Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Panzanella (bread and tomato salad) Posted by Hello


Panzanella (bread and tomato salad)

Panzanella is a surprisingly tasty Tuscan use of leftover bread. Essential to the tastiness of this gorgeous dish is top quality extra virgin olive oil, top quality bread, and of course flavorful tomatoes. This dish is usually associated with Tuscany, but is popular in Umbria as well.

Panzanella can be prepared ahead of time and refrigerated for several hours or taken on picnics. Remove from refrigerator an hour or so before serving.

PANZANELLA (serves 2)

2 1/2 cups Italian country style bread, 1 or 2 days old cut in cubes, 2 inches thick
2 TBSP extra virgin olive oil, or more to taste
1 TBSP good quality red wine or balsamic vinegar or more to taste
2 cups tomatoes, as ripe and fresh as possible, cubed
1/2 clove of garlic, finely minced
1/2 cup lightly packed fresh basil leaves, washed, drained on paper towels and torn into pieces, (a few extra for garnish)
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Place the cubed bread into a large serving bowl. Add the tomatoes, garlic and basil. Toss. Drizzle on the olive oil and the vinegar. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Toss well coating the bread with the oil and vinegar. Let sit for 10 to 15 minutes so the bread absorbs the flavors. Garnish with a few whole basil leaves. Serve.

Friday, June 24, 2005

Barche di zucchini Posted by Hello

Zucchini boats Posted by Hello


Barche di zucchini (zucchini boats)

It's summer and time to have fun at the seashore! Here's an easy and fun lunch or first course for a summer's meal.

I used three medium zucchini for this. Three small zucchini will do as well. The filling can be whatever you can dream up for these dreamboats.

I used:

2 slices of mortadella, cut up
1/4 cup Provolone cheese cubes
1/4 cup dark raisins
1/8 cup minced red pepper
Zucchini pulp
sprinkling of balsamic vinegar
salt & pepper to taste
1/3 cup unseasoned breadcrumbs
Minced herbs (mint, basil, parsley)

Cut the zucchini in half and score them with a knife. Sprinkle olive oil, salt and pepper over the zucchini. Place in microwave oven and microwave for 3 to 4 minutes on high. Remove. Carefully scrape the cooked zucchini pulp out of the rind and place in a bowl. (Or you may roast the zucchini halves in a 350 degree oven for 15-20 minutes. Do NOT overcook.)

Save the scraped out zucchini rinds. Combine the rest of the ingredients in the bowl with the cooked zucchini pulp. Carefully spoon the stuffing into the scraped out zucchini. Sprinkle with any additional minced herbs and serve.

This makes a delicious light lunch or a great first course.

Go wild and use your imagination for your own filling.


Thursday, June 16, 2005


Kevin Callahan


Kevin Callahan

I'm so proud of my nephew, Kevin Callahan.

The New York Times published an article about him and his work today, June 16, 2005. here

Also, check out his website under the link section in my blog. See My Family.

Go Kevin!!!!

Sunday, June 12, 2005

Spaghetti con piselli, prosciutto e menta (spaghetti with peas, ham and mint) Posted by Hello

Melon, strawberries, blueberries and kiwi with mint for dessert. Posted by Hello


Spaghetti con piselli , prosciutto, e menta (spaghetti with peas, prosciutto, and mint)

Spring peas are in the markets and so Isabella offers you a heavenly dish using these sweet, delicate denizens of the pods. This is a typical Sicilian dish, using mint for the garnish, rather than basil or parsley. (Although Isabella often minces all three and scatters the herbs over whatever dish she has made.)

This is quite easy to make, the ingredients for the spaghetti will be done before the pasta is cooked.

One important thing here, though, is to use FRESH peas, frozen is a second choice. Canned? Mai! Mai! Mai!

The fresh peas and prosciutto will give this dish delicate spring colors of pale pinks and greens; and the taste of those recently harvested green pearls will send your heart into piselli paradise. I promise.

When I was a child, my parents would set out a dish of unshelled peas on the table, and my brother and I would dig in, grab a pod, open it, and eat the piselli like candy. This was a real treat for us, and we often had it as a "dessert" after supper when the peas were coming into season.

When I was five or six, I remember going to a friend's house and seeing a can of peas. I didn't know what they were at first; but after looking at the picture of them on the label, a light went on in my head, and I said to my friend's mother "We don't get our peas from a can, ours come from a shell."

This recipe serves 2:

1/2 pound of spaghetti (I use Barilla)
1 Tablespoon olive oil
2 cloves garlic, sliced thin
1 1/4 cups of fresh shelled peas, (about a pound and a half in the shell) or frozen (NEVER CANNED)
2 oz. prosciutto cut in edible size pieces (or you may use pancetta--Italian bacon)
1/4 cup vegetable or chicken broth
salt and pepper to taste (red pepper flakes, too, optional, but they give this a nice "bite" to its flavor)
4 generous tablespoons of chopped fresh mint
4 tablespoons of grated parmesan or romana cheese

Shell the peas, then blanch them in boiling water for a minute and a half. Set aside.

Boil water for the spaghetti in a large pot, and while it come to the boil make the peas and prosciutto.

In a medium saute pan, heat the olive oil until it slides around in the pan. Add the garlic slices and saute until tender. Do not burn them. You may remove them if you wish after they've cooked (I always leave them in).

Add the peas and prosciutto, the stock, salt and pepper[s]. Saute very gently for 30 seconds, do NOT overcook the prosciutto, or it will toughen.

Drain the pasta, and add it to the saute pan with the piselli and prosciutto, heat through for a half minute or so on medium high heat. Add the mint.

Serve immediately, and pass the cheese. A fruity Chianti goes well with this.

The second picture posted in this entry is what I made for dessert. Since I had already had my "dessert" peas for my entree, I put together acombination of honeydew melon (from Israel), fresh strawberries, blueberries, and kiwi fruit, added mint leaves and sprinkled it with powdered sugar. Eccola! A beautiful, colorful finish to a wonderful meal.

Enjoy, my little piccioni!

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Isabella and Bobby Eustace Posted by Hello

Coffees and teas... Posted by Hello

A variety of spices... Posted by Hello

Locals watching the foot traffic outside Polcari's Posted by Hello

Tuesday, June 07, 2005


Polcari's Coffee in Boston's North End

One of Isabella's favorite places in Boston's North End is Polcari's Coffee shop. Not only does Polcari's carry over 20 different varieties of coffee, but it has a terrific selection of teas, extracts for making homemade liquers and cordials, dried legumes, spices, herbs, nuts, candied fruit, seeds, grains, rice, specialty cheeses and cold cuts (including the heavenly mortadella and prosciutto, and much, much, more.

During the summer season, they even have an old fashioned slush machine outside their store where you can purchase that delighfully refreshing lemony treat to cool you down on a typically humid Boston summer's day.

Established in 1932 by Anthony Polcari, the store was then managed by Anthony's son, Ralph, and his sister, Marie. Marie passed away recently, but Ralph comes in occasionaly to meet his old time friends and customers and greet the newcomers to the neighborhood who have found this treasure trove for cooks.

Robert (Bobby) Eustace and his cousin, Nicky, who now run the store, are friendly, knowledgeable, and always have time to make sure you get exactly what you need for that special recipe you've decided to try.

Isabella considers Bobby and Nicky two gems in this neighborhood of many food treasures. And she agrees with Ralph who will tell you that Polcari's "leaves no grounds for complaint."

Polcari's Coffee
105 Salem Street
Boston, MA 02113

Sunday, June 05, 2005

Melanzana Napoleon, view 1 Posted by Hello

Melanzana Napoleon, view 2 Posted by Hello


Melanzana Napoleon (Eggplant Napoleon)

AIME! AIME! AIME! (Italian for OH DEAR! OH DEAR! OH DEAR!) Bad news! Red tide has spread along the New England coast from Maine to Cape Cod. And weeks will pass before it is safe to eat shellfish! Lobster and fin fish are not affected, but what will Isabella do now that her beloved vongole are vietato!

We will always have melanzana. And no red tide can stop us from eating this royally purple vegetable.

I found this eggplant recipe in Tom Colicchio's How To Think Like a Chef. The dish is made with slices of eggplant and a roasted eggplant, mushroom, red pepper, and pinenut filling spread inbetween the stacks and served with a lemon vinaigrette. I made some minor changes to it and served it as a light Sunday night supper. I also served it with plain penne, but the pasta isn't needed. In fact, my dinner companion and I tossed out the pasta and ate the eggplant dish with the lemon vinaigrette, and it was perfect on its own.

This dish takes a little time, but that's the fun of cooking, isn't it?

Melanzana Napoleon (serves 2)

3 medium eggplants
1/2 cup olive oil
3-4 ounces of fresh mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
1 medium red pepper
1/4 cup toasted pinenuts
2 eggs, slightly beaten
1/2 cup flour, seasoned with salt and pepper
1/2 cup unflavored bread crumbs
sprigs of fresh thyme for garnish
lemon vinaigrette (recipe follows)

Take one of the eggplants, cut it in half, score the flesh, sprinkle the halves with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil, salt and pepper. Place on a roasting pan and roast in a 350 degree oven for 20 to 30 minutes, or until the eggplant's flesh is soft. Remove the two halves from the oven and cool.

While the eggplant is roasting, cut up the red pepper and saute in 1 tablespoon of the olive oil until just tender in a small saute pan. Set aside, wash out the saute pan to use for sauteing the mushrooms. Clean and slice the mushrooms and saute in 1 tablespoon of the olive oil until just cooked. Toast the pinenuts over medium heat in a small saute pan (no oil is used in toasting the pinenuts) until they just turn brown. Set cooked red pepper, mushrooms and toasted pinenuts aside.

After the eggplant halves cool enough to handle, scrape the flesh out of the skins and place in a bowl. Add the red pepper, mushrooms, and toasted pinenuts, and salt and pepper to taste. (I added a teaspoon of lemon zest, and a squeeze of lemon to the mixture to brighten the flavors. This is optional.) Set this filling aside.

Take the two remaining eggplants and slice six rounds of about 1/2 inch thick (three rounds from each eggplant). I take the slices from the middle of the vegetable so that the thicknesses are even. Save what is left of the eggplants for making caponata or pasta al'Norma (recipes for these two dishes will be posted in the future). Take a paper towel and pat dry the eggplant slices.

Take three bowls and place the seasoned flour in the first, the slightly beaten eggs in the second, and the bread crumbs in the third. Take one of the slices of eggplant, place in the seasoned flour, pressing the flour so that it adheres to it. Shake off excess flour. Dip the floured slice into the slightly beaten egg, and then dip into the bread crumbs, again pressing the crumbs into the slices. Place the prepared slice on a clean dish. Repeat this procedure with the other five slices.

Place the remaining olive oil into a large frying pan so that it holds three slices of the prepared eggplant without crowding. Heat the olive oil until it slides around in the pan. Saute the breaded eggplant slices and drain on paper towels. Continue until all the slices are cooked and take on a golden brown color. Add more olive oil to the saute pan if needed.


On a cutting board or large work area, take one of the breaded and cooked slices of eggplant and spread it with the eggplant, red pepper, mushroom and pinenut filling. Add another slice, more filling and the third slice. Don't put on too much filling or the slices will slide off. Make a second stack with the breaded slices and filling. (You won't use up all the filling, so save it and spread it over warmed Tuscan bread the next day--it'll keep for a few days in the refrigerator).

Place two or three tablespoons of the lemon vinaigrette on the bottom of a plate, carefully lift the eggplant napoleons onto the vinaigrette sauce, add a sprig or two of thyme to the top and serve.

This can also be served as an elegant first course, followed by a fish or chicken dish of your choice.


1 lemon
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 small clove of garlic, cut in quarters
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
salt and pepper

Squeeze enough juice from lemon to measure 1/3 cup. In a bowl combine lemon juice with salt and pepper to taste. Whisk in oil in a slow stream. Add garlic and thyme leaves. Vinaigrette may be made 3 hours ahead and chilled, covered. Bring vinaigrette to room temperature before proceeding, and take out garlic bits before serving.

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Penne with salmon, vodka, and tomatoes Posted by Hello


Penne with smoked salmon and vodka

Ciao everyone!

Isabella is back from her poca vacanza (little vacation) and happy to post a simple but delicious recipe. This dish combines smoked salmon with a tomato vodka sauce--a delicate, elegant combination. You can put this beautiful recipe together while the pasta is cooking. It's that easy to do. Enjoy!

Penne with smoked salmon and vodka (serves 2)

1/2 lb. penne pasta (or any tube pasta)
4 oz. good quality smoked salmon (I used Echo Falls smoked Scottish salmon) cut into bite-size pieces
3 Tablespoons unsalted butter
1 medium clove of garlic, minced
1 medium to large shallot, minced
2 or 3 plum tomatoes, chopped
1/4 cup good quality vodka
1/4 cup heavy cream
2 -3 Tablespoons parsley, minced

Bring a large pot of water to the boil and cook the pasta until al dente.

Meanwhile, in a medium to large pan, saute the minced garlic and shallots in the butter until just soft. Add the plum tomatoes and gently simmer for about 5 minutes, add vodka and let the alcohol burn off while the sauce simmers another 2-3 minutes. Add heavy cream and gently simmer another minute or so. Add the smoked salmon and heat through.

Drain the pasta, and add to the salmon/vodka/tomato mixture. Heat through until sauce covers the penne. Serve immediately in pasta bowls with a generous sprinkling of parsley.

Quick, easy and elegant.

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