I am constantly amazed at how animated and talkative people get when you mention food. The mere aroma of certain foods can evoke memories that transport us back to a special place and time. Food can bridge the gap between all ages, races and ethnicities.
Let's face it, the only thing that should ever come between people is a table and some serving bowls.

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Feeding my Cold

Stock or Broth:
6 lbs chicken(thighs, backs, wings, you decide)
half head garlic (unpeeled)
1 lg onion, peeled, cut into fourths
6-8 celery stalks, cut into fourths + leaves
salt to taste
1 bunch parsley
Put chicken parts in stockpot and add water to cover, bring to a simmer, skimming all the while. When scum ceases add remaining ingredients. Bring back to a simmer. Leave partially covered. Simmer for 2-3 hours. Strain broth through washed cheese cloth, discard all other ingredients( remove whatever chicken meat you can from the bones and reserve for the soup). Put broth in refrigerator after cooled and let broth harden on the top. Remove fat from top and discard. Reserve broth for soup.
2+ quarts broth
2 celery stalks thinly sliced
2 large carrots thinly sliced
2 bunches green onions thinly sliced
simmer until vegetables are tender and flavorful
add 2 cups cooked chicken (bite sized pieces) and continue simmering until chicken is warmed

To make this a heartier soup add some pasta (no more than a cup), I really like using D’italini (little tubes)

Friday, January 26, 2007

Sfingi (little italian doughnuts)

It was my great aunt Mimi who introduced me to my first "Sfingi"and it was love at first bite. Making them together on a Saturday night was a special time for both of us. I would mix and Mimi would drop them in the oil. Mimi would set out three little bowls to be filled for dipping. One bowl had honey, the other powdered sugar and the last one had cinnamon sugar.

Mimi would make herself a cup of coffee and I would get a mug of hot chocolate. We'd put the Sfingi in the middle of the kitchen table along with the three dipping bowls. There the two of us sat laughing and eating those crispy sweet steamy little doughnuts. It's a great memory.

4 eggs
1/2 cup sugar
1 pound ricotta
1 1/2 cups sifted all purpose flour
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
pinch of salt
1 Tablespoon vanilla
Oil for frying (canola or a light vegetable oil works best)

Beat eggs; add sugar, then ricotta, mix well. Sift dry ingredients together, then add gradually to egg mixture. Add vanilla. Batter is fairly thick. This makes at least 60 golf ball size fritters. In a 2 quart pot filled halfway with the oil set to medium heat, adjusting heat according to how fast they are cooking. Drop into hot oil by teaspoonfuls and fry until golden brown.
Drain on paper towel and roll in powdered sugar while they are hot or dip them in honey as you eat them. You may also use cinnamon sugar, use whatever you like. I know people that make flavored whip cream and just dunk (yum)! Serve while they are hot. They are delicious!

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Cabbage and Bacon

My mother loved cabbage, we had it often. Her favorite and easiest way to prepare it was to "steam fry" the cabbage. All she did was put about a tablespoon of oil in the bottom of a deep pan. She'd add a half a cup of water, the chopped or shredded cabbage and some salt to taste.

Just set the burner to medium, leave the lid on half way and just let it steam fry for about an hour or so until all the natural sugars in the cabbage come out. It will be a nice light caramel brown. Just check occasionally to make sure all the water doesn't evaporate or it will burn. Just add water as necessary a little at a time.

That's it....it is so delicious and sweet, the perfect side dish.

But for something more hearty.......just say; "Chlopski"!

Chlopski is the Polish word for peasant, and literally translated this dish is called "Peasants Meal".

1 medium green cabbage, coarsely chopped
6 slices fatty bacon, diced
1 medium onion, chopped
1 large leek, chopped
1/4 cup water
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 lb. Polish sausage cut into 1 inch pieces
1/2 teaspoons salt and pepper

Cook bacon in a large skillet until crisp; remove bacon, reserving drippings in skillet. Crumble bacon, and set aside. Add all other ingredients except sausage to dripping; cover and cook 10 minutes over medium heat, turning cabbage once. Add sausage; cover and cook 5 minutes or until sausage is heated. Transfer to serving dish with a slotted spoon; sprinkle with bacon.

Makes 4 servings. (some boiled white potatoes are perfect served as a side dish)

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Uncle Gary's Everything but the Kitchen Sink Sandwiches

My Uncle was known for his sandwiches. Especially the ones he would make after a holiday meal. Whatever we had for thanksgiving dinner and I mean everything;” turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes, gravy”. Plus the additional extras that he could find in the fridge; “cold cuts, cheese, onions, hot peppers, mayo, mustard, even tuna salad if there was some,” all nestled strategically between some crusty Italian bread. You needed an engineering degree just to navigate getting this masterpiece into your mouth.
The whole family would be grimacing in disgust at the combination of things in this sandwich. Most insisting that the combinations would taste awful somehow. My Uncle offered a taste to everyone, almost all quickly declined. It was my Mother and I who had the courage and the curiosity to taste this monstrosity of flavors coexisting on italian bread. The hardest part was trying to take a bite and get as many of the fillings at once in our mouth without everything sliding out the other side.
But I have to say, both my mother and I were pleasantly surprised. It tasted quite good. We actually went in for seconds, which I’m sure made my Uncle Gary’s head swell with pride, especially after enduring all those negative comments from the family.
Now my Uncle was free to eat his sandwich with the pride and gusto in which it was made.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Fried Cardoon

What's a Cardoon?

A member of the thistle family. When these thick, silvery stalks are cooked, their flavor is a cross between an artichoke, celery and salsify. A popular Italian vegetable. Resembles a bunch of wide, flat celery.

1 bunch cardoon
2-3 eggs
1 cup italian style bread crumbs(with romano,basil,parsley and garlic) better to season your own crumbs the pre-seasoned crumbs are usually pretty tasteless.
1/2 cup vegetable oil(add more as needed when frying)
2 tbs. milk

Remove leaves and strings from cardoon stalks. Cut into 3 inches pieces. In a large pot, boil the cardoon with about a teaspoon of salt until tender(about 30- 45 minutes). Drain in colander. In a bowl beat eggs, milk and a pinch of salt. In another bowl put the bread crumbs. Dip cardoon in egg and bread crumbs. In a frying pan add vegetable oil, and heat oil on medium. Put breaded cardoon in pan and fry till golden. Remove and drain on paper towels.

Eat them hot, cold or room temperature. Serve them as an appetizer, side dish or just a snack.
They can be addictive.

Friday, January 19, 2007

After all that eating we've been doing, how about a nice classic soda to wash it all down

Let's head on over to; "The Soda Pop Stop"
This place has a huge variety to suit every taste. They even have a Kosher selection. For those of you "Peppers" out there who have noticed that your DrPepper just doesn't taste quite the same as you remember....... they have the original formula version of DrPepper.
Whatever your thirst needs are, you'll quench them here.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

For the Birds......

My grandmother always tells this funny little story about one of her first attempts at cake baking...

It was early in her marriage to my grandfather, who loved to eat. One of the things he enjoyed as a treat was chocolate cake. Now, my grandmother who was a very good cook thought how hard could this be. She found a recipe for a chocolate cake from a magazine that looked not only good but easy to make. One of the ingredients that the recipe called for was one square of baking chocolate. My grandmother looked at the whole bar and decided that it was one whole square and proceeded to melt it down and stir it into the cake batter. The batter looked smooth and silky as she poured it into the cake pans. It smelled even more delicious as it was baking. Once out of the oven, cooled, layered and iced it was gorgeous. My grandfather couldn't wait for the first slice. My grandmother with great love and pride put a nice big slice on a plate. My grandfather took a big bite.......and his mouth puckered like he had just eaten a lemon. She felt bad, he felt bad. She just couldn't figure out what had gone wrong. When telling my Aunt everything she put in the cake my Aunt just laughed. She said; "Caroline 1 tiny square from the bar, not the whole bar"! They had a good laugh, my Aunt said give the cake to the birds. So my grandmother put the cake outside for the birds, which the birds wouldn't eat either.......

and we've been laughing ever since.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Garibaldi's and Green Goddess and Fizzies Oh My!

Do you remember Garibaldi’s? Those thin golden biscuits loaded with raisins, oh how I loved those as a kid.
How about some Seven Seas Green Goddess Dressing for your salad. I like it now because I can appreciate how good it tastes but growing up I’m pretty sure the biggest draw was that it was green.
To wash it all down how about a plain glass of water that you can magically turn into whatever flavor carbonated drink you like…….Plop, plop it’s Fizzies Tablets.
What fun just knowing this stuff is still out there. So many things we have enjoyed in the past are either gone or almost impossible to find. Well let me tell you if you want a shopping trip down memory lane just visit The Vermont Country Store. It’s not just the food; they even have clothes and apothecary items we can remember our grandparents using way back when.
You can shop and order online or have a catalog mailed to you (get the catalog).
A hot cup of tea, The Vermont Country Catalog, a comfy chair and reminisce, it’s good for the soul.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Products for Noshtalgic Tastebuds

Here is a great source of hard-to-find favorites. This place has over 2000 old-time favorite foods.Their product selection is based on customer request; you tell them what you can't find, and they will try to carry it. Due to the large volume of requests, they must limit their products to non-perishable, non-refrigerated food items only. Hometown Favorites will even ship their goodies anywhere in the U.S. and beyond. This is a goldmine for those of us with Noshtalgic Tastebuds.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Polenta, sometimes called "Italian Grits"

Polenta “"Primarily a peasant food” is deeply rooted in history even more so than pasta or pizza. Polenta, grits and other "mush" type foods share a common link as the food of poverty. It’s a very simple food that was made from various grains. Today it is more commonly made from corn and can either be yellow or white in color. It can be eaten soft (mush style) or allowed to harden and be eaten more like a bread. The somewhat bland taste of polenta melds with a variety of flavors.

Basic Polenta Recipe Italians often spice-up their polenta by substituting water with broth, and adding any random milk product that they find in the refrigerator - cream, milk, butter or grated cheese work well.
3 1/2 cups cold water
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup cornmeal
Pour 3 cups of the water into a heavy saucepan, add the salt and bring to a full rolling boil over high heat. While the water is coming to a boil, stir the remaining 1/2 cup water into the cornmeal. Stir until the cornmeal is evenly dampened. This will keep the cornmeal from becoming lumpy as it cooks. As soon as the water boils, stir in the dampened cornmeal. Briskly whisk until the mixture is smooth. Reduce the heat to medium-low and briskly stir the cornmeal for 2 or 3 minutes. The mixture will get stiff quickly. When the polenta begins to come away from the sides of the pan and the whisk stands up by itself in the center of the polenta, it is ready to serve.

Soft Polenta Make the basic recipe above, and immediately pour the portions in individual bowls. If desired, stir in any cheese, cooked vegetables, or sauce of choice at this point. Serve Immediately.

Firm Polenta -- to bake, grill or fry Make the basic recipe above, and as soon as you take the pan off the heat, pour the contents into a shallow pan. Cool uncovered on your stovetop until its room temperature, then cover with plastic and refrigerate until thoroughly chilled and firm. Once the cornmeal has firmed up, it may be cut into shapes (squares, circles, triangles, rectangles or even stars) and then baked, grilled or fried -- use relatively small polenta slices/shapes for frying and handle very carefully so that they do not fall apart.

The polenta can be eaten as is or you can serve it with your favorite sauce, meat or vegetable. It can be treated very much as you would a pasta, bread or potato.

Try either the soft or the firm polenta with a delicious Puttanesca sauce poured over it.
For the Puttanesca Sauce
• 1 1/4 pound whole peeled tomatoes
• 3/4 cup shallots, minced
• 1/4 cup Nicoise olives, pitted and chopped
• 1/2 cup green Sicilian olives, pitted and chopped
• 1/4 cup pepperoncini, chopped
• 2 tablespoon red chili flakes
• 1/4 cup capers

For Serving
• Extra virgin olive oil (optional)
• Parmesan shavings (optional)

Friday, January 12, 2007

Any Greens with Garlic & Oil

When I was little I use to go with my Aunts to this huge field in Rose N.Y. to pick dandelions. As far as the eye could see there were nothing but dandelions. We knew they were safe to pick, the farmer who owned the land never used any pesticides(very important to know before picking anything wild). My Aunts and I would fill at least a dozen bags.
My grandmother would make a Frittatta with them that was out of this world. They tend to be a bitter green not to every ones taste. Thank goodness there is such a wide variety of greens to choose from, they all fit into any recipe nicely.

1 to 2 Lbs. of fresh greens (escarole, dandelions, spinach, kale...)
Don't forget greens have a tendency to cook down to nothing(they will cook down to less than half of what it was uncooked). So keep that in mind depending on how many people you are serving. Just increase amounts as necessary.
2 Tbsp. olive oil
2 or 3 cloves garlic (sliced or chopped)
fresh hot pepper or flakes(to taste)
salt & black pepper

Clean and wash greens.
Boil or steam greens until tender(4-5 minutes) Drain well and chop or leave whole. In a pan, heat up oil, saute garlic and hot pepper (do not let garlic get too brown, as it tends to get bitter) add greens and cook over medium heat until greens are hot and coated with oil.
Salt and pepper to taste
I sometimes also like the addition of a squirt of fresh lemon juice and a sprinkling of grated Romano or Parmesan cheese.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Chocolate Detectives in Training

It was the mid 70’s a typical family gathering at my grandparent’s house on Sandra Lane. It was a Sunday afternoon, we had all just finished dinner. The women were in the kitchen cleaning up the last of the dinner dishes, the guys gathered in another room to play cards. The kids; “myself, cousin Lori and her little brother Stephen we were in the midst of it all just being our cute little selves .
With the dishes finally done, my grandmother, my mother and two aunts sat down at the kitchen table to have coffee and the usual conversation loaded with stories and laughter.
Being fifteen, I really enjoyed all the stories and adult conversation. My cousin Lori who was six and her brother Stephen who was three amused themselves in other ways.
On this particular day while I was in the kitchen with the adults, Lori and Stephen were playing in the living room. All of a sudden I heard Lori yelling at Stephen about something, so I went to investigate. I found Lori and Stephen sitting on the couch and Stephen had chocolate all over his mouth and on his hands. Lori yells; “Cousin Julie, Stephens ruining all of Grandmas chocolates”. He keeps taking a bite out of them and when he doesn’t like it he puts it back in the box. Stephen was cute he said; “How do I know if it’s a kind I like without tasting it first”? Amateurs, I thought to myself. Let your older cousin give you the wisdom of her years and show you how it’s done.
My grandmother had two end tables with drawers on either side of her couch. Each end table was loaded with boxes of candy. You know the one’s” Fanny Farmers, Russell Stovers” they were those assortment boxes with the nougats, creams, caramels and those yucky jelly ones, I spit out a lot of those in my younger years. But as time went by, I honed my chocolate detective skills to the fine art of finding out what was inside without it being noticeable. This way the grownups would never know.
The time had come for me to pass this torch of knowledge and deception to the little ones, so innocent, so trusting. I sat down on the couch with both of them, with a newly opened box of chocolates on my lap. They both were looking at me with wide eyed anticipation and I knew the moment had arrived. I opened the box of chocolates, not knowing which one to try. Stephen says just bite it so you know. I said I am going to show you a trick. I asked them each to pick out a chocolate, now take your pinkie, turn the chocolate over and make a little crisscross in the chocolate using your nail or just the tip of your finger.
Stephen did his and saw a little bit of orange cream; Lori did hers and saw a little bit of pink cream. I don’t like the orange cream Stephen said, so I told him to put it back in the little paper cup inside the box and pick another one. This continued until everyone got the kind that they liked, myself included. When Stephen and Lori looked at the box of chocolates before I put them away, they said you can’t even tell we touched them. At that moment two little chocolate detectives were born and I couldn't have been prouder.
The kids decided to go watch TV and I went back in the kitchen. Turns out the grownups were listening the whole time. My grandmother whispered to me, now that you are older I can tell you; “We always knew about your little crisscrosses in the chocolates”!
Alas...... Sweet revenge.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

A friday night dinner at Meema's

Friday nights when my Aunt and I would go to my Grandmothers for dinner she sometimes served; ”Creamed Tuna and Peas”. It can be served on toast but my Grandmother would pour it over english muffins which was even better. It’s so simple to prepare, first you make a basic white sauce. If you don't know how don’t worry it's pretty easy:

1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup flour and stir together in a large sauce pan over medium heat until it starts to sizzle. Add 2 cups of milk and 2 cups of water and heat stirring occasionally until thickened then stir in 2 cans of drained tuna, 1 can of peas(do not drain, the liquid in the peas adds more flavor to the dish) and salt and pepper to taste.
This recipe serves 4 people generously; use 2 slices of toast per person or 1 toasted english muffin cut in half.

Sides are limited only by your imagination (we always had salad, green beans and mashed potatoes). The creamed tuna and peas taste great on the mashed potatoes.

Monday, January 8, 2007

Mimi's Chicken in Potato Chips

For the first thirteen years of my life I spent every weekend with my Great Aunt Mimi. I couldn't wait for Friday to come cause I knew she'd be pulling up in the driveway to whisk me away. For the most part we always went to my Grandmothers house to eat or sometimes to a restaurant. Mimi wasn't big on cooking but once in a great while my Aunt would say; "Little Love what do you say we stay in and cook". I always melted when she would call me her Little Love, even when I wasn't so little anymore. Mimi said she had found this recipe in a magazine that looked pretty easy and sounded like it would be something we both would enjoy. Mimi said it was chicken coated with butter and potato chips. Butter and Potato chips how could it possibly taste bad! So, we went to the store to get the ingredients and back to Mimi's kitchen we went. We melted butter, crushed potato chips with a rolling pin, we dunked the chicken pieces in the butter and put them in a Ziploc bag full of crushed potato chips and I shook the bag. Those scrumptious little pieces of chicken got placed in a pan and off to the oven to bake. The smell while it was baking was mouth watering.

It turned out so good that we made it once or twice a month. We especially liked all the little brown bits of potato chips that fell to the bottom of the pan.


Chicken(thighs,legs,breasts whatever parts you like) this recipe does 6 - 8 pieces

1 Big bag of potato chips we used plain and added our own seasoning/but you could use a flavored variety(sour cream and onion chips would probably be delicious)!

1 tsp of garlic powder

1 tsp of onion powder

1/4 tsp of black pepper

3/4 stick of butter (melted)

There is no need for any additional salt in this recipe due to the saltiness of the potato chips.


1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.2. Melt butter in a small pot/or microwave. Crush potato chips in food processor or better yet put them in a ziploc bag and crush with a rolling pin(much more fun) don't make it too fine, leave some bigger pieces for added crunch . 3. Add garlic powder/onion powder and black pepper to crushed chips and shake to mix. 4. Put melted butter in a bowl coat chicken pieces/then put coated pieces in bag of chips and shake til well coated. 5. Place chicken in lightly greased baking pan and put in oven and bake for 40 - 45 minutes. Goes great with mashed potatoes and a salad.

Friday, January 5, 2007

A Hint of Hanukkah

I have truly been blessed with a rich heritage. My Mother who is Russian and Polish was raised Jewish but converted to Catholicism when she married my Father who is Italian. Luckily I was still able to experience some of the Jewish traditions not to mention their glorious food. One of my favorites; Potato Pancakes (Latkas)
Traditionally served during Hanukkah but are good at any time throughout the year.
Fried foods during Hanukkah reminds us of the miracle of the oil that burned for eight days when the Maccabees (the Judean's army) purified and rededicated the holy Temple in Jerusalem. Some rabbis have taken the explanation of why fried food is eaten on Hanukkah one step further. They say that oil is like studying Torah in two ways:

1) Oil is not a food we eat by ourselves and not necessary for our daily existence.
It simply adds pleasure to our food and life, as does the study of Torah.
2) Oil has the potential to illuminate. If you stand in a dark room you can light oil to see the room around you. Study of the Torah can also illuminate our world for us.

Potato Pancakes (Latkas)


4 large potatoes
1 medium onion
1 large egg
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. white pepper
1 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. baking powder
vegetable oil (for frying)

Grate potatoes and onion. Transfer to colander and squeeze mixture to press out as much liquid as possible.2. In a large bowl, mix egg, salt, pepper, flour and baking powder. Add potato and onions, and mix well.3. Heat oil in a deep, heavy skillet. 4. Drop about 2 tablespoons of potato mixture into the pan for each pancake. Flatten with back of spoon so each pancake is about 2 1/2 to 3 inches in diameter.5. Fry over medium heat for about 4 to 5 minutes on each side, or until golden brown and crisp. Turn carefully with 2 spatulas so oil does not splatter. 6. Drain on paper towels.7. Before frying each new batch, stir potato mixture. If all the oil is absorbed, add a little more to the pan. 8. Serve hot with applesauce, or sour cream, or sugar. (or as I’ve been known to do use all of those plus butter)! Leave it to me to figure out how to tack on some extra calories.

Tuesday, January 2, 2007

Happy New Year

There is no bad food, only bad portions. Resolve to quit smoking or something but don't ever resolve to quit eating any one of the glorious food choices that we are blessed with. I'd rather increase my activity level than lesson my food choices.

How about some "Greens and Beans"? A very popular menu item at most Italian restaurants.
One of the easiest things to make at home, it's a regular staple with my family, we just love it. Even the kids can't get enough.

6 cloves of garlic
2 15 oz cans of great northern (white) beans
3 15 oz cans of chicken stock
2 heads of escarole
1/4 cup white wine (optional)
salt & pepper - to taste
red pepper flakes - to taste (optional)

cut garlic into fingernail sized medallions. saute garlic in olive oil. add to chicken stock over simmering flame. add beans. add escarole. add wine and salt and pepper. taste.
Let it simmer for 20-30 minutes so that the flavors blend.
Grated parmesan or romano cheese to taste when serving.

If you wanted to make this a heartier meal saute some sweet or hot italian sausage with the garlic before adding the rest of the ingredients. Want to lower the calories use turkey sausage instead it's just as tasty with less than half the calories.