good bourbon pecan pie.
Cheese cake: Nonna loves it. Not gonna mess with Nonna.

Rainbow Cookies: not American, so its full circle with the lasagna and they were delicioso.
Again, we didn't go crazy with the desserts, but then again, Roseanne didn't come over with a giant box of pastries.
I also am including different dishes I made with all the leftovers.
Mommy wouldn't let me make Blue Potato Mashed Potatoes for Thanksgiving day, so I did them a few days before as a test. I made them vegan, with olive oil, boiled garlic, rosemary, then fresh garlic at the end, plus some soy milk. They were so good.
Next day I made these Blue Potato Fritters with some egg and bread crumbs. I had them with the cranberry sauce.
I also made a good green salad with turkey and balsamic vinegar and some raisins.

With the bones, I made a Turkey Broth with carrots, onions, garlic, celery, oregano, rosemary, tarragon and bay leaf. After straining it I boiled some spaetzel in the broth with some carrots, celery and turkey. I love this! I have so much in the freezer for future soups. Its amazing how much meat also is still left on the carcass after you think you picked it all off, too. What a waste it would have been to toss the bones out.
Curry turkey salad all week! Mayo, Curry, Turmeric, Walnuts, Raisins, Celery, and Pear.

Thursday, November 26, 2009


I scored some really awesome artwork at Jen Bekman's 20X200, which is a really cool way to get some great art at affordable prices. On a weekly basis Jen Bekman offers 1 photo and 1 print from amazing artists and sells 200 original editions for $20. Yeah an 8X10 for $20. Thats a steal! And there are bigger sizes in smaller editions for more dinero available, too.
I love these two prints I got. One is the guts of a midwife's refrigerator, the other a bartender's. Can you guess which is which?
This set would make a really great gift for your favorite foodie!


This will be my first time participating in a swap and I invite anyone who likes to shop for fun foodie stuff on a budget for someone you don't even know and then receive a surprise package of foodie goodies in the mail from that same someone whom you don't even know, to join in! Jen from The Gregarious Homebody is hosting the swap. Check out the rules, which include: "don't be a douche," and "keep your Santa shit to yourself." I am feeling this chica, except for the Santa part, I am not bitter about getting mounds of presents every year on Christmas.

If you want in on the swapping action, just comment on the post with your email so she can get the person with whom you are swapping in touch with you.

I am so pumped. I am going to get my goodies from the Greenpoint Food Market and
The New Amsterdam Market.

Throw Me in The Mashed Potatoes

When we look around the table today, let us appreciate all the special people (and pets) we have in our lives past, present and future, living and passed. Even if they are not there, they will be in our hearts. Thats what eating is all about, getting together with the ones we love, laughing and appreciating all we have been given. Throw me in the mashed potatoes, I am such a mush!
Have a Happy Thanksgiving!


...and tasty.
A few years ago, I was out in the country taking photos when I spotted a mama turkey with a bunch of itty bitty baby turkeys. They were so darn cute that I had to get closer to get a good shot. Mama and the babies didn't like this and they all ran away, except for one little baby who was lagging behind. When Mama Turkey saw how close I was to her little baby, she got totally pissed and ran at me faster than I thought a turkey could run. I was at a crossroads: fight or flight? I am such a wuss and turned to run but that psychotic hen was onto me and she lunged at my back and slammed me with her sharp talons into the middle of the road. As I was steadying myself to get up and recover what I could of my camera that took a lot of the brunt in the crash, I looked over and that crazy bitch was coming back for more. At this point I was in that weird crying laughing hysteria. Is this funny? Am I going to die? Luckily a car was coming up the road, and this spooked the turkey baby mama and gave me enough time to run my pathetic ass into the house where I found my boyfriend at the time sitting on the couch wearing his bicycle helmet in a retarded looking way, straddling a giant tub of Utz cheese balls and when he saw the mess of a condition I was in, sweating and in tears, one lone cheese ball dropped out of his mouth onto the floor along with a little cheesy drool. "I've been attacked! I've been attacked!"
Thankfully, I survived. Although, getting killed by a turkey is on my top ten list of cool ways to die. Now every year when we eat turkey for Thanksgiving, I savor it with a side sweet revenge.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009


...uh except for the darn turkey and the stovetop stuffing!
Mommy, who goes by Marcy in the adult world or "the G" as Rocco calls her, is the head mistress of Thanksgiving. I try not to step on toes and I help out where I can by making a few sides and dessert. Somehow she manages to do it all, so seamlessly, and makes everyone, even my picky brothers happy. Example, we kids insist on Stovetop Stuffing. How obscene!
This year, with a little hesitation, Mommy agreed to make the entire Thanksgiving meal a local affair. First order, the Turkey. I tried to pre-order a local organic Turkey to be delivered to the New Amsterdam Market this Sunday. Just guess how much they wanted: $70! for a 12-14lb bird. Those Turkey people are real morti di fame's! That really seemed unreasonable. So I let the Turkey slide, but 75% of the menu we got at the Union Farmer's Market. Hooray!

Mostly Local Thanksgiving Menu at the Galatioto's:

Nonna's Lasagna

The Giant Bird courtesy of Trader Joe's

Mommy's Mashed Potatoes

Stovetop Stuffing

Rocco's Brussel Sprouts with Bacon

Roasted Carrots with Pecans and Tarragon

Ginger Cranberry Sauce

Tuesday, November 24, 2009


This was my first visit to the Greenpoint Food Market. It rocks!
I shouldn't have finished off my leftover jaegerschnitzel for breakfast before heading over there because there were samples upon samples of amazing locally produced food. You could easily not eat lunch and be full when you leave. I started with coffee from Cafe Grumpy to keep me alert during sampling. There coffee is amazing.
I am all about perishable gifts during the holidays because I hate getting so much crap that I don't know what the hell to do with, so I thought this would be a great first stop for holiday shopping. I am definitely going to come back here closer to the holidays to score food gifts.
And, if you are raw and/or vegan, this is a great place to get lots of yummy snacks.
Anarchy in a Jar was there. These girls make amazing jams, preserves and chutneys.
I picked up a tub of this Cobra Pate, which is vegan nut pate. Its insanely good. The branding got me over to the table and the pate kept me there for seconds. I got the walnut, lavender maple syrup. It goes so well with celery. This is good stuff and keeps for 2 weeks in the fridge.
There was homemade tempeh, kimchi, lots of chocolates, sandwiches, lots of cookies.
I am definitely going back with an empty stomach and a christmas shopping list.

Monday, November 23, 2009


Lentils. Lentils. Lentils. Such a perfect legume. I sauteed a garlic clove and few a shallots in olive oil, with some fresh grated ginger, orange zest, cumin seeds, turmeric and a bay leaf. Bay leaves are such a wonderful aromatic herb. Then I added my pre-soaked 1/2C. dal or yellow lentils with about 4 C. water and a packet of concentrated vegetable broth. I let that boil while I prepared veggies. I diced up about 3 sweet potatoes, 2 carrots and 1 celery stalk. I added all that in, seasoned everything with salt and pepper, brought it a boil, then simmered it covered until everything was soft and not mushy, about 20 minutes. I opted out of blending it to keep the integrity of all the different vegetables. At the end I added a bunch of fresh tarragon leaves which really took the soup to a whole different playing field, flavor wise. What I was left with was a chunky and colorful easy to make nutritious lentil soup that I will make again very soon.

Sunday, November 22, 2009


Fra's parents were visiting from Sicily which means one thing: awesome delicious food eaten over screaming volume crazy Sicilian conversation. Sounds like a perfect party to me.
Of course when we arrived there were mountains of goodies. I expect nothing less when visiting a proper Sicilian household. Fra wanted to make "finger" foods since her table wasn't large enough to accommodate the crowd. What's funny is, she has this big gorgeous house, with a huge living room that is perfect for hors 'doeuvres and cocktails, but guess where all the Sicilians were sitting? At the small table in the eat-in kitchen. They made it work, not a problem. The closer to the food the better.
The Sicilian to non-Sicilian ratio at Paul and Francesca's house was 6.5:2.5. I straddle the fence, putting that 0.5 on either side of the ratio. May explain a few things about me in case you were wondering. But we still somehow spend a large part of the day making fun of Sicilians while we are eating. Aunt Helvi of Finnish descent, tells the most hilarious stories about her Sicilian father-in-law Uncle Jack. Once she picked him up from the airport and he had stowed a pot of food in his luggage that he had taken right off the stove from Sicily and when he got to her house he ordered her to heat it up on her stove for his dinner. Sicilians are notorious homeland security violators when it comes to smuggling food. Aunt Helvi always has us all in tears. Then she took an extreme close-up photo of Rocco and said in her Finnish accent, "You look like you just had a stroke." I almost died laughing.
Of course Fra spent the whole day before working on dough, which she used to make pizza, rosemary focaccia and even this delicious sausage stuffed roll. Just make dough (cause its that simple), roll it out, layer some cooked sausage in it and some cheese, roll it up and bake. Then cut into delicious slices. This was so good.
I was looking forward to her mother Aurora's famous sweet and sour meatballs, which were amazing. I wanted to know the recipe but with Sicilians there are no written down recipes. You just kind of ask and take what you can get. There was a lot of her mother telling me the recipe in Sicilian and Fra translating, going, "how do you say that?" to me. Uh? I don't know. And I am like, Rocco, "what is she saying?" Then Rocco just repeats the word in Sicilian multiple times waving his hands, as if hearing it 10 times in Sicilian will somehow make me understand it in English. At one point Fra's father asked if Rocco was drunk, and Paul said, "No, he just like that." Ha!
From what I understand, you make the meatballs, you know, how you make regular meatballs, then you make a very onion filled tomato sauce, which makes the sauce sweet, then at the end you add vinegar and drop the meatballs in the sauce. Thats all I got out of it. I can swing it I think.
Oh and the sun-dried tomatoes, smuggled of course, stuffed with bread crumbs. This on a nice slice of bread is heaven any day of the week.
There was a gigantic bowl of my favorite: arancini or rice balls. Fra filled them with ham and cheese. They were so wonderfully small, which Fra explained is because her mother's hands are the perfect tiny size to shape rice balls. I wonder if Sicilian women evolved with tiny hands just for this purpose. I know I evolved to be able to consume ridiculous amounts of rice balls for sure. I ate even more than I thought possible.
The food just didn't stop coming. Fra's father put out this lemon he smuggled back from Sicily. Its not a conventionally produced lemon and has a really thick white flesh surrounding the fruit that is edible. He served a platter of them covered in sugar. They were amazing.
And with the rinds they made this sort of candy by dehydrating the rind with sugar and water. So addictive. You could try this with regular lemon rind, but only organic. Soak the rind in water, and keep changing the water. This removes the bitterness. Then you cook the rind in sugar, which dehydrates it and the sugar sticks to the lemon skin. This is the story I got. Don't hold me to it.
For dessert, the Almond Olive Oil Cake I made was specially requested by Paul and Fra who don't have a sweet tooth or like chocolate (?), but love this cake and love to spread nutella on it, which is chocolate. I don't ask, I just feed.
Overall, awesome crazy Sicilian day!

Thursday, November 19, 2009


This may seem off topic for the blog except that I am going to eat lots of wine and cheese and be hoity toity and artsy fartsy at my good friend Erik's Open Studios at Hunter College this Friday, Nov. 20th.
Come by, be snobby and turn your nose up to all the amazing artwork. There is also going to be a silent auction! Score some work while its cheap so hopefully one day its worth a fortune!
I have been trying to convince Erik to serve some type of food and drink in his studio to keep people interested. (Not that your work is not interesting enough Erik.) Food has staying power in these circumstances. Whenever I see people coming out of a room with say cookies in their hands, I immediately ask, "Where did you get those cookies?" I basically assault them. And thats all it takes. I'm in there eating cookies. And not just one. If they are free I will stay there for a while. I also think he should serve punch because what is a party without punch? And maybe a disco ball with some dance music! Party in Erik's studio!


I think I need new bowls. These sallow yellow ones are getting old. This zucchini stew is so easy and can be served with rice, couscous, pasta, bread or even leftover polenta, which is what I served it over. I started by sauteeing a large shallot with garlic in olive oil and some dried oregano and rosemary. Adding herbs to your dishes is not only healthy but the fragrance brightens up your whole kitchen. The shallots get really sweet if you wait before you add salt and pepper. After a few minutes I added the zucchini chunks. I added a little water, salt pepper and some veggie broth concentrate. A little tomato, fresh canned or tomato paste, at this point is a nice option. I turned it to low and simmered it for about 15 minutes until the zucchini is tender but not mushy and I served it over polenta.
Polenta is the easiest thing to make, too and worth making yourself instead of buying it in the tube. Its just like making oatmeal. You boil water, the ratio is about 1:3, polenta to water, then slowly add the polenta and stir. Add salt, butter or olive oil, and even some grated cheese at the end. At this point you can eat the polenta in a gruel form, which is yummy and nice in some dishes or you can put it in the oven and bake it at 350 for about 30 minutes into a cake, which makes it really easy to reheat on the stovetop. Its great pan fried in a little olive oil.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009


Instead of canned chickpeas I was a good girl and soaked dried chickpeas for about 8 hours, after which I boiled them with fresh garlic, rosemary and a little salt until they were soft but not mushy. Then I roasted them in the oven at about 425 for about 20 min with salt, pepper, garlic, olive oil and a bay leaf. While the chickpeas were in the oven, I sauteed the collard greens with red onions and garlic in olive oil. I married the collard greens and the chickpeas and I am very happy with the results. The meatiness of the chickpeas stands up well to the less than delicate collard greens. For leftovers I brought this to work with some couscous and it was a perfect tupperware meal.

Monday, November 16, 2009


"No. No. No." Starting every sentence with "No," even when you are in agreement is a classic characteristic of "the Sicilian Condition." But Sicilians can never say no to food and are always trying to feed everyone, so its off putting when I offer delicious homemade food and I am turned down. For me, when food is offered, even if I am stuffed, its very difficult for me to say no, so I don't understand the, "I'm not hungry, I just ate," excuse. I double dinner all the time. And double dessert sometimes, too. My general reaction to the, "No," is "Fine! I will never ask you again," but let's be serious, I am a ringer for throwing myself at brick walls.
So when I had my non-Sicilian "No-er" in the country as a captive eater, I created a "Can't Say No" Country Dinner Tasting Menu. It was a local vegetarian menu, and I even tried unsuccessfully to keep it vegan. Not to my surprise, the butter snuck in, which led to a butter binge, followed by a butter coma, then a general butter depression. But after a going through the butter withdrawal, I think I managed to kick the butter addiction finally.
Cocktails to start, a Tim Special called "You Sure You Don't Have Thyme For A Drink?" (no photo) - Gin, Thyme, Jona Gold Apple Puree, Seltzer, Honey (but agave syrup would have been better). These were strong and good.
Appetizer: "Do or Die" Sunchoke Bruschetta - This was the first and best dish of the whole tasting menu. Sunchokes are the roots of sunflowers. Also called Jerusalem Artichokes, they closely resemble artichoke hearts in taste. I recently tried these roasted skin on at Vinegar Hill House and fell in love. To prepare they were peeled and chopped, which was so tedious, and roasted with salt, pepper and olive oil. Out of the oven they were mashed and dressed with chopped garlic and butter. Onto toasted bread rubbed with fresh garlic and a drizzle of balsamic reduction and they were perfect.
First Course: "Yes Dear or Get Beet Soup" - "Yes Dear" is Rocco's all time favorite saying. Everytime Mommy asks Rocco to do something he jokingly says, "Yes Dear." It was beets, apples, fresh grated ginger, fresh thyme, garlic and onions, butter and a little local raw cows milk to cream it up.
Second Course: "Ratatou - oui oui" - This was supposed to be zucchini, eggplants, shallots, thyme and oregano, with a touch of tomato, a blush sauce, but an entire can of tomato paste was dumped in because I gave poor instruction, so it ended up being a really delicious "Super Sauce" over runny cornmeal polenta. It was really good, but didn't lend much to the other dishes. I think a salad would have been better here, or even after the gnocchi which came next.
Third Course: "How Can You Say Gnocchi?" - homemade butternut squash gnocchi with a brown butter balsamic sage sauce. This was good, especially for my first time making gnocchi, but the butter was a little intense. Looking back, I think some nuts and greens could lighten the dish and add some better texture, and maybe even some mushrooms.
Dessert: "I Think I Can" Sticky Toffee Pudding Cake - This is where the butter binge took its downward spiral. This cake involved three sticks of butter and lots of brown sugar. Its really just a butter and brown sugar mess (no photo; use your imagination). I mean it was good, how could it not be? But after that cake with coffee ice cream, then washing the 9,000 dishes (tasting menus are fun but messy), I slipped into a very deep three hour butter coma.
Overall, the tasting menu was a really fun team effort. Another step in possibly one day getting good enough to host a real supper club. Just coming up with a menu and the names to each dish was satisfying.
As far as the cooking experience, there were lots of things going on at once, which made it feel a little chaotic, especially when I had to sit and eat a course while managing the crazy butter scenario happening on the stove. The cocktail on my brain didn't help to keep things organized but that can be fun when cooking, too. Although thats when I notice I just start inserting butter everywhere like a lunatic.
I do think I did a good job of keeping each course small in size but not in richness. Looking back I should have kept it dairy-free and went with a salad to finish plus a lighter dessert. The funny thing is we could have easily drank those cocktails and eaten the sunchoke bruschetta all night long.

Friday, November 13, 2009


Its a hard question to answer: "If you can pick anything for dessert, what would you want right now?" When I asked my friend to help me figure out what to make for poker night, I was not prepared for the reply: "Those elephant ears." Or Palmiers. Those delicate and sugary caramelized pastries that are like heavenly sweet croissants. I had no idea how to make them. They involved puff pastry, which is one of the most time consuming types of dough to make (like it takes days), so I took the easy way out and bought the puff pastry as Ina Garten's recipe recommends.
These could not have been simpler or easier to make. Defrost the puff pastry. Open it up on a surface with lots of sugar on it. Cover the top with sugar as well, then roll it out. Then fold it in on itself according to her easy to follow directions. After its rolled up cut it and bake them cut side up. Thats it. So easy. So go to when you need to make a quick dessert with minimal ingredients on hand. They were delicious and very addictive and were an AWESOME accompaniment to Red Stripe.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009


I was honored to accept a dinner invitation to Melissa and Paul's place to be followed by watching the Phillies get their asses kicked by the Yankees in the World Series. (Sorry Melissa, just stating facts.)
Melissa, along with Meredith and myself are on the board of the Eyetalian Girl's Club, a supper club (at Melissa's) in which we share our mutual guido craziness over delicious homemade local food (that Melissa makes) while Paul sits perplexed and sometimes scared of the three of us.
The mental condition of having Sicilian DNA (even if your halfsies) in a female body is recognized most commonly as being sickeningly nurturing and loving while constantly obsessing over food and making sure everyone around you is well fed. A look further and the alarming quality of being cunningly intuitive if not full on psychic is also observed. Nonna is a full psychic Sicilian. She just knows.
While chatting about our plans, we agreed to a "simple" meal, then watch the game. The evening was about the World Series after all. Simple meals to most people are Mac n' Cheese, Soup and Salad or Pizza, but to Sicilian DNAers this is how the conversation went:

Melissa: what time is the game?
me: 8pm
early enough that it could interfere with dinner
see i think we need to be in a sports bar with d-bag yankee fans when they win tomorrow
for your sake
5:21 PM Melissa: i get home around 6:30. Lets do a simple dinner. I'll make the pesto tonight, we can have it with whole wheat fussili, and I'll saute some cubed butternut squash on the side. I'll have Paul roast an eggplant before I get home and well have that as an app with some good bread. We can go to the Turkeys Nest to watch the game after. Oh and we'll have your apple crumble for dessert.
You'd gonna need all the fule you can get to deal with all that crying.
me: LOL!
sounds perfect
5:22 PM Melissa: Manley waants to make vegan ice cream. I'll have him do that tomorrow morning.
me: wowoowwo
crazinessMelissa: GO PHILLS!!!!!!!!!Thats sounds simple to me. I arrived early and Paul (AKA Manley) had just crossed the last TO DO off his prep list that Melissa had emailed him. There was some serious bulleting involved:
  • Wash, peel, and cube butternut squash, put in small baking pan and set aside
  • Boil Manocotti, drain and set aside in baking dish
  • Wash,soak and drain arugula. Set aside in bowl
  • Pull out big food processor and put on counter
  • Pan toast walnuts, set side in small bowl or on paper towel.
  • Wash and peel beets, cut them into thin slices, set aside in small baking pan
  • Cut baby carrots in half length wise and add to beets.
  • Wash eggplant and poke a MILLION holes in it with a knife and set aside in baking pan
I should be on chat. Let me know if you have any questions.

Good Luck.

Thank you.
Can I first say that I adore these two? I was impressed but not surprised by Melissa's thorough and detailed instruction and Paul's on point follow-through. Everything was prepped to perfection, but Paul looked a little frazzled juggling about 18 roasting dishes. He showed Meredith and I the walnuts he toasted.
"Burnt, right? We should get more," he said.
"They are fine," I said. Thats so my mother in me (who is non-Sicilian by blood)
"Paul's right," Meredith said, "Melissa is gonna flip out. Let's go get more walnuts."
"Really?" I said.
They weren't that bad. Not to warrant going to the store but Melissa is a perfectionist, I get it.
And there is something very admirable to be said about being a perfectionist. But forget about that, lets talk about Melissa's frightening sense of smell and her psychic abilities. As we were leaving for the store, Melissa arrived, looking cute coming home from a long day at the bakery. We gave each other a nice big hug, then she pulled back, gave me a funny look then took a big whiff of me. I did shower that day and I'm a hygienic person but by the way she sniffed I thought maybe I smelled great or something.
"Did he burn something?" Melissa said.
My jaw dropped in awe. How could her sense of smell be so acute especially in such close proximity to the Newtown Creek?
"Its the Walnuts, right? Paul burnt the walnuts," she said.
Meredith and I walked away very slowly trying not to make eye contact. How in the world did she know that Paul burnt the walnuts? And there is the condition of Sicilian Psychic Prowess demonstrated most aptly in regards to food. I am still blown away by it.
I am also blown away by the excellent meal Melissa and Paul tag teamed. (Sorry, not too many visuals for the food porn lovers.)
The Roasted Eggplant with Market Italian Bread was like buttah and so addictive.
The Roasted Butternut Squash and Tofu Manicotti topped with arugula walnut pesto was delicious. It had the texture of ricotta cheese. Meredith and I helped assemble them. It was the first time I had stuffed manicotti and I was ridiculed with "What kind of dego are you?"
The sides of roasted carrots, brussels sprouts and beets were perfect accompaniments.
For dessert I brought an Apple Crumble which was topped with Paul's vegan vanilla ice cream made with coconut milk.
We wined and talked, and by talking I mean yelled over each other and interrupted one another and had about 15 conversations going on at once among the 4 of us. Oh and I almost forgot that we watched the World Series. And the Yanks won.
Thanks Melissa, Paul and Meredith for another successful Eyetalian Girls Dinner!


I am trying to lay off the dairy for a while. Well until Paulie Gee opens his pizza joint in Greenpoint that is. So why did I chose to make risotto, which is supposed to be a buttery creamy rice dish? Cause I am a damn fool. A damn fool who likes a challenge. I envisioned Butternut Squash Risotto with Sage and Shallots. I also envisioned buttery creaminess. You can't fake the funk with butter, but the butternut squash did a great job of giving the risotto a nice creaminess, while good extra virgin olive oil gave it a nice rich flavor. A truffle oil here would have been perfect. And butter!
I roasted the butternut squash with olive oil salt and pepper. Then I sauteed the shallots and fresh sage in olive oil and added the mashed up squash. I added some nutmeg salt and pepper. Then the risotto. Simmering in a pot was some vegetable stock which I added in ladlefuls as the risotto aborbed most of the liquid. And I kept stirring and stirring.
I kept tasting it as I was stirring and it felt like something was missing. (the butter!) So I started freaking out and adding things. I added a clove of chopped garlic (a giant clove). Cayenne Pepper. Fresh Grated Ginger. Brown Sugar. And lots of salt. More nutmeg. More olive oil. More sage.
In the end this Butternut Squash Risotto was ultra creamy, very garlickey really tasty and dairy-free, but it really could have used some B-U-T-T-E-R! Butter makes everything better.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

You Can Go Home Broccoli Rabe Sandwich

Recently I was given the Thomas Wolfe's classic You Can't Go Home Again, a story about a young writer completing a novel, an expose of his hometown that alienates him from it because of the truths he uncovers about it. Its about going too far. Home is a place of innocence in ourselves and once lost we can never return there. But we can get a taste of it, can't we?
I used to think you should hate where you grew up and want to move away and start all over. Thats because I grew up in a city where everyone I know comes to run away. So where do I go? I crave open space. I want to wake up in the morning and see mountains. I want quiet. New York is the wrong place for all of those things unless I can look at mountains of skyscrapers from my own sound proof wraparound penthouse loft on Central Park South.
Reality check: Queens is home. Sometimes I think you can't appreciate any other place until you can appreciate where you grew up and who lives there. After all, where you were raised is so embedded in who you are. So a part of me is the rough middle aged checkout lady at Met Food Grocery with the gnarly outer borough accent, who while scanning my Italian bread and simultaneously giving dating advice to another teen checkout girl is quoted as saying, "get to the point with him, don't beat around no fuckin' bush. There's no bush to fuckin' beat around. That how I live my life."
I grabbed my loaf and as the automatic doors opened onto Eliot Avenue I felt like hopping in a cab to JFK, getting on a plane to the farthest location on the planet where I could find a bush to hind under and enjoy my Italian bread. But alas, there are no taxis in Middle Village, so I tucked the bread under my arm and walked to my apartment to make my favorite comfort food: a Broccoli Rabe Sandwich.
I have been going a little too "far" with the cooking lately: new dishes, new flavors. Moving out of my comfort zone is important but while the grass is always greener the food is not always better. I get all these ideas of how wonderful something new will taste, I romanticize it, but then it doesn't quite hit the mark. And all the while this old dish from my childhood was sitting there right under my nose waiting for me in all its glory. Perfection. Tried and true. Thats what I needed that day. Something to take me back to my roots. Something to make me appreciate home when I feel like a complete alien in the neighborhood where I grew up.
The Broccoli Rabe Sandwich. In elementary school, while other kids opened their My Little Pony and GI Joe lunch boxes and fetched their bologna and cheese sandwiches, I rustled around the plastic Met Food Grocery bag in which Rocco packed my olive oil soaked to perfection Broccoli Rabe Sandwich. The looks they gave me made me giggle as I enjoyed the bitter greens on Italian bread. Then for dessert instead of jello pudding snacks I would excitedly unravel the orange Rocco carved out for me like a curly cue.
And that afternoon, I was home again, until I finished my broccoli rabe sandwich that is. Its in these little pleasures that we can get it back.

You Can Go Home Again Broccoli Rabe Sandwich
1 bunch broccoli rabe
1 clove of garlic
1/2 tsp peperoncino (red pepper flakes)
extra virin olive oil
salt and pepper
loaf of italian bread

In a large pan with a lid, sautee garlic and peperoncino in olive oil. Before the garlic browns add the broccoli rabe season with salt and pepper and put the lid on so it can steam. Stir after a few minutes so the greens on the bottom don't burn. Cook until the greens are softened. Cut a loaf of Italian bread to the desired size and simply put the greens on top and enjoy!