Sunday, October 31, 2010

Pasta Cavolfiore

This pasta dish has a mix of textures - the crunch of Cauliflower and the smoothness of fresh pasta - albeit Al dente.


1 lb fresh pasta - linguine works best, although spaghetti would be terrific too. capellini does not work well, however.
1/4 c olive oil
1 medium to large Cauliflower
1 large (28 oz) can plum Italian tomatoes
2 gloves of garlic
1 medium onion
1/4 tsp marjoram (dry)
1/2 tsp basil (fresh)
1/2 c mixed parimsiano and reggiano cheese grated
salt & pepper (white) to taste

Prepare the Cauliflower before heating the oil. Break the Cauliflower into its florets and slice the stem into rings about 1/8". Heat a deep sauce pan. Add the Olive Oil to the heated pan and heat quickly but do not scorch as olive oil will burn easily. Add the onion and saute until the onion is nearly translucent then add the garlic. Do not brown the garlic. When the garlic softens and is aromatic add the Cauliflower stems. Cook the stems for 2-3 minutes and then add the florets. Add the juice from the plum tomatoes steaming the Cauliflower slightly. Break up the plum tomatoes with your hands and add to the Cauliflower mixture and toss. Saute another 5-7 minutes until the Cauliflower is cooked but crisp.

Meanwhile on another burner (preferrably gas) 3 quarts of water - adding a little salt and olive oil to the water. Bring it to a boil and drop in the linguini. Cook until Al dente - to your taste.
Drain the pasta.

In a warm pasta bowl put some sauce from the Cauliflower Sauce on the bottom of the bowl - add the pasta and about 1/2 tsb of olive oil mix the pasta with the sauce and then add the Cauliflower Sauce and the Parmisiano and Reggiano cheese while mixing the pasta so it is combined completely.

Serve hot in smaller pasta bowls.
Bon Apetito

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Mom and Melissa

An old standard- Marinated Mushrooms

It's been awhile since my mom and I have talked recipes - but when she was asked by a friend to provide some recipes for a cook book - my mom's interest in our blog was reinvigorated! Hopefully, we will be back to every Sunday evening.

Here's the ingridients for an easy appetizer:

1 lbs mushrooms sliced - crimini mushrooms work well
1 1/2 tsp of salt
1 1/2 tsp of sugar
1/4 tsp of red pepper (although mom always uses at least 1/2 tsp of red pepper)
1/4 tsp of ground black pepper
1/4 tsp of fresh chopped oregano
1/4 tsp of ground white pepper
1 garlic broken into cloves so they can be removed
3/4 c red or white wine vinegar (not balsamic)
1/3 c olive oil
1 chopped medium yellow onion

Mix all ingridients and add sliced fresh mushrooms. Marinate mushrooms for 3 days in refrigerator stirring everyday. On the 3rd day strain and remove garlic and serve.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Comfort Food for Italians - Pasta Fagioli

Comfort Food for Italians -- Pasta Fagioli

Pasta Fagioli was Mom's Friday super! As a young girl, I remember my mom rushing in from work or grocery shopping and in minutes she would miraculously put together a wonderful meal just before my father came home from work. Even though it always tasted great to me my mother would always say -- I should have made it "last night"! According, to my mom "pasta fagiolio always tastes better the next day." So take mom's advice -- make it tonight for tomorrow!


1.5 Tbs Olive Oil
3-4 Garlic Cloves
5 small hot pepper rings
1/2 can tomato paste
1/2 lb Ditalini
2 15 oz cans Cannellini Beans
6 cups water

In a 6 quart sauce pan add sliced garlic cloves to the olive oil and saute until lightly brown - be care not to burn. Add hot pepper rings and cook for approximately 5 minutes. Add 1/2 can tomato paste and 1 Tbs of water saute for another 8 minutes. Remove garlic.

Add 6 cups of water (or use 4 cups water and 2 cups low sodium vegetable broth) and bring to a boil. Add 1/2 lbs of Ditalini and cook for approximately 15 minutes - until pasta is al dente.
Add the 2 cans of Cannellini Beans and bring to a boil again. Then simmer for another 5 - 7 minutes until the flavors blend. Serve immediately with grated cheese.

Remember: if you make it the night before, let the pan cool before placing it in the refrigerator - but do not cover.
Or, make the pasta fagioli earlier in the day and let it cool on the stove - uncovered - . The liquid will evaporate and the soup will be very thick adjust the liquid by adding another cup or two of water as needed as you reheat.

Writing from Providence with Mom - 3/1/2010

Sunday, February 21, 2010

A Different Putanesta!

As you no doubt know the word "putanesta" means prostitute. As the story goes, when Italian Naval Officers came to port in Naples women were cooking pasta sauce - gravy in my family-and the smell of the sauce so enticed the naval officers that they had to find the women cooks --

Without venturing a guess as to the veracity of the legend -- here's a twist on the typical "putanesta" sauce.


1 lb of pasta -- penne works best ( I never use spaghetti or fettuccine with this sauce. It works best with a short pasta that has some body) (no pun intended)

2 tbs of tomato paste (if you want a thicker sauce you can use plum tomatoes or diced tomatoes about 1 cup)
1 bunch Swiss chard - rainbow is more interesting but not essential (wash and towel dry the Swiss Chard then pull the leaves from the veins and break apart into pieces that are larger than "bite size") (I never chop the Swiss Chard)
6 - 10 oz black olives kalamata olives - pitted work best
1 10 oz can of chick peas rinsed and drained
1 yellow onion diced
2 cloves garlic minced
1 -2 tbs of olive oil
1 cup vegetable stock

In a large stock pot bring water to a boil - add 2 tsp of oil to the water. When the water comes to a boil - add the pasta. Cook stirring moderately until the pasta is slightly firm.
In a large skillet (I use a very large frying pan) heat the oil and then saute the onion and the garlic until translucent-- do not brown. Then add the tomato paste and cook for about 3 minutes. Turning the mixture so that it does not stick or burn. Slowly add the vegetable stock. Simmer for 5 minutes. Add the Swiss Chard and simmer until the Chard is nearly cooked. Add the kalamata Olives and 3/4 of the cans of Chick Peas. Simmer for another 5 - 8 minutes.

Warm a pasta bowl by placing it under hot water and towel dry. Immediately add about 1/3 of the sauce (now cooked) into the bowl. Drain the pasta and then add it to the bowl on top of the sauce. Toss slightly. Add the remaining sauce to the pasta. Toss well and serve.

This should serve 4 hungry people -- If you are serving fewer people cut the amount of pasta you cook not the sauce. The sauce will store in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.

Bon Appettito!

Saturday, February 13, 2010

The Vegetarian Cooks Meat Loaf

I know it has been awhile since my mom and I posted a recipe-- we will spare you the details of the last three months -- and instead provide a recipe for some good "old fashioned" comfort food - meatloaf. Personally, I have not eaten meat - red or white-in about 35 years so why should I know anything about cooking meatloaf let alone know that this is a good recipe. But I've made this one - flawlessly - for many years and my mom has too albeit it for many more. So if you are in Washington, DC, Baltimore or Philly and you are snowed in or just don't want to go out to eat tomorrow evening - try my mom's meatloaf.


I lb ground beef (80/20)
1 cup tomato sauce-reserve a tablespoon
1 cup "old fashioned" oats (NOT INSTANT)
1 egg
1/2 onion finely chopped
1 carrot grated
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven at 375 degrees
Grease 9" loaf pan with vegetable shortening or spray with cooking spray

Start with one pound of ground beef -- mom recommends NOT using extra lean or even lean - she's recommends 80%- 20%. (20% chuck) Her belief -- you need some fat. Mix into the ground beef the wet ingredients first: egg and the tomato sauce (Hunt's works well)- reserve a tablespoon. Then, work in the oats (Quaker), onion and carrot.

Put the mixture in a loaf pan - 9" Top with tablespoon of tomato sauce

Place in oven on the rack for one hour. (Insert tester which should remove clean if meatloaf is cooked)

Remove from oven and place on rack for 5 minutes. After 5 minutes turn loaf pan upside down and meatloaf should remove easily from the pan. If not, tap on bottom of loaf pan and you may need to use a butter knife to loosen meatloaf from pan edge.

Serve warm. Enjoy!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Recipe #3 Aunt Amelia's Lentil Soup

I know it's been awhile. But, my mom has been busy taking her older sister (my aunt anna is 90) from a nursing and rehabilitation center to her home. I could go on and on about our health care system, how it does not work for anyone--especially the elderly--but our goal -- my mom's and my goal--is to share recipes with you.

Suffice it is to say this entire experience (my aunt had been hospitalized since June with an infection that resulted in near complete organ shut down and she almost died) has taken a toll on my mom. When we spoke last night--my mom had a quiet moment--she suggested I share her lentil soup recipe. It's good -- but then nearly all of my mom's recipes are and it's quick -- although my strong suggestion is to make it the night before, let it cool down completely before you put it in the refrigerator and serve the next day. (Never cover hot soup or even warm soup in the refrigerator)


1 cup of lentils (brown)
6 tbsp of olive oil (btw my mother does not use virgin or extra virgin olive oil)
1 stalk celery including celery tops (finely chopped)
2 carrots (medium) finely chopped
8 cups of low sodium vegetable stock or 4 cups stock and 4 cups water
1 glove garlic minced
1/2 cup plum tomates (canned plum tomatoes work well)

In a large saucepan heat the oil. Add the onion to the heated oil and cook gently until it softens. Add the celery, celery tops, carrots and garlic and cook for 5 or more minutes until slightly soft. Add the lentils and stir to coat the lentils in the oil and vegetables.

Add the tomatoes and the vegetable stock (or vegetable stock and water) and bring to a boil. Once boiling lower the heat, cover and simmer for about one hour --until the lentils are tender. Add salt and pepper to taste.

For the non-vegetarians and for extra luck according to Italian superstition add bits of chopped dried sausage (pepperoni). I've been a vegetarian for over 35 years so I cannot offer an opinion about this option--sorry. My mom's been making it without sausage for at least 35 years --but she said she remembers that the sausage option is worth a try. So experiment away.

Again -- make this soup a day ahead and the flavors will mix nicely and the soup will thicken. For those of you that are not "No Carb" obsessed serve the soup with crusty Italian bread.

Two last thoughts -- Italians eat lentil soup on New Year's Day. Like a number of cultures New Year's Day meals -- generally consisting of beans, black eyed peas, chick peas etc. will bring luck and prosperity in the new year.

And my mom learned this recipe from her oldest sister -- my Aunt Amelia. Aunt Amelia was perhaps the greatest cook any of us--including my mom--have ever experienced. When my mother is asked about her sister who died many years ago all she says is that she misses her ever day. Aunt Amelia made lentils often but always on New Year's Day -- we traveled from where ever we were to join her on that day. Thus, the name: Aunt Amelia's Lentil Soup.