Friday, December 24, 2004


Bad Italian Restaurants

Here's a little poem I wrote after having had a less than lovely experience at a local trattoria, which will go unnamed.


Fake troubadours warble
opera over the cheese shaker,
the pamphlet of wine, the grease
blot from a ball of meat. I won't
apologize for wanting eggplant
instead of veal, for giving
the maitre d's eyebrow its arch,
as I rearrange the quaint candle
and plastic rose, wait for the salad
of Caesar's pink anchovy, limp
over rusted leaves. It's enough
to turn a stomach to thoughts
of a bus, to escape the upholstery
of chairs and checkered cloths, splotched
with eternities of reckless saltimbocas.

Thursday, December 23, 2004


Feast of the Seven Fishes

For Christmas Eve, this is the traditional Italian fare. A feast of fish. Here are my humble offerings for a truly succulent and memorable feast:

Mussels with orzo (serves two)

2 lbs. mussels, cleaned and scrubbed
4 Tablespoons good fruity olive oil
4 cloves of garlic, sliced thin
1 medium onion, diced
1 medium stalk of celery, diced
1 medium carrot, diced
4 plum tomatoes, diced with skin and seeds
1 cup good burgundy wine
2 Tablespoons of minced fresh herbs (basil, mint, oregano, thyme, parsley, tarragon)
12 pitted black olives, sliced in half
1 tspn. anise seeds, crushed
salt & pepper, and red pepper flakes to taste
3 Tablespoons minced parsley
1/4 pound of orzo

Boil water for orzo. Put orzo in water and cook until just tender (al dente).

Wash and scrub mussels and set aside. In a large, deep saute pan, saute the next 4 ingredients in olive oil until golden and tender, add plum tomatoes, and simmer for 1-2 minutes. Add wine and simmer until alcohol evaporates. Place mussels in pan, turn up heat and cook just till the shells open. Remove from heat. Stir in herbs, olives, anise seeds, s&pps. Add orzo to pan and stir so that the little rice-shaped pasta gets into the opened mussel shells. Place in deep pasta bowls and sprinkle with minced parsley. Serve immediately

Smelts with lemon (serves 2)

1/2 dozen smelts
3/4 cup flour
salt, pepper
4 Tablespoons olive oil
lemon wedges
1 Tablespoon minced parsley

Go to your local fishmonger and select the freshest smelts. Their eyes must glisten like the newly fallen snow. No cloudiness in the eyes. Ever.

Take the smelts home. Take a pair of scissors and snip of their heads, then run the scissors down the front of the fish and degut them. Very easy.

Wash and dry the smelts. Put the flour on a platter and generously season with s&p. Roll the smelts into the seasoned flour and set aside. Place olive oil in saute pan and heat. Saute the smelts over gentle heat until they take on a golden color. Do not overcook. Place on a platter and squeeze some lemon on them. Serve with more lemon wedges and garnish with minced parsley.

Lobster meat with fresh tomatoes and linguini (serves 2)

1/2 lb. lobster meat (buy deshelled at fishmonger or cook your own)
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1 Tablespoon unsalted butter
3 cloves of garlic, sliced
1 medium onion, minced
1/2 cup torn basil leaves
1 Tablespoon minced fresh thyme leaves
3 plum tomatoes, diced, with skin and seeds.
s&p to taste
1 Tablespoon minced parsley

In a medium saute pan, saute the onion and garlic until soft and golden in the combination butter and olive oil. Add the diced plum tomatoes. Simmer for 2/3 minutes. Stir in basil and thyme leaves, salt and pepper to taste. Stir in lobster meat and heat through. Serve over linguini. Sprinkle with minced parsley.

Shrimp Scampi (serves 2)

3/4 lb. shrimp, shelled and deveined
3 Tablespoons olive oil
5 oz. of shitake mushrooms, sliced
3 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced
1 medium onion, minced
1/2 dozen cherry or grape tomatoes, cut in half
1/2 cup white wine
1/4 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice
2 oz. good quality feta or goat cheese
2 teaspoons lemon zest
2 Tablespoons combination minced fresh herbs (basil, thyme, mint, tarragon, parsley)

In a medium saute pan, saute the garlic and onion in olive oil until tender, add the mushrooms and simmer for 1-2 minutes, add the white wine and simmer until alcohol burns off. Add the tomatoes, lemon juice and lemon zest. Add shrimp and saute just until they turn pink, do not over cook. Remove from heat. Serve in shallow bowls. Sprinkle cheese and parsley just before serving.

Crabmeat and scallop stuffed filet of sole (serves 2)

2 good sized filets of sole pieces (approx. 1/2 lb. in total weight
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1 Tablespoon unsalted butter
1/4 cup crab meat
6 large scallops, cut in pieces
1/4 cup plain bread crumbs
salt and pepper, red pepper flakes to taste
1 teaspoon crushed cumin seeds
2 Tablespoons minced fresh herb combination (basil, thyme, parsley, tarragon, cilantro)
1 Tablespoon toasted pignole nuts
2 Tablespoons unsalted butter
Lemon wedges

Place the olive oil and butter in saute pan. Add the scallops and cook to tender, add crab meat and heat through. Remove from heat. Stir in breadcrumbs, salt and peppers, cumin seeds, pignole nuts and herbs. Take the two sole filets and spoon mixture evenly on each filet. Carefully roll up the filets and place in glass baking pan. Dot with butter and squeeze lemon on top. Bake at 350 degrees for 15 to 20 minutes. Sprinkle with minced herbs and serve with lemon wedges.

Sunday, December 19, 2004


Cook this and make love

Hello again, amici.

This is a really quick dish, and it will delight your special amica/amico. Whatever. Make it with love and you can't miss. Remember if you don't cook with a passion, nothing will taste right, no matter how fabulously fresh the ingredients are. Put il suo cuore in your efforts. From your heart to your hand to the cutting board, the pot, and beyond!

(I like to make this dish while listening to Alfredo Kraus and Dame Joan Sutherland sing the achingly beautiful aria A te, o cara from Bellini's opera I puritani. It puts me in the, ah, mood...)

Penne with fresh tomatoes, basil and goat cheese (serves two)

6 medium sized, good quality plump, juicy, plum tomatoes, washed and cut into chunks (I do not skin or seed them because the whole tomato is good for you)
3 medium cloves of garlic, thinly sliced
3 Tablespoons good quality, fruity olive oil
1 generous cup, washed and dried basil leaves, chopped into medium sized pieces (I prefer to tear them into pieces, but I'm usually not in a hurry when I make this dish.)
1 1/2 to 2 oz. of mild, creamy goat cheese (if you're brave, think of using a stronger goat cheese)
1/4 cup toasted pignole nuts (optional)

1/2 pound penne pasta (I like Barilla)

Put a generous pot of water for the pasta on the burner and bring to a boil. You can make this sauce while the pasta cooks. The sauce will be done when the pasta is al dente!

In a large saute pan, saute the garlic in the olive oil until tender (do not let it burn!). Add the chunked tomatoes, stir and turn down the heat. Let simmer for a minute or two. Turn off the heat. Add the basil, saving enough for garnish. Stir the basil into the tomatoes and garlic.

Drain the pasta. Place in the large saute pan with tomatoes and basil and heat through for about a minute. Remove from heat and divide pasta between two pasta bowls. Add chunks of goat cheese to warmed pasta and sauce. Sprinkle with additional basil, and, if you desire, toasted pignole nuts.

Prepare for a heavenly experience. Ooooooooooh. It is soooooooooo goooooooood!

Serve with a fruity zinfandel. Follow with slices of a ripe, juicy melon or pear, or plump, ripe mission figs. Then have a little rest. For an hour or so...

Thursday, December 16, 2004


Buon giorno, tutti!

How were the clams oreganato? Buono? Yes, I know. Delicioso! And today. What do we have today? It's blustery and cold. We need something warm and soothing and filling. But not fatty. So. Ah. We make lentil soup! Or zuppa di lenticchie. Oh my little piccioni, how delightful for us!

Lentil Soup with Tomatoes [serves two]

1 cup dried lentils (the little dark green French ones are the best)
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 small medium onion, minced
2 cloves garlic, smashed and minced
2 stalks of celery, minced
1 medium carrot, minced
3 large plum tomatoes, diced (or one 14 oz. can of plum tomatoes)
1 14 oz. can good chicken or vegetable stock (or your own)
2 bay leaves
salt and pepper to tast
dash of crushed red pepper
1 teaspoon cumin seeds, crushed (optional)

In a medium sauce pan, saute the onion, garlic, celery, and carrot in the olive oil until soft and golden, (like the color of your lover's heavenly tresses). Add the plum tomatoes. If canned, smash them down. (I take them out of the can and squeeze them in my scrupulously clean hands over the pot, letting the scarlet juices ooze between my fingers and down into the minced and golden vegetables. Oh, my.) Let vegetables simmer for 2 to 3 minutes. Add chicken or vegetable stock. Then add an equal amount of water to the pan. Add lentils. Season with salt and peppers (and cumin seed if you so desire). Turn heat to high. Bring to boil, and immediately turn to simmer. Let simmer for approximately 25-30 minutes, or until lentils are soft. (You may test one on the tip of your tongue. Careful. Don't burn your little tongue.) Let the soup rest for about an hour before serving, for best results. Then gently, gently reheat.

Now to make this tasty dish even more heavenly, take some fresh herbs (I use basil, thyme and oregano) and chop them to make 1 very generous tablespoon. Stir this into the soup just before serving.

Serve with crusty Tuscan bread and a good grating of real Parmigiano cheese. (Never, never use that flaked, imitation, monstrosity of an insult that comes in the cylindrical green container when cooking Italinan dishes, or Isabella will have to come to your home and give you a good spanking.)

You may, if you wish serve the soup with ditalini (small soup macaroni) or brown or white rice, which you will cook separately in another pot.

I'm having this for lunch today, with a small green salad, dressed simply with a good fruity olive oil, and then followed by a juicy, ripe bartlett pear. Oh yes! Oh yes! Oh yes!

Buon appetito!

Wednesday, December 15, 2004


Cari amici

Welcome. Benvenuto.

I will be posting original recipes, commentary, poetry, and other ephemera as this blog develops.

We all eat. Not just to fill the belly, but to nourish the spirit as well. These recipes are, for the most part, fast food recipes. Quick to prepare, they require few, easily available ingredients, (assuming you have a decent victuler in your neighborhood).

So come in, si accomodi, here's your napkin, your jelly glass of zinfandel and your Clams Oreganata:

3 cloves garlic, minced
3 tablespoons good quality olive oil
1 14 oz. can good quality chopped tomatoes (or 2 pounds plum tomatoes washed, diced)
2 tablespoons minced fresh oregano
2 dozen little neck clams, washed and scrubbed

1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 cup plain bread crumbs
1 teaspoon lemon zest

Saute the three cloves of garlic in deep heavy saute pan with 3 tablespoons of olive oil until the garlic is just tender (do not brown it!). Add 1 tablespoon of the oregano and stir in tomatoes. Simmer for 4 to 5 minutes. Add clams, stir to coat with tomatoes, add salt and red pepper flakes to taste, cover pan, increase heat and cook until all clams open (5 to 7 minutes).

Meanwhile, for garni, place olive oil and garlic in a small saute or sauce pan, saute until just tender. Add plain bread crumbs, salt and pepper, lemon zest. Heat through until crumbs are slightly browned. Remove from heat. Hold.

Place clams and tomatoes in soup bowl. Sprinkle seasoned bread crumbs over the clams, add remaining tablespoon of oregano. Serve with a good hunk of crusty Italian bread (not the floppy fake stuff they sell in the grocery stores).

The clams may be served over linguini.

Serves 2

Buon appetito, amici!

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