Thursday, March 22, 2012

Sicilian Cannoli Crisps

 Grand Prize Winner for Pretzel Crisps  "Got an App for That?" Contest, 2012 (Sweets Category)

The taste of an Italian Pasticcieria all in one bite, and less fat than traditional cannoli!

*24 Original Deli Style Pretzel Crisps
* 2 cups of Whole Milk Ricotta Cheese (drained)
* 1/3 cup of super-fine powdered sugar
* 1 cup, plus 1/4 cup of mini chocolate chips (separated)
*1 teaspoon of vanilla
*1/4 cup of crushed pistachio nuts
Place ricotta cheese in a cheese cloth and set in a colander-lined bowl to drain liquid (about 15 minutes).
In a double boiler, melt one cup of chocolate chips, stirring occasionally. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and line up the 24 Original Deli Style Pretzel Crisps.  Drizzle  melted chocolate off a spoon across each pretzel crisp a few times. Allow chocolate to harden before piping cannoli cream on the crisp (at least 20 minutes). To make the cannoli filling: in a large bowl, combine ricotta cheese, sugar, vanilla and the remaining 1/4 cup of mini chocolate chips. Mix until well combined. Spoon filling into a pastry bag with a large star tip.  Pipe the cannoli cream on each chocolate-drizzled pretzel crisp, and dust one end with crushed pistachio nuts and all the cannoli crisps with additional powdered sugar. Serve immediately.

The Platano Cubano ~ Cuban Canapes

A Caban-style canape, inspire by one of my favorite sandwiches, the Cubano!

Winner for Best Burger-Peoples Choice in weekly contest, 2012 and featured by Gourmet Magazine as their Retro Recipe Remake Winner

I fell in love with the Cubano sandwich years ago when I lived in West New York, New Jersey in a densely, Cuban populated neighborhood. I wanted to reinvent the flavors of my favorite sandwich, but in the style of a burger. Leaving the burger open-faced, showcases the elegance of the Cuban-styled burger, and the border of brioche around the burger allows you to neatly hold it in your hand as it hugs The Plantano Cubano. This is one burger that has a big-wow factor and is perfect for entertaining!

 This Plantano Cubano hews closely to the Cuban tradition in flavor, while elegantly styled for a party as a chic, open-faced burger. Taking queues from the classic, Cubano sandwich, my version swaps out the pork and ham slices for the ground pork and Serrano ham. The Serrano ham pieces are laced throughout the ground pork mixture resulting in a savory, juicy patty. Staying true to the overall flavor profile of the Cubano sandwich, each pork patty is topped with Swiss cheese and a tangy, dill pickle relish. Each patty sits atop a brioche-round slathered in champagne mustard and more pickle relish.

A final nod to the Cuban culture is the fried and salty plantain chip that crowns this delicious little flavor bomb, The Plantano Cubano. Serve on coasters (as shown) or, on a serving tray.

1 lb Ground Pork
¼ lb Serrano Ham, minced, (may substitute prosciutto
3T Canola Oil        
1 Plantain, firm          
4 Swiss Cheese slices
¼cup Champagne Mustard
¼cup Dill Pickle Relish
8 Brioche Roll, bottoms

Sea Salt & Cracked Pepper,to taste

1.) Set oven to broil.
2.) In a large bowl, combine the Serrano ham and salt (and a dash of pepper,) to the pork mixture and thoroughly combine with your hands. Set aside.
3.) Heat canola oil in a cast-iron skillet to medium-high heat.
4.) Peel the plantain and slice 8 long, very thin slices with a vegetable peeler and place in the skillet. (Plantains will crisp and curl up very quickly, so keep watch) Remove crisp plantain chips, and set on a paper towel-lined plate. Salt liberally.
5.) Wipe out the bottom of the skillet with a paper towel, and place brioche rounds in skillet. Toast them so they are a little browned.(They will toast quickly, as the brioche have a high butter content)Set aside.
6.) Shape each pork patty into 2-2 1/2 inch round patties and place on baking sheet.
7.) Place patties under broiler for 5 minutes on one side. Remove and flip to broil other side for only 4 minutes.
8.) Cut the 4 Swiss cheese slices into quarters for topping the patties.
9.) Remove the patties from the oven and top with the Swiss cheese pieces,then return to the broiler for one more minute.
10.) Remove the patties from the oven and slather each toasted, broiche round with champagne mustard, then a little pickle relish. Add the pork patty, a little more pickle relish, and nestle the salty, plantain chip onto the cheesy-topped patty. Serve immediately.

Inspired by this famous Cuban Sandwich

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Braciole di Salsiccia

The classic and simple flavors of Abruzzo come together in this simple, but elegant, earthy dish with hot ground Italian sausage as the defining ingredient permeating the entire dish. The combination of hot Italian sausage, with a milk-soaked bread mixture of stale bread, minced garlic, parsley, and  grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese is nicely balanced as the two mix together. The egg yolk pieces add a richness, while the pine nuts add a subtle nuttiness to round out the complexity of the dish. The mixture is generously spread onto a very thinly pounded piece of pork shoulder that is rendered fork tender in the braising process.

Caramelizing the braciole bundles in olive oil prior to braising in the sauce, enhances the savory 'meat' flavor, and fills the finished dish with a complex layer of nuttiness. During braising, the flavors from the sausage seep out into the sauce that cloaks the braciole, adding a dimension of meatiness to the sauce. The addition of Sherry wine and tangy, pepperoncini really make this sauce sing.  It just begs to be mopped up with a crusty piece of bread!

This classic, Abruzzese-style dish, actually, comes together very quickly with minimum prep work, and can be easily tweaked according to personal tastes. The true testament is that everyone will be asking you for the recipe!  Buon Appetito!

Recipe to follow soon!

Friday, March 9, 2012

Savory Port Wine Tarte Tartin

                      2nd Place Winner for Valley Fig Growers Photo Contest, 2012

 A tarte tartin is a beautiful way to showcase the fig's beautiful colors and shapes. This rustic, French, "Savory Port Wine Fig Tarte Tartin" coaxes luxury out of everyday ingredients you probably already have around the pantry. Poaching the halved, dry Calimyrna figs in Port Wine lends a little acidity to the figs and serves to cut through the richness of the goat cheese filling. The addictive combination of the figs, toasted walnuts, goat cheese, and French Bayonne ham is tucked into a rich, buttery puffed pastry crust and baked until golden brown. It's charm is a bit rustic and romantic, and this recipe bends readily to adaptation with the use of different cheeses, wines, or other add-ins. All of the components are thoughtfully balanced in flavor and texture, and compliment each other well, but the real stand-out is the flavor of the chewy, Calimyrna figs.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Antipasto Grilled Cheese on Rosemary Peasant Bread


  • Rosemary peasant bread
  • Prosciutto
  • Genoa Salami
  • Pepperoncini
  • Roasted red peppers
  • Marinated artichoke pieces
  • Mixed olive and caper berries
  • Provolone cheese
  • Fontina cheese
  • Arugula
  • Olive oil for grilling

Friday, March 2, 2012

Mamma Bianco's Sausage Gorgonzola Stuffed Shells

When I was a little girl, I used to live on Blandina Street, upstairs from an old woman we called Mamma Bianco. Everyone in the neighborhood would call her Mamma Bianco, whether they were related to her, or not. She would make these amazing stuffed shells with baby shells inside, and the memory of her describing her food to me, in her broken English accent, is still very vivid in my mind. Hope she would approve of my adaptation!

 These stuffed shells are a great, classic, comfort-food recipe, but achieves that stratus by adding  hot ground Italian sausage to the mix.  I upped the ante on the alfredo sauce by adding a pungent, gorgonzola cheese in addition to the Parmigiano Reggiano grated cheese. The result is a velvety sauce with a real voice that can stand up to the heft of the hot Italian sausage.   Tiny, macaroni shells are the perfect filling, as they help collect the creamy sauce.  A quick saute in olive oil, infuses garlic into the grape tomatoes and pepperoncini pieces.  While the acidity of the sweet, grape tomatoes, along with fresh baby spinach, cuts through the creamy alfredo sauce, and gives this recipe a fresh pop.  The addition of pine nuts gives a nuttiness and unexpected textural interest.

Housing the mixture in large, individual shells makes a handsome presentation, and is perfect for pot luck gatherings or entertaining guests. Each stuffed shell is truly the sum of it's parts, with each ingredient standing out individually.   This recipe is festive and flavorful, plus all the colors of the Italian flag are represented, to boot!  It comes together so quick and easily, and you can't imagine how delicious this recipe really is until you just make it!  Buon Appetito!

3 cups of heavy cream
½ cup of Parmigiano Reggiano cheese (grated)
8 tablespoons of butter
1 cup of crumbled gorgonzola cheese
1  ½ cups of ricotta cheese
10 ounces of ground hot Italian sausage
2 cups of grape tomatoes (halved)
2 cups of baby spinach
1 box of large macaroni shells
½ pound of tiny macaroni shells
½ teaspoon of nutmeg (for alfredo sauce)
Salt & Pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  In a large skillet on medium heat, sauté ground Italian sausage with one teaspoon of garlic.  (Do not use olive oil, as there is enough oil in the sausage that will release.)  Break into crumbles and set aside.  To make the alfredo sauce, bring the heavy cream and butter to a simmer. Add the nutmeg, Parmigiano Reggiano and gorgonzola cheeses and simmer for a few minutes until the sauce is smooth.  Remove from heat. Do not leave on low heat as the sauce will get very thick with the added heat.  

Boil both macaroni shells in separate pots of salted water until they are el dente.  Do not overcook macaroni, as it will continue to cook while it is baking.  Fold the sautéed sausage, grape tomatoes,  and spinach into the ricotta cheese.  Toss the tiny macaroni shells with this mixture and carefully stuff each large shell with this mixture. Spread a couple tablespoons of alfredo sauce in the bottom of a baking dish and line the baking dish with the stuffed shells. Pour the remaining gorgonzola alfredo sauce over each stuffed shell. Bake for about 15 minutes, or until the shells get a nice golden color.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Rosemary's Easter Bonnet

Honorable Mention Winner in Miracle Whip's Easter Recipes Contest, 2012

This recipe is an adaptation of a Potatoes Anna gratin that my Nonna used to make for the holidays. It has become a family favorite that all my siblings now make, in which each of us puts our own individual, personal signature.  This free-form gratin is so easy to assemble and I love the way the edges crisp and caramelize, while the interior, imbedded with onions and cheese, stays luscious and creamy. The mayonnaise, sour cream, or Miracle Whip mixture is zesty and sublime, giving the potatoes an incredible richness. This dish relies only on a few ingredients, but it's the horseradish-spiked Miracle Whip sauce, perfumed with rosemary, that really elevates this dish to something complex and elegant. The festive, Easter bonnet shape of this gratin is a cinch to assemble, and has a really WOW factor. This is, definitely, a side dish worthy of the Easter table centerpiece! Buon Appetito!

  • 4 large, Russett potatoes (peeled and sliced very thinly with a mandoline slicer, or sharp knife)
  • 1 medium-sized onion (minced)
  • 1 cup of Kraft Miracle Whip Dressing, mayo, or sour cream
  • 1/2 cup of grated parmigiano reggiano cheese
  • 1 cup of shredded Italian three cheese blend
  • 2 tablespoons of creamy horseradish sauce
  • 1/4 cup of whole milk (as needed)
  • 1 tablespoon of minced garlic
  • 1 tablespoon of rosemary (minced finely)
  •  Parsley sprigs for garnish
 Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In a small bowl, combine the Miracle Whip, creamy horseradish sauce, garlic, and rosemary. Set aside. Peel and slice the Russett potatoes. Set aside. Mince the medium onion. Set aside. Add a little bit of milk to the Miracle Whip mixture so that it is thin enough to fall off the spoon in a thick drizzle (not runny). Arrange one layer of potatoes, in a circular pattern, on a round bakjng sheet, slightly overlapping the edges of the potatoes. Drizzle a couple tablespoons of the Miracle Whip mixture over the first layer of potatoes. Sprinkle about a tablespoon of minced onion, then a couple tablespoons of grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, and finally, scatter a couple tablespoons of the shredded Three Cheese Blend. Repeat this first layer, in the same fashion, two more times, until you have three layers (the brim of the Easter bonnet). To make the crown of the hat, simply build up a few potato/Miracle mixture/cheese layers in the center of the hat, measuring about a 5-inch diameter. Bake at 375 degrees for the first 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, rotate, and turn the oven up to 400 degrees. Bake another 30 minutes, and until golden brown, and the circumference has started to get very crispy. Remove from the oven, and allow to cool for about 5 minutes. Slice into wedges and serve.