Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Antipasti Bread

     Here is another quick appetizer snack for the big game. When someone here in the states says "antipasti" I automatically think of anything not pasta that can be served prior to the meal.  A nice platter sat out of fresh olives, peppers, artichokes, cheeses, pepperoni, capicola, etc. The measurements below are solely based on handfuls.  Use what you like or try your own ingredients. Antipasti Bread

  • Pizza dough
  • Ricotta
  • Black olives
  • Green olives
  • Artichoke hearts
  • Roasted red peppers
  • Cherry tomatoes
  • Pepperoni
  • Thyme
  • Rosemary

     I used quick store bought pizza dough that can be rolled out.  Took a couple spoonfuls of Ricotta and spread it out over top of the dough.  Sprinkled some dried rosemary and thyme powder.  Sprinkled on the olives, peppers, artichokes, tomatoes, and pepperoni.  Folded up one side then the other over top of that one.  Tucked in the ends and flipped the loaf over onto its seems.  Baked in a 375 F degree oven for roughly 20-30 minutes until golden brown.  Sliced and served.  A delicious appetizer to serve to your guests for the big game or any get together.


Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Steak With Green Peppercorn Sauce

Steak Au Poive in Italy

     It's our last night in Italy, Milan specifically, we have spent the last 11 days train hopping, sunbathing, drinking vino, hand waving, meeting family, drinking vino, practicing our Italian, drinking vino, hiking, sightseeing, drinking vino, and to say the least we were tired.  We had pasta as much as one can have, (that is a hard thing to admit), so we wanted something out of the ordinary.  It was a rainy day.  We had walked the streets of Milan for hours.  Our feet were tired, our minds exhausted, and our stomachs empty.  It was our dream to travel this far to trace our roots.  We had seen all we could possibly see in almost two weeks time.  It was a dreary day, our minds hurt, our tolerance for each other spent, and our pockets running thin.  It had rained for the most part from the time we got up that day.  Our flight left early the next morning and we wanted a nice sit down meal to end our amazing adventure together.  We slopped through the puddles, the wind, and the dark streets of Milan for a while looking for a place that could meet our needs.  Either the place was closed or the wait was too long for our current patience.  We turned the corner and before our eyes was a bright neon sign and marquee.  A surprisingly little restaurant that appeared to be open and available.  The sign read French and the menu was a combination of both Italian with some French cuisine thrown in.  Our eyes met each other and our thoughts intertwined.  "Could this be any good? Come on, it's a French restaurant in Italy, this can't be any good?" 
     We were greeted immediately by a nice gentleman who took us to our table.  The dining room was very well designed with nice white table clothes, dark wood walls, and elegant décor.  They sat us at a long table with other people.  The dining was family style and you sat with others.  We were given each a menu and wine list.  We ordered a light drink and some antipasti.  My cousin and myself decided to go a little different this night.  We chose what is normally a French dish.  A wonderful steak served to our preference topped with a great green peppercorn sauce.  Ahhh, and then heaven was just reached........  The flavorful bursts of the peppercorns in our mouth with such excitement.  The creaminess of the sauce with the addition of Brandy lingered on the palate. The steak cooked perfectly rare so juicy it cut like butter.  Was this the angels speaking to us gently in our ears?  Was this what euphoria feels like?  My mouth, my stomach, my heart all in line with each other.  We were relaxed, content, and happy.  It felt like home should feel.  Steak With Green Peppercorn Sauce

  • 1 lg flank steak
  • McCormick’s Montreal Seasoning
  • 1-cup beef stock
  • 1-cup heavy cream
  • 1/4-cup brandy
  • 2 tbs green peppercorns from brine
  • 1 lg shallot
  • 2 tbs butter
  • Salt/pepper
     I actually made the brine for my peppercorns myself and now store them on my shelf for use at anytime.  In a large sauté pan melt the 2 tbs butter.  Salt and pepper the flank steak and sprinkle on a bit of McCormick’s seasoning.  Pan sear the steak on both sides until a crust has formed.  Remove from the pan and cook quickly on a hot grill to preferred temperature. Remove and sit aside. Then sauté the shallots in same pan until nice and tender.  Pour in the brandy and stock and reduce.  Pour in the cream and the drained peppercorns.  Stir, reduce heat, and simmer very low for about 10 minutes until it thickens.  Slice the flank steak at an angle against the grain.  You will be amazed at how tender it is.  Serve and drizzle some of the peppercorn sauce over top. Serves anywhere between 2-4 people based on size of steak.  One of the best ways to eat a steak! This continues to put me back to that rainy night in Milan.

Monday, October 21, 2013

The Art Of Mountaineer Tailgating


     Another great recipe for fun and enjoyment in anyone’s life, whether you are a bachelor, a single father, or a country gal is to enjoy your local sport activities.  Coming from West Virginia we are huge WVU college football fans.  Some of the greatest and friendliest people you will meet are at a WVU game.  They say that Morgantown, (home of the WVU school), is one of the friendliest towns in the country.  You can witness this when going to a game and watch as visitors from the opposing team walk by.  You will simply here, "welcome to Morgantown!" in such as joyful tone that you yourself will be impressed and grateful that you can call WV your home.

     I have mentioned before that I myself am not a huge sports fan, however, when it comes to WVU as alum I watch my alma mater compete in every game.  To be able to go to a home game is such a great treat that sadly I can only enjoy once in a while.  WVU fans have perfected the art of "tailgating".  From tens, BBQ pits, campers, full on food service with open bar stocked with both beer and liquor.  Even some have TV's sat up against their tent or vehicle.  Music blaring, people singing, cheering, enjoying each other’s company.  That is what makes a true Mountaineer.  The hospitality of our natives is a fantastic thing. 

     To join in with such enthusiasm can be the perfect recipe for a wonderful fun filled weekend.  You start first thing in the morning.  Gathering all your ingredients and food supplies to truck down to the tailgate lot.  If you are one of the lucky ones you already have a camper spot, a tent spot, or an invitation to an organizations’ private tent area.  You start eating, drinking, and getting prepped for the big game.  You enjoy the food, the atmosphere, and your guests and everyone becomes one.  The hum from the crowds, the smell of the different foods cooking, and the sea of gold and blue colors everywhere allow you to feel like this is where home should be. 

     Then for the next 3-4 hours you go inside the giant stadium, inside the belly of the beast.  The bleachers are packed with again the sea of blue and gold.  The crowd is cheering, chanting, and singing.  Kickoff is about to begin.  And you are off.  Off on an exciting adventure of live sports at its best.  The next couple hours of your life are filled with more food, fun, and excitement.  Following the game more tailgating and eating continue whether still in the parking lots or back at your place of residence.

     A joyous day of fun, family, friends, and comradery is just what the perfect "menu" calls for.  Some say it may cost too much to attend live sporting events, and yes at times it does.  However, nothing can compare to being there in person with good people and good spirits.  It is definite that the Mountaineer fans have tailgating down to an art of perfection. Final score: A perfect win!

Tons of people tailgating

Friends having fun

Smile for the picture

Beer run

Come on give us a smile

Let's Go!!
The Pride of WV

Monday, October 14, 2013

If Memory Serves- Chicken Olevano

Chicken Olevano Pasta
     In honor of my Aunt Joan, (my father’s sister), she emailed me this recipe years ago when she was still with us.  We used to email each other many times a month, whether it was pictures, jokes, or family history.  She was helping me at times with information pertaining to the Irish side of our family.  I have many many fond memories of my Aunt Joan.  I, with my parents and brothers, would spend many summers up at her and my Uncle Danny's lake house in PA with them and my cousins.  I loved it up there.  It was such an amazing place to learn to swim, sail, and vacation.  My Aunt Joan had such an infectious laugh and she loved to tell stories.  One such story, that she so happened to email me once, was about a local priest of their church.  In fact while I was cleaning out my email folders I came across this email and thought, what a perfect find not only because it was from her, but because it included a recipe that I could make in memory of her. 

     She titled this dish "Father DiLillo's Chicken Olevano".  As the story goes, this priest made this dish using solely the olive oil specifically from the Olevano commune in Italy where he was from.  She specifically said it was also his family that made this olive oil.  Sadly, I had to use my own olive oil that was available but made this dish according to her directions.  Her email continued on by stating that she was giving me this recipe so I could recreate it for my mother, (whom is Italian), who had this dish while staying one summer with my Aunt Joan and she apparently loved and raved about this dish.  Funny thing is that my Aunt Joan was actually eating the leftovers next to her computer as she was writing this email.  (She specifically had to inform me of that and even added the oooohs and aaaahs and yummy noises). This weekend I decided to have my parents over for dinner and make this special dish. So here goes: If memory serves, in honor of my Aunt Joan and her friend Father DiLillo- Chicken Olevano.

  • 3 lg Chicken breasts
  • Balsamic vinegar
  • Olive oil
  • Lemon pepper
  • 2 cloves diced garlic
  • 1/2 diced white onion
  • Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 green bell pepper
  • 1/2 red bell pepper
  • 2 small yellow squash cut into strips
  • 1 cup diced baby portabella mushrooms
  • 1/2 cup chicken stock
  • 1/4 cup white wine
  • Pasta alla chitarra
  • Salt/pepper

     Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Take the thawed out chicken and place in a dish large enough to marinate in. Brush all chicken with some balsamic vinegar, then olive oil, the diced/crushed garlic, and some sprinkle of the lemon pepper.  Toss with the diced onion and let marinate for at least an hour.   Meanwhile julienne the green pepper, red pepper, and the squash.  Dice up the mushrooms. Place chicken in a baking dish and cover with the peppers, squash, and mushrooms.  Sprinkle on some parmesan cheese.  Pour in the chicken stock and white wine.


 Cover with tinfoil and bake in a 375 degree oven for 50 minutes. Remove from oven toss with your favorite pasta and serve.  Serves 4 people.  Thank you Aunt Joan.  Memories of you were had by all this evening at dinner.  We talked, laughed, and even remembered the good times.  Miss you as always.

Mom enjoying dinner 

Dad remembering his sister
My Aunt Joan 
 Aunt Joan and my father

Thursday, October 10, 2013

A Recipe To Teach

A Recipe To Teach

      An interesting thing I have found is that some people don't know how to make certain homemade items.  I grew up in a house where my mother and father cooked almost everything that was laid onto the table.  Nothing ever came from a box.  My friends were interested in learning the art of making homemade pasta.  So when it came down to a free weekend I invited them over to watch the game on TV and decided to make it into a night of teaching and eating.

     I had already had some marinara sauce in the fridge.  I quickly mixed up some homemade meatballs, (see, placed them in the sauce, and placed it on the stove to simmer all afternoon.  My friends and I happen to have wanted to watch the WVU game on television so we started our evening out around 2:30. 

Crystal mixing the eggs and flour

Eric rolling out the dough
Crystal cutting the noodles
     Let's just put it this way, it is definitely fun and different to watch and teach your friends how to make something that you yourself can do with your eyes closed.  My friends had such a good time taking the reigns and control over making this delicious homemade meal.  Teaching someone how to do something comes with its own gratitude. They were so proud and happy to have learned this new skill.  The oooohs and aaahs coming from the table were comical. 

     Teaching cooking is something I enjoy.  In fact it is something I would love to do for a living.  Being able to give that same excitement I get from cooking to others is heart warming.  In my house growing up it was just something we did together anyways.  It was time for everyone to put away their toys, computer games, come inside and spend time with each other.  Dinners with family and friends are the best time to relax, sit back, and enjoy each other’s company.  Without such a great experience that social interaction that we as human beings need just dies out.  We lose something without this type of experience.  So grateful for the time that was had.  You should give it a try.  Get together with some of your friends or family and cook a meal together.  Laugh, eat, drink, sing, and tell stories, all while eating something you have created.  Nothing beats that kind of recipe for life....

The meal family style

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Grandma Sainato's Italian Greens Soup

Grandma Sainato's Italian Greens Soup
     I know what you are thinking, "that is a pretty long name for a soup", but I remember this soup being made by my grandmother and I used to call it her greens soup.  Actually it is just a simple green and beans soup that anyone can make.  She used to tell me it was Italian and like most of her soups she just called it Minestra.  Every soup she made that was of Italian origin was called Minestra, with the exception of Pasta Fagioli.  Minestra is just one way of saying "soup" in Italian.  I googled a greens soup and there are truly soups made with greens in Italy.  I used to love this soup when I was little.  Roughly around the early teen years when she moved in with us I started to hate it.  I don't know what it was but the taste just didn't sit well with me.  After I graduated from college and she passed away this dish disappeared from my parents house.  My mother never made it, as she just didn't seem to have the will power to make it again.  Fast-forward about 10 years and I decide to revive it to my mother’s excitement.  This soup is one of my family’s traditional soups that had been made prior to my existence.  It takes only about 15 minutes to make.  Let it simmer for about an hour and you are ready to enjoy such a delicious dish that you will be amazed what little goes into it.  I am telling you this will become one of your family’s favorites. Just ask my mother, she was so happy to finally have another bowl of this after years of missing it. Italian Greens Soup.

  • 1/2-1 cup fresh chopped up Pancetta
  • 64oz chicken broth/stock
  • 1/2 white onion
  • 1 clove garlic
  • Head of Kale chopped, (originally Endive but couldn't find it at my local store)
  • 2 cups cooked white rice
  • 1 10oz can Cannellini beans
  • Olive Oil
  • Salt/pepper

In a large stockpot or Dutch oven drizzle in a little olive oil.  Sauté chopped Pancetta and onion together until the Pancetta becomes a bit crispy and the onion get cooked through.  Toss in chopped garlic and chopped Kale and cook down until Kale has wilted.  Pour in the chicken broth and bring to a simmer.  Meanwhile in a separate pot cook the white rice in a bit of chicken broth.  (I used minute rice as it is quicker and full proof without starch). After about 45 minutes to an hour of the soup simmering, I add in the cooked rice and the drained Cannellini beans.  Simmer for about 15 minutes, salt and pepper to taste, and serve.  Sprinkle a little Parmesan cheese on top and enjoy.  My Grandmother would be very happy about this soup.  Even though we argued and yelled at each other we could always make each other laugh. Love and miss you Grandma!

Grandma and I at college graduation

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Thai Ginger Chicken (Gai Pad King)


     So on another Thai food kick.  This time Thai Ginger Chicken or Gai Pad King.  Another favorite on any Thai food restaurant menu.  One that simplifies the great tastes of Thai cuisine: ginger, mushrooms, fish sauce, oyster sauce, and soy.  Serve over a little jasmine rice and you have yourself one of the tastiest Thai dishes out there.  Such a good dish that not only exemplifies the flavor of ginger but also serves as a health benefit because of its addition. To make this dish interesting you have to cut the fresh ginger into little matchsticks like they do in the restaurants.  Take your time and concentrate on cutting the fresh ginger this way.  This dish serves about 2-3, however if you are like me you can eat it all.  Thai Ginger Chicken or Gai Pad King

  • 1 boneless skinless chicken breast
  • 1 1/2 tbs ginger diced into sticks
  • Handful shredded carrots
  • Handful fresh mushrooms
  • 1 clove garlic diced
  • 2 tbs soy
  • 2 tbs oyster sauce
  • 2 tbs fish sauce
  • 1 tbs sugar
  • Rice
     In a hot wok with a little vegetable oil, dice up chicken and sauté until cooked through.  Remove the chicken and sit aside.  In same wok toss in the shredded carrots, mushrooms, garlic, and ginger and sauté.  Pour in the soy, oyster, and fish sauces, and the sugar and incorporate.  Place the chicken back in, toss around until the sauce has coated everything and the mixture has thickened.  Serve over some fresh Jasmine rice.  Serves 2.  Such a quick and flavorful Thai dish.  Fantastic.