Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Holiday Food Highlights

We’ve had a houseful of people since Christmas Eve and it’s not over yet. We’re expecting more guests up until the second weekend of January. I’m tired just thinking about it. But hey, that’s what the holidays are all about…or at least that’s what they tell me.  I like to think it's all about the food...but let's keep that between us.

I've been baking cookies since the beginning of December. Don’t think for a minute this means I wasn’t still preparing dessert on a weekly basis…because I was. Heck, I even whipped up a Ricotta Nutella cake on Christmas day.  Recipe courtesy of What's Cooking Italian Style Cuisine.

I swear I've roasted about 5000 nuts this month…ok maybe that’s a bit of an exaggeration…but we have roasted a lot.

I got a great nut recipe from a friend (see below) and quickly became addicted. As did most of our guests.  Warmed spiced olives also become somewhat of a regular on our table this holiday session. 

We made a porcini and spinach stuffed standing rib roast on Christmas day with some really delicious veggies on the side.  Crepes filled with Parmesan, used to flavor soup, were also part of our meal.  And don't forget the Nutella cake I mentioned above.

The star though, this holiday season, was the Timpano we made on Christmas Eve. Have you seen the movie Big Night? If so you’ve seen a Timpano. Basically, it’s a bowl…lined with dough…filled with 2lbs of pasta (1lb in a meat sauce and 1 lb in a b├ęchamel sauce), Prosciutto cubes, grated Parmesan cheese, and about 15 meatballs, capped off with more of the dough.   Baked in the oven and served inverted on a plate. That's a Timpano and it’s every bit as delicious as it sounds. I wish I would've got a picture of it got but it went so fast I just didn't have time.

Roasted Nuts
• 1 pound assorted nuts (I used all almonds) 
• 2 tablespoons fresh rosemary, coarsely chopped
• 1/2 teaspoon cayenne
• 2 teaspoons dark brown sugar
• 2 teaspoons kosher salt
• 1 tablespoon butter, melted

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Toss the nuts in a large bowl to combine and spread them out on a cookie sheet. Toast in the oven until they become light golden brown, about 10 minutes.

In the large bowl, combine the rosemary, cayenne, brown sugar, salt, and melted butter.

Thoroughly toss the warm toasted nut with the spiced butter and serve warm.


Monday, December 20, 2010

Michael Collins Blended Irish Whiskey

I'm not a whiskey connoisseur by any stretch of the imagination…but I know what I like and Michael Collins Blended whiskey fits the bill.

Made by the last independent distillery in Ireland it’s a double distilled blend of malt Irish whiskey and grain Irish whiskey, aged 4 years in bourbon casks.

How would I describe Michael Collins…smooth, silky and very versatile. I say it’s perfect for the novice whiskey drinker like myself; but also suitable for someone with a more experienced/complex palate.

We recently did a blind taste test with some of our friends; all of which choose Michael Collins over Jameson.
I highly recommend you grab a bottle and see for yourself.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Food Blogger Adds Whole New Meaning To The Terms Little Black Book

Susan Russo, is the co-author of "Recipes Every Man Should Know" a little black book containing something much more valuable than girl’s telephone numbers. It contains recipes. Packed with easy to follow recipes and kitchen tips this book is geared toward the non-cooking male.

I decided to gift this book to Danny, a 20 year old college student that works for my husband. Living on his own for the first time; Danny is just learning his way around the kitchen and loving it. The book contains about 100 recipes ranging from hearty breakfast foods, to bar food, meat and potato dinners and even desserts.

Danny made two recipes from this book and from what I hear he is planning to make many more. He started with the Tortilla Pizza topping it with chopped green bell peppers, sliced mushrooms, pepperoni and a cheese blend of Cheddar and Mozzarella. His reaction: “it was pretty damn good.”

The second recipe he tried was the Poor Man's Pasta Carbonara. Never having had Carbonara before this recioe was a bit of a challenge.  Not sure what to expect; he wasn't overly impressed with the look of this dish but he tells me it tasted delicious.

Danny's overall reaction of this cool little book was positive.  Although not all the recipes were things he would eat on a regular basis there were quite a few that he can't wait to make.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Tis The Season....Cookie Season That Is...

I've started my baking off this year with an Amaretti recipe that has been in my family for years. If you like almonds you will love these little treats. They come together really quick and are absolutely delicious. The outside is slightly crunchy yet they remain moist and chewy on the inside. The recipe makes about 60 cookies but can easily be halved.

Amaretti Cookies

1 1/2 lbs blanched almonds
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 Tbs almond extract
4 egg whites

Preheat oven to 325.
Line baking pans with parchment paper.
Grind almonds and sugar in a food processor until fine.
Beat egg whites until stiff.
Fold egg whites and almond extract into ground almond mixture.
Using wet hands roll dough into small balls and roll balls in sugar.
Place on prepared pan and press down slightly on the top.
Bake 20 minutes or until firm and golden on the outside.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Review: Di Palo's NYC

I love Italian specialty food shops and try to seek them out wherever I go. To me they provide a feeling of extreme comfort. I’m sure it stems from growing up in an area where these sort of stores were plentiful and shopping at them was a regular occurrence.

Di Palo’s Fine Foods, a 4th generation shop located in NY City’s Little Italy, has been on my “must visit” list for some time now. They are reported to have a wonderful selection of meats, cheeses, and various other authentic Italian specialties. It's noted that Lou Di Palo travels to Italy several times a year to hand pick the perfect products for his customers. In my book... it doesn’t get much better than that. So you can probably imagine how excited I was when they contacted me to do a review.

What a great opportunity to be able to experience a small taste of what Di Palo’s has to offer in the comfort of my home. I was sent a block of Grana Padano, a semi-aged hard Italian cheese that is one of the most popular cheeses in Italy. A cow’s milk cheese very similar to Parmigiano Reggiano, Grana Padano is milder and much less complex in flavor.

Also included for me to sample were two different varieties of mostarda; pear and mixed berry. Made by slow cooking fruit with mustard oil these condiments have a sweet, slightly spicy flavor; which paired well with the cheese. If you’ve never had a mostarda I would strongly recommend adding one to your next meat and cheese plate. Trust me you won’t be disappointed.

I was extremely pleased with the samples from Di Palo’s and I’m looking forward to visiting the store the next time I’m in the Big Apple.  Until then I will be perusing their large selection of products online at

If you’ve been to Di Palo’s I would love to hear your thoughts on the store and/or its products.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

It's Time To Vote For Your Favorite Chile & A Spoon Recipe

Voting has officially started.  Please head over to Marxfood and consider voting for my

Creamy Carrot and Cannellini Bean Soup with Smoked Serrano Chile Oil Drizzle

1 Tbs olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
4 carrots, diced
2 Tbs fresh Rosemary, minced
1 Tbs fresh Oregano, minced
2 Tbs tomato paste
4 cups chicken stock
3 cans cannellini beans, rinsed and drained

Add oil to skillet and saute garlic until golden. Add carrots and herbs and cook until soft. When almost soft make a well in center of pan and add tomato paste. Cook a few minutes until it turns a deep red color then mix with carrots and continue cooking.

In a large pot over medium heat add 3 cans of cannellini beans and your chicken stock reserving about a 1/4 cup. Add cooked carrots and herbs to this pot.  Take your reserved stock and deglaze the carrot pan. When finished add this liquid to the soup pot.   Bring everything to a boil and let it simmer for about 10-12 minutes. 

Using an immersion blender mix soup until creamy right in the pot.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  Spoon into bowls, drizzle with Smoked Serrano Chili Oil (see below) and serve immediately.

Smoked Serrano Chile Oil

1/4 cup olive oil
3-4 Dried Smoked Serrano Chile

Cut chilies into a few large pieces place in oil over low heat.  Continue to cook until oil becomes fragrant about 15 minutes.  Remove from heat and use.