Saturday, April 30, 2005


steamed fish and veggies in ponzu sauce Posted by Hello


fish over spinach in steamer Posted by Hello


veggies in steamer Posted by Hello


Steamed fish with veggies and ponzu sauce

Here's a simple, healthful, quick dinner for two.

Since I assembled this without a recipe, I'll give you approximations as to the amounts. You don't have to follow this to the letter. Try improvising on your own. But do try to get a bamboo steamer, it is quite versatile and you'll use it often.

2 good sized fillets of firm white fish (talapia, cod, halibut, haddock)
6 medium shitake mushroom caps
two good handfuls of fresh, thoroughly washed spinach leaves (strip off the stems)
enough snowpeas for two
1/2 large red pepper, cut in strips
salt & pepper to taste
small bunch of scallions

Ponzu sauce:

(You can go to the internet and find an authentic ponsu sauce, or make your own variation, which is what I did.)

Squeeze the juices from a fresh orange, lemon and lime into approx. 1 cup of high quality soy sauce. (No LaChoy, please!) I go to an Asian food store and buy the best they have. It is worth it. Most recipes require some sake added, but I didn't have any, so I added a couple squirts of rice vinegar, a bit of minced garlic, minced cilantro and parsley. And that's it!

If you can, go to an Asian market and buy yourself a bamboo steamer. I used a steamer to make this recipe, which is delicate and quite tasty.

The bamboo steamer has two compartments in which to place the food being steamed.

I arrange the veggies on the bottom basket of the steamer, then I place the spinach on the second basket and put the fish on top of that.

I place the steamer over a slightly smaller pot (so that the steamer overlaps the pot) with about 2 cups of water in it. Bring it to a simmer and let the steam do the cooking. It works quickly. Fish is done when it flakes.

Place the ponzu sauce in the bottom of a shallow pasta bowl, arrange the fish and vegetables over the sauce, and serve immediately.

You can, of course, serve this with rice or rice noodles, as you wish.

This is healthy and low in calories. Enjoy!

Wednesday, April 27, 2005


stufato di verdure Isabella Posted by Hello


Stufato di verdure Isabella (Isabella's vegetable stew)


I made this stew last night and it is delicious. I call it a stew instead of soup because the vegetables are chunky, and the brodo (broth) is thickend with a puree of white beans (canellini) and it is spooned over toasted Tuscan garlic bread. O cielo! You guests will beg you for more and more and more...

This recipe serves 3.

3 large cloves garlic, minced
½ large onion, diced
3 tablespoons minced pancetta (Italian bacon) optional
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 medium carrots, sliced on the bias
1 small zucchini, chopped in chunks
1 small yellow crook-necked yellow squash chopped in chunks
3 plum tomatoes, chopped in chunks
5 shitake mushrooms chopped in chunks
1 ½ cups good vegetable or chicken broth
1 14 oz. can white canellini beans (1/2 of them pureed in a food processor)
2 tablespoons minced fresh thyme
2 tablespoons minced fresh basil
2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley
2 tablespoons fresh grated Parmesean cheese
2 slices thick Tuscan bread
½ clove garlic
olive oil

Saute the onion and pancetta in the olive oil over medium heat for about three minutes, add the garlic and sauté until tender, add carrots and cook for another 2 to 3 minutes, add zucchini and yellow squash. Saute for another 2-3 minutes, add mushrooms and tomatoes, sauté for another minute, then add the broth and heat through for another minute or two. It is important to not overcook the vegetables. It is better to undercook rather than over cook them. Add the pureed beans and the whole beans, gently heat through.

Cut the Tuscan bread in two thick slabs and toast in toaster or under broiler till golden. Remove from toaster or oven. Spread some olive oil on warm bread, then rub ½ the garlic clove over the olive oil on the bread. Place the bread in the bottom of a pasta bowl. Spoon the thick vegetable stew over the bread and sprinkle the minced herbs over the stew. Sever immediately and add more grated Parmesean cheese to dish.

I served this with a dry Portuguese rose wine: Marques de Caceres.

Sunday, April 24, 2005


Isabella d'Este

No. That is not a portrait of Isabella di Pesto. The lady depicted in the painting below is Isabella d'Este, whom Isabella di Pesto admires greatly (except, maybe her strict code of morals). Here is a brief bio of "The First Lady of the Rennaisance."

In the Renaissance times a Renaissance Woman was supposed to marry well, be loyal to her husband and give birth to boys. A Renaissance Man, on the other hand, had to be well-educated, have cultural grace, be a gentleman and understand the arts and sciences. He also had to have refinement, be of noble birth and have courage. Many women did not fit the mold of what they called a "Renaissance Woman." Many of them would fit in as more of a "Renaissance Man" or what we would call a "Renaissance Woman" in our day and age. A prime example of this exception is Isabella d'Este.

Isabella d'Este was born in 1474 into the ruling family of Ferra. At the age of sixteen Isabella married Francesco Gonzaga. She then became the Marchioness of Mantua because Francesco was the Prince. After the death of her husband, Isabella ruled Mantua alone. Isabella's father believed in the equality of men and women and so Isabella and her siblings were very well-educated. Isabella died at the age of sixty-four in 1539.

At the age of sixteen, Isabella d'Este was able to speak Greek and Latin as well as play the lute, sing, dance and debate with people much older than she. She was very well-educated and her political talent benefited Mantua while she was ruling. When her husband left, Isabella governed the city on her own, and after he died she took over his whole job. She showed great leadership skills in 1509 when she became Chief of State in Mantua.
At this time she also founded a school for young women where they had to observe a strict code of morals. She was a patron of the Arts and she also set artistic fashions and standards. Isabella collected many paintings and statues. She also wrote over two thousand letters and in these she commented on everything from politics to war. That was the closest that any woman at that time ever got to writing history.

Isabella patronized and promoted the arts. She allowed writers, artists and poets to exchange their ideas in her home. While she was ruling, she set an example for women to break away from the traditional role of what women were supposed to be like. By doing this and many other things she was known as the "First Lady of the Renaissance."


Isabella Posted by Hello

Saturday, April 23, 2005


Tomato, carmelized onion and goat cheese tart

Here's a quick and delicious starter for your next dinner party. Or you may make it larger and serve for a light lunch.

Isabella always makes her pastry from scratch, but not always. In this instance, I take advantage of those ready-made pie crusts from Pillsbury--never those icky ones in the aluminum pie plates in the frozen section of the grocery store--they're tasteless.

1 circle of Pillsbury ready-made pie crust
1 tablespoon good quality olive oil
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 large onion
1 to 1 1/2 large meaty beefsteak tomatoes
good quality goat cheese
black olives for garnish (not the canned olives, use kalamata or cured black with pits removed)
basil leaves for garnish

Take the pie crust and crimp the edges. Prick with a fork so that the crust will not shrivel, and bake on a cookie sheet or pizza pan as directed. Set aside and let cool.

Meanwhile, carmelize the onions in a saute pan with the olive oil and butter until they are deep caramel color. Evenly scatter the carmelized onions on the cooled pastry . Slice the tomatoes in rounds and overlap them on top of the onions. Sprinkle crumbled goat cheese on top of the tomatoes. Return to oven to heat for a minute or two, until the cheese slightly melts.

Remove from oven and garnish with basil and black olives

Serve immediately with your favorite pre-dinner wine.

Note to Wandering Coyote: I had a recipe for a rich butter crust that makes this large enough to serve as a lunch dish. I've misplaced the crust recipe, maybe you have one you could send along to me?

Saturday, April 16, 2005


Kiss Me Goodnight

April is National Poetry Month here in the US.

Isabella is blushing as she shamelessly plugs a book in which three of her poems were recently published.

Go here to Amazon to read about "Kiss Me Goodnight":

The book received a great review in the Minneapolis Star Tribune (the two editors who worked so diligently to get it published are from Minneapolis) in February. It would have been smart had I copied and saved the review instead of saving the URL, which no longer exists. I guess it's been archived in the Star-Trib. But it was a really good write-up.

I am truly honored to be among the fine poets and prose writers included in this anthology.

Five of the poets are from New England, and we will be giving a reading from the anthology on Saturday, May 7, 2 pm, at the Barnes and Noble Book store in Hadley, Mass.

And while I speak of poetry, I also want to plug a book for a close friend, Naomi Feigleson-Chase, "Gittel, The Would-Be Messiah."

Go here to Amazon to read about it:

And here: to read about Naomi.

This is National Poetry Month. So please, everyone, go out and buy a book of poetry, then sit in your favorite chair, or under a gentle maple and read it.

"Poetry--the shorthand of beauty." --Mel Brooks, as the 2,000-Year-Old-Man.

Friday, April 15, 2005


Moroccan Fish Tagine with Peppers and Olives

Ciao Carissimi!

Last weekend I invited some friends in for an intimate dinner party. What to cook? What to cook? I wanted a change from the otherwise favoloso Italian repetoire, and so I went to another region of the Mediterranean for an astoundingly toothsome dish from Morocco. I also went to a very useful site on the net, and found this marvelous, economical, delicious, colorful, nutritious recipe.

For the antipasto, I served marinated calamari, roasted eggplant with herbs and chopped sauted plum tomatoes, and a hunk of Capone cheese with crackers. That got our mouths watering for the main course. And here it is (with my variations in bold):

Moroccan fish specialties are prepared with a marinade called charmoula. Paprika, cumin, cilantro and garlic usually form its base, with other seasonings-such as the saffron and turmeric here-added for variation.

1/2 cup vegetable oil (Of course, I used a fruity olive oil!)
1/4 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley
3 large garlic cloves, chopped (I used 4 or 5, I always use more than called for)
3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
1 tablespoon Hungarian sweet paprika
2 teaspoons ground turmeric
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1/8 teaspoon crushed saffron threads
4 6-ounce white fish fillets (I used talapia and cod, but any firm fish will do. Purchase 1/2 per person.)
1 pound carrots, peeled, thinly sliced
1 1/2 pounds tomatoes, thinly sliced
1 large onion, thinly sliced
1 large lemon, thinly sliced
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon ground pepper
1 medium-size red bell pepper, seeded, cut into 1/4-inch-wide strips
24 brine-cured olives (such as Kalamata)
Additional Chopped fresh Italian parsley and cilantro, and mint

Mix first 7 ingredients in medium bowl. Add fish and turn to coat. Refrigerate 2 hours, turning fish occasionally.

Preheat oven to 350°F. Arrange carrot slices (I cut the carrots on the bias and parboiled them for 2 minutes) over bottom of 13x9x2-inch glass baking dish. Layer half of tomatoes, half of onion and half of lemon over. Season with half of salt and pepper.

Drain marinade from fish; reserve marinade. Arrange fish atop lemon slices. Top fish with remaining tomato, onion and lemon slices. Season with remaining salt and pepper. Top decoratively with red pepper strips and olives. Pour reserved marinade over. Cover dish with foil. Bake 40 minutes (or until fish flakes).

Garnish with additional herbs. Serves 4 (with lots of leftovers).

We had several bottles of red wine. Can't remember what they were. But they did go well with this hearty fish dish. No wimpy whites needed.

Your guests will rave.

Enjoy. And buon appetito a tutti!

NOTE: Are your cupboards filled with little tins of spices you've kept for years and years? THROW THEM OUT!

Go to a natural food store that sells them in bulk and purchase only an ounce or two at the most, and replace them when you run out. This dish will not taste glorious if you use those old rusty tins of McCormick spices that have been collecting dust in your cupboard for years. Never purchase those huge plastic containers of dried herbs and spices. You won't use them up fast enough and they lose their punch after only a few months. Actually, they're already old when you purchase them.

My advice: Buy your spices in small amounts, and if possible, dry your own herbs.

Eating well is the best revenge.

Thursday, April 07, 2005


Pasta with walnuts, raisins, pinenuts and sundried tomatoes

Isabella was in a rush last evening and had to come up with a heavenly dish for a very special guest. She had to use ingredients that were in her cupboard, and here is what she made: (Like my friend Schmootzie, Isabella detests writing about herself in the third person.)

Capellini con nocci, uve secche, e pomodori secchi
(Angel Hair pasta with nuts, raisins, and sundried tomatoes)

Serves 2

3 cloves of garlic, sliced thin
3 tablespoons good quality olive oil
3 tablespoons salt free butter
2 oz. pancetta (optional)
1/2 cup chopped sundried tomatoes
1/2 cup toasted chopped walnuts
1/2 cup toasted pinenuts
1/2 cup dark or white raisins
dash of cinnamon
3 green scallions, finely chopped
dash of red pepper flakes (to taste)
salt & pepper to taste
1/4 to 1/2 cup vegetable or chicken broth
good quality aged balsamic vinegar
parmesean cheese

If using pancetta (Italian bacon) saute it and the sliced garlic in the olive oil until just tender. Add the sundried tomatoes and cook for about a minute, add the toasted nuts and raisins and saute for another minute. Add the vegetable or chicken broth, but go easy, this dish should be somewhat dry. Season to taste. Meanwhile cook the angel hair to al dente and drain.

Place a mound of the angel hair in heated pasta bowls and scoop a generous portion of the raisin/nut mixture over the pasta. Sprinkle a dash of your best balsamic vinegar over the mixture, sprinkle chopped scallions over this and serve immediately. Pass the parmesean cheese.

NOTE: I like this dish a little on the dry side, if you prefer a soupier consistency, save a bit of the pasta water and put some in the bottom of the pasta bowls or add more broth in the cooking before you serve up the angel hair. Or you may add a bit more olive oil and butter.)

I served this with a bottle of Australian shiraz "McGuigan, The Black Label," and the wine beautifully complemented the flavors of this dish.

For dessert, slices of melon with a squeeze of fresh lime juice.

Serve this to someone special. Believe me, they will worship you for eternity.

Ciao, carissimi.

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