Sunday, April 29, 2012

Greens-Stuffed Haddock Wallets in a Sherry Pomodoro Sauce

Growing up in the Northeastern part of the United States, you have probably eaten haddock, over cod. They taste very similar, but in my personal opinion, haddock is the prettier twin.  In my hometown, and starting as a Catholic tradition of meat-abstinence on Fridays, going out for a haddock fish fry dinner every Friday was a ritual. The entire town smelled like a fish fry! From pubs to fancy restaurants, and even the American Legions, they all pumped out out fish fries every Friday, and everyone has their loyal favorite.

This is no fish-n-chips, people. It was a luscious, huge, flaky piece of haddock, as big as your forearm, fried crispy in a crunchy batter; it was thick and flaky, with that touch of silvery skin that tells you, I'm a sexy piece of haddock! It was divine!  I can tell you that the last time I flew home for a visit, as soon as we touched down at Hancock Airport, in Syracuse, NY, we made a beeline straight to a restaurant for a haddock fish fry!

Years ago, (and, still) most people got their fresh fish from a market in the "East End" of Utica, NY, down on Kossuth & Broad Streets, and when you called up to order, you would be greeted with the accent, "Kosutta fish!"  Kossuth Fish Market was THE place to get your fresh fish, and I am happy to they are still in business today, offering fish and seafood of the highest quality.

 Over the years, people have started to subscribe to a healthier lifestyle, including a hearty-healthy diet, and baked haddock is becoming a popular option on restaurant menus. Haddock Oregonata, or Haddock Parmigiana are two popular options.  The essence of Italian cooking lies in its straightforward  respect to the quality and beauty of the ingredients, so I didn't want to get too "fancy" with the recipe. But, given that Utica Greens are so popular in my hometown, I wanted to incorporate them into a baked haddock recipe. So, why not stuff the haddock with the greens? It delivers big flavors with its spicy, seasoned escarole stuffing, and baked in a rich, but simple, Sherry pomodoro bath.

 I absolutely love the result, and it really does rival my good ol' favorite fish fry without all the fried guilt.  Although, when I home, I'll probably still get a haddock fish fry, for old times sake...

Recipe makes six, 8 ounce pieces of haddock (or, cod fillets)

Serve with additional sauce and crusty bread.
3 heads of escarole(rinsed)
2 tablespoons of olive oil
2 cloves of garlic (pushed through a garlic press)
5-7 Hot cherry peppers (roughly chopped; quantity depending on how much heat you like)
5 or 6 slices of Prosciutto, torn into 2 inch pieces
1 cup of plain bread crumbs, (not Italian.)
1 cup of artichoke hearts (quartered)
¼ cup of grated cheese (Pecorino Romano or Parmigiano Reggiano) optional, but who doesn’t love cheese?

Hot cherry peppers, roughly chopped ( 5, or so – depending how much heat you want)
28 ounce can of whole San Marzano  tomatoes
4 cloves of garlic  (smashed)
½  cup of grated Pecorino Romano cheese (plus more for topping)
1 cup of cooking Sherry wine (cut with  about ½ cup of water)
2+2 Tbsp. of extra virgin olive oil (separated: half for sauté, half for sauce)
4 Tbsp. of butter
¼ c of heavy cream
½ teaspoon of dried basil (plus, a few torn leaves of fresh basil tor tossing in pasta at  the end)
½ teaspoon of sea salt

1. Cut the bottom of each escarole head, and chop into large (4 square-inch sized) pieces.  Steam the escarole in a wire basket over a large pot of boiling water (2 inches of water) for about 7-8 minutes, or until limp and still a bit firm.  It will reduce greatly as it steams. (Do not boil the romaine, as it may get to mushy)
2. Meanwhile, in a 12 in skillet, crisp the prosciutto, first.  Next, add the hot cherry peppers, artichokes, and garlic on low heat in the 2 tablespoons of olive oil
3. Next, with tongs, remove the escarole from the wire basket and add it to the sauté and toss, turning quite a bit so the ingredients incorporate.
4. Sprinkle in the bread crumbs liberally and toss, thoroughly.  (The breadcrumbs give a nice, fuller- bodied texture you want.)
5. Sprinkle in the grated cheese and toss again.
6.  Let sit for at least 15 minutes, so the dish can blossom.
In a large pot heat extra-virgin olive on low heat with 4 smashed and chopped garlic cloves. This infuses the garlic into the oil before you add the tomatoes. Be careful that the garlic doesn’t get brown. It will be bitter. Add the whole tomatoes and Sherry Wine. Simmer for a few minutes. Add the butter, dried basil, chopped cherry peppers, and the sea salt. Allow to simmer on very low heat. Carefully, mash the whole tomatoes with a potato masher, then add in the Pecorino Romano cheese. (Do not add the cheese earlier, as it will stick to the bottom of the pot a little, and cling to the masher.)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Carefully cut a slit in the side of 6 pieces of haddock to open a pocket. Stuff about a half cup of greens in each pouch. Ladle the sauce in the bottom of a baking dish (enough so that the sauce will come up half-way once the fish is lined up in the pan. Line all the stuffed fish in the sauce in the baking dish so the stuffed top is facing up.  Sprinkle each stuffed fish with bread crumbs and bake for 20 minutes.  Serve immediately.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Portobello Wellington with Arugula Walnut Salad

4 Portobello mushroom caps
5 tablespoons of light extra virgin olive oil (divided, plus 3 tablespoons for brushing phyllo)
½ cup of vegetable broth
3 garlic cloves (divided: 1 for mushroom saute, 2 for carrot pate)
2 tablespoons of red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons of fresh sage (minced, divided)
1 cup of carrot pate (recipe below)
½ cup of carrot vinaigrette  (see below)
4 cups of baby arugula
½ cup of crushed walnuts
8 sheets of phyllo dough (2 sheets per Wellington)


1 pound of carrots (peeled and finely pulverized in food processor, or leftover carrot pulp from juicer)
½ cup of non fat Greek yogurt
1 tablespoon of light extra virgin olive oil
2 cloves of garlic (pushed through a garlic press)
1 large onion (minced finely)
In a large skillet on medium heat, combine the minced onions and one tablespoon of olive oil. Allow to sweat down and caramelize, stirring every couple minutes to prevent any burning. Meanwhile, chop peeled carrots in one-inch pieces and pulse in food processor until finely pulverized (If you have leftover carrot pulp from juicing carrots, this works very well). In a medium saucepan on low heat, combine olive oil, garlic and yogurt. Heat for one minute, then add carrot pulp and stir to combine. Mixture will be thick.  When the onions are fully caramelized, toss into the carrot pate and stir thoroughly to combine. Remove from heat and set aside.


¼ cup of carrot pulp
2 tablespoons of orange juice
1 teaspoon of sugar
1 teaspoon of minced onion
2 teaspoons of red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons of light extra virgin olive oil

Combine all ingredients in food processor until very smooth. Set aside.  Makes ¾ cup.


Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a large skillet on medium heat, combine 2 tablespoons of light extra virgin olive oil, 2 cloves of garlic, (pushed through garlic press), 1 tablespoon of sage, vegetable broth, and red wine vinegar.  Add the Portobello mushroom caps and sauté until they are tender (about ten minutes).  Set aside.  To assemble Wellington packages, remove 8 sheets of phyllo dough and lay out on a cookie sheet under a damp towel so they do not dry out.  Add the remaining tablespoon of sage to 3 tablespoons of light extra virgin olive oil and brush one sheet of phyllo, then, add a second sheet directly on top and brush with olive oil.  Place one Portobello mushroom in the center (underside facing up) and mound ¼ cup of carrot pate on top of Portobello cap. Fold phyllo sheets over the stuffed Portobello, folding all side in and folding up into a rectangle. Trim any excess. Proceed in the same fashion with remaining three Portobello mushrooms. Brush tops of Wellington packages with olive oil and bake for 25 minutes, or until golden brown.  Serve on a bed of arugula salad, tossed with walnuts and dressed with desired amount of carrot vinaigrette.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Garlic & Rosemary Roasted Warm Root Vegetable Salad di Mare

3rd Place Prize Winner for The Integrative Institute of Nutrition's "What's on Your Plate" Photo Contest

Pesto PLT Skillet Pizza

 2nd Place Prize Winner for Mezzetta, "Picture Perfect Pizza"  Photo Contest, 2012 

 EXPLORED Photo, chosen by Flickr

Simply one of the best white pizzas ever, that is inspired by a delicious bruschetta that my Italian mother makes. This recipe produces a complex sauce by combining the sun-ripened dried tomato pesto, crushed garlic with gorgonzola cream. The playful mingling of cherry tomatoes with basil pesto gives this pizza it's distinct fresh taste, while the prosciutto and kalamata olives round out the symphony of complimentary flavors.

 Baking the pizza in an olive oil seasoned cast iron skillet develops an irresistibly crispy bottom crust with a chewy center you will love sinking your teeth into! Garnish with arugula for that peppery bite. This pizza is so rustic and divine, it will transport you to an old world-style Italian bistro with every delicious bite!

  • 1- 4 ounce package of Fleischmann's Pizza Crust Yeast    
  • 1 3/4- 2 cups of all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup of semolina flour, plus more for dusting
  • 2/3 cups of very warm water (120-125 degrees)
  • 1 teaspoon of sugar
  • 1/2 salt
  • 3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 cups of red cherry tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup of crumbled Gorgonzola cheese
  • 1/2 cup of heavy cream
  • 3 tablesspoons of Mezzetta Sun Ripened Tomato Pesto
  • 2 tablespoons of Mezzetta Basil Pesto
  • 1/2 cup of Mezzetta Kalamata Olives, chopped
  • 3 ounces of Prosciutto, thinly sliced and torn
  • 1/2 cup of shredded provolone cheese
  • 2 cups of baby arugula
  • 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil, for drizzling

  **Preheat oven to 500 degrees and place oven rack on the very bottom of the oven. **

FOR THE CRUST: Combine 1 cup of all-purpose flour, semolina flour, undissolved yeast,  sugar, and salt in a large bowl. Combine very warm water (120-125 degrees), and oil; add to flour mixture. Mix until well blended (about a minute). Gradually, add the remaining flour and form a ball (it will be a bit sticky). Transfer dough ball to a floured surface and knead until smooth (about 4 minutes.) Cut dough ball in half with a pastry cutter. With a rolling pin, roll out one of the dough halves into a circle the size of your cast iron skillet. Use a skillet that is very shallow and brush with a little bit of olive oil. (I used one that is meant for making crepes). Transfer the dough to the skillet and allow to rise again for about 5 minutes.

FOR THE TOPPINGS: Combine the Gorgonzola cheese and heavy cream and use that as your base. Drizzle the Sun Ripened Tomato pesto on the base. Cut cherry tomatoes in half and toss with basil pesto and scatter over top of dough along with the Kalamata olives. Scatter the shredded provolone cheese over top and bake for about 10 minutes, or until golden brown. Remove from oven and remove from skillet. It should slide out pretty easily. Garnish with arugula.

COOK'S NOTE:  You may use a store bought pizza dough to save yourself  some time. However, if you would like to add real depth to your crust by adding herbs, such as rosemary, basil, oregano, etc., I would suggest making your own pizza crust.  Also, I like to add crushed red pepper flakes to my dough for a hint of heat, so I prefer to make mine from scratch.

My 2nd Place Prize: Aprilia Scarebo Italian Scooter!!

Scacciata: Brooklyn Salumeria Pizza with a Rosemary Fra Diavolo Crust

A stuffed, Brooklyn Salumeria-style pizza

Growing up in New York State, you get used to certain aromas that waft through a neighborhood. On the corner of my old street in Brooklyn, was a century-old, Italian salumeria, where the barrels of different olives greeted you upon entering, and hanging overhead, were, what seemed like, hundreds of salami links, just hanging from the ceiling like air fresheners. The different aromas were very alluring and intoxicating.

If you are fortunate enough to have such a salumeria in your town, I suggest that this be the place you buy all your spices, olive oil, imported cheeses, prosciutto, grissini, etc.  If no such establishment exists in your town, it is well worth the drive to the next town.  Heck, I would walk  miles to get quality charcuterie!

This pizza I created, is a tribute to that old salumeria that I loved so much. The crust is crisp and rich with a garlic-olive oil, perfumed with fresh rosemary, and strikes just the right balance of heat from the chili pepper flakes. The smoked provolone cheese offers just the right amount of smokiness that compliments the salami, but the flavored crust is definitely the star of the show. And, as anyone in Brooklyn will tell you, it's all about the crust!

This is, definitely, a pizza with a strong conviction. The passions and flavors of the Italian salumeria are successfully translated through this rustic pie.

Rosemary & pepper flakes add depth to the crust
  • CRUST:
  • 1- 4 ounce package of Fleischmann's Pizza Crust Yeast    
  • 1 3/4- 2 cups of all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup of semolina flour, plus more for dusting
  • 2/3 cups of very warm water (120-125 degrees)
  • 1 teaspoon of sugar
  • 1/2 salt
  • 2 tablespoons of finely-chopped rosemary
  • 2 teaspoons of red chili pepper flakes
  • 3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil

  • 20 large slices of Genoa salami
  • 1 cup of sun-dried tomatoes pieces
  • 1/4 cup of calamata olives
  • 1/4 cup of capers
  • 1 1/2 cups smoked provolone cheese (or slices)
  • 1/2 cup of grated Pecorino Romano cheese
  • 3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil                           
Homemade sun-dried tomatoes with garlic
 **Preheat oven to 550 degrees and place oven rack on the very bottom of the oven with pizza stone. **

FOR THE CRUST: Combine 1 cup of all-purpose flour, semolina flour, undissolved yeast, rosemary, red chili pepper flakes, sugar, and salt in a large bowl. Combine very warm water (120-125 degrees), and oil; add to flour mixture. Mix until well blended (about a minute). Gradually, add the remaining flour and form a ball (it will be a bit sticky). Transfer dough ball to a floured surface and knead until smooth (about 4 minutes.) Cut dough ball in half with a pastry cutter. With a rolling pin, roll out one of the dough halves into a very thin 15x8 inch rectangle. Transfer that rectangle to a parchment-lined pizza peel.

Vine tomatoes from my garden ready for sun-roasting

FOR THE TOPPING & FILLING: Scatter 3/4 cup of the shredded smoked provolone cheese on the dough leaving a 1/2 inch border around the perimeter. Next, place the salami slices in rows on top of the cheese until all the cheese is covered (you may overlap.) Scatter remaining smoked provolone cheese on top of the salami slices. Roll out the other piece of dough (top crust) into a very thin rectangle of the same size. Place the dough over the top of the salami & cheese-topped dough and pinch along the perimeter to seal the dough. Set aside and allow to proof for 10 minutes. After proofing, drizzle the crust with 3 tablespoons of olive oil, then, top with sun-dried tomato pieces and scatter the capers, olives and the grated Pecorino Romano cheese. Bake on pizza stone for 12 -15 minutes, until golden brown.

Nota bene-  The top crust may puff up a bit, but it will relax once it is removed from the oven and rests for a few minutes. If it puffs too much, just pierce with a knife to release the steam.  Finish with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil (optional).

Siciliano Pasta e Caponata

Made with eggplants from my very own garden!

Caponata is typically a sailor's dish of eggplant and chopped vegetables steeped in oil and vinegar and served as an appetizer. I combined this traditional Sicilian dish with my homemade marinara and served it with pasta. I love orrecchiette for this dish because it has a nice tooth to it and captures the body of the caponata perfectly, without being dominated by it. Great marriage!

*4 cups chopped eggplant, (about 2 medium, chopped into ½ inch cubes )
*1  28 ounce can of San Marzano crushed  plum tomatoes
*1/4 cup, plus 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil, divided
*1 medium yellow onion, chopped
*3 ounces of Gorgonzola cheese (crumbled)
*6 cloves garlic, minced  (4 for caponata, 2 for  marinara sauce)
Fairytale Eggplants from my garden,  2011
*2 tablespoons capers, drained
*1/4 cup lightly toasted pine nuts
*1 tablespoon, natural cane sugar
*1/3 cup red wine vinegar
*3-4 basil leaves, torn
*1/4  teaspoon, plus additional ¼ teaspoon of sea salt
 * Parmigiano Reggiano cheese for topping
* ¼ teaspoon of chili pepper flakes
*1/2 cup green Sicilian olives, minced for garnish
* 1 pound of orrecchiette pasta


1.)Toss chopped eggplant with 2 tablespoons of olive oil and sprinkle with ¼ teaspoon of sea salt.

2) In a large sauté pan laced with 2-3 tablespoons of olive oil on medium heat, sauté eggplant, onion, and 4 cloves of garlic until onions are translucent, about 6-7 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Add capers, pine nuts, sugar, vinegar.  Cook for 8 to 10 minutes, stirring often, until eggplant is tender and melding together.

3.)While caponata is developing, in a large pot, heat extra-virgin olive with the remaining  2 minced garlic cloves and red chili pepper flakes  on low heat for about a minute. This infuses the garlic and pepper  into the oil before you add the tomatoes.

4.)Add the crushed tomatoes and  ¼ teaspoon of  sea salt.  Allow to simmer on very low heat for about 5 minutes.

5.)In a large pot with salted water, cook the orrecchiette pasta until el dente.

6.) While pasta is cooking, toss the caponata into the pot of marinara sauce, add the torn basil and mix thoroughly.

7.)Turn off heat and stir in the gorgonzola cheese.

8.)Drain pasta and toss in to the caponata and sauce mixture. Garnish with grated cheese and Sicilian green olives.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Salted Caramel Pear Flan

Comes together in a jiffy!!

When I lived on the Upper West Side in Manhattan, there was this little, quaint Columbian bakery on my corner that was THE PLACE to get an authentic cafe con leche and traditional Columbian desserts. This Salted Caramel Pear Flan recipe is inspired by my favorite Columbian bakery, and is fused with a traditional, Napolitano ricotta pear tart recipe that my Italian Nonna would make for the holiday every spring. JELL-O Flan mix makes it SO EASY to whip up this elegant dessert, and it comes together so quickly just on the stove top. The flan base couldn't be easier: just dump and stir. The result is super smooth, light and creamy, with pleasant, subtle notes of pear and cinnamon. With JELL-O Flan Spanish Style Custard, you can whip up a dessert that not only looks impressive, but tastes impressive!

    mash pears into caramel
  • *3 oz package of JELL-O Brand Flan, Spanish Style Custard Dessert with Caramel Sauce mix
  • *4 ripe Bosc pears
  • *2 cups of whole milk
  • *1 1/2 cups of whole milk ricotta cheese (drained)
  • *1/2 cup of light brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup of heavy cream
  • *2 tablespoons of butter
  • 1/2 teaspoon of ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup of walnuts
  • 1/2 teaspoon of kosher salt
  • * Garnish with mint sprigs (optional)

Peel and core two of the pears. Dice those two pears into 1/4-inch pieces. Set aside. The two remaining pears, slice very thin (1/8th inch), lengthwise, with a sharp knife (may use a mandoline). In a large skillet on medium heat, combine light brown sugar, heavy cream, butter, cinnamon, and salt. Stir frequently until sugar liquifies and mixture becomes creamy. Add the sliced pears to the caramel mixture and allow pears to soften in the caramel, flipping sides as needed. Remove from skillet and set aside on a plate. Next, add the diced pears to the remaining caramel mixture and mash with a potato masher. Allow the mixture to thicken and reduce by half, on medium-high heat. While mixture is reducing, open the caramel packet inside the JELL-O Flan package. and pour inside a 9-inch, round dish (3-inch height). Then, arrange the caramelized pears in a radial pattern inside the bottom of the dish. Set aside. Finally, to prepare the JELL-O Flan, add the powdered mixture and milk in a medium sauce pan, and bring to a light boil. Remove from heat and whisk in the ricotta cheese, then whisk in the reduced caramelized pear mixture. Very slowly, pour about a cup of the custard into the pear-lined dish. Then, pour in remaining custard. Do not pour too, quickly (or all at once) or the flan will get underneath the pear slices, altering the pear design once the flan is set and flipped right-side up. Place the warm flan in the refrigerator and allow to cool for 2 hours. In the same skillet that the pears were caramelized, toast the walnuts on low heat for about 5 minutes and set aside. Remove flan from the refrigerator. Place a serving dish on top of the flan dish and carefully flip onto a serving dish , so the pears are now the top of the flan. Garnish the top with toasted walnuts.