Macaroni with Bacon and Peas

This is a very satisfying meal. I’ve seen it made many ways. Some add tomato sauce, some prepare it like a soup. I love the combination of smokey American bacon and peas, if you use pancetta it changes the whole flavor profile. I also like a creamy consistency which is obtained by cooking the macaroni in the water you serve it with. Adding the grated cheese also adds to the creaminess. Strike the balance by only adding more water if you need to. Another technique I use is when I cook the peas, before adding the water and macaroni, I mash the peas up a bit with the back of my spoon. This also adds to the creaminess. You can use any small pasta you prefer, small shells, elbows, but my favorite is Ditalini. Overall, it’s a sweet savory dish that’s sure to please. Give it a try.

This dish should be neither soupy nor dry.

  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 pound extra thick cut bacon, diced
  • 1 medium onion, small dice
  • 1 pound frozen peas
  • 3 1/4 cup boiling water
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons of salt
  • pepper to taste
  • 1 pound Ditalini pasta
  • 3 ounces grated Parmigiano Reggiano Cheese

In a 5 quart pot over medium heat pour in the olive oil and diced bacon and fry for about 5 minutes. Add the chopped onion and cook another 5 minutes. Add the frozen peas and cook for 4- 5 minutes. Add the boiling water to the pot and when it continues to boil add the salt and pepper and pasta, stir well. Cook for 7-8 minutes or until the pasta is done, stirring occasionally. Do not drain the water. The pasta should be not too dry or too soupy, but just enough to form a cream. Remove from the heat and stir in the grated cheese and stir well. Add more water if too dry. The dish becomes even more creamy with the addition of the cheese. Taste for salt and serve.

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Our Daily Bread

There are a lot of things in this world that can harm us. Unfortunately, one of those things is our food industry. I’m not going to lecture anyone on what you should eat or not. We all have freedom to choose our own lifestyles. But we should be all aware of the obesity problem we have in our society and the increase of diabetes and chronic diseases. I made a choice a while ago to avoid at all cost consuming refined sugar, simple carbohydrates in our bread and cereals, highly processed seed and vegetable oils, all soda and sports drinks and fruit juices, just to name a few. I stick to foods with one ingredient like grass fed beef, pork, lamb, pastured chicken, all vegetables and fruits, healthy fats such as cold pressed extra virgin olive oil, avocado oil, butter from grass fed cows, whole raw milk, pastured eggs. I avoid the center aisles of the supermarket and stay away from processed and prepared foods. That’s not to say once in a while I won’t enjoy a vanilla ice cream cone in the summer or a plate of pasta for a meal. But it has become the exception not the rule. Following this change in diet and lifestyle, since 2018 I lost over 65 pounds and recently taken off my diabetes medication and I’m working on stopping my high blood pressure medication as well. Of course, all this has been done under a doctor’s supervision.

So one of the changes I’ve made is to stay away from store bought bread and started making my own sourdough bread every week. If you check the ingredients of a loaf of sliced bread at the supermarket you will find dozens of ingredients that are bad for you, mainly white bleached flour, high fructose corn syrup, preservatives and dough conditioners unhealthy vegetable and seed oils and other things I can’t even pronounce.

There are healthier breads on the market than Wonder Bread, but their ingredient content is not much better.

So, what goes into my sourdough bread? Organic unbleached bread flour, 100% whole wheat flour, filtered water, sea salt, olive oil, honey and sourdough starter. That’s it. Sourdough relies on a mix of wild yeast and lactic acid bacteria, rather than baker’s yeast, to leaven the dough. It’s richer in nutrients, less likely to spike your blood sugar, contains lower amounts of gluten, and is generally easier to digest than bread made with baker’s yeast. So in essence, sourdough bread is a fermented food. Lactic acid bacteria are also naturally found in several other fermented foods, including yogurt, kefir, pickles, sauerkraut, and kimchi. Starters with high levels of acetic acid bacteria also take longer to ferment and rise, giving sourdough bread its characteristic texture and taste. It’s a longer process but well worth the results.

I’ve had this starter for many years.

The first thing you need is the sourdough starter. I’ve had mine for over 25 years. Talk about renewables! Once you have a starter it will last you a lifetime. The process is quite simple. In a clean glass jar ( I use a quart size wide mouth Bell jar with the seal and rim) mix 2 cups of unbleached organic flour (preferably flour that is not enriched with synthetic vitamins) with2 cups of filtered or spring water (no chlorine in the water). Leave the mixture on your countertop loosely covered for 24 hours. The next day after stirring the mixture discard one cup of the starter and add another cup of flour and filtered water and mix well. Do this every 24 hours until you see some bubbling activity. You should see something happening in about 3-4 days, it could take up to 7 days. You will notice a yeasty smell and bubbles forming in the batter. At that point mark the level of the batter with a rubberband around the jar. When the starter rises a few inches over the rubber band or reaches the top of the jar after feeding within the 24 hours you now have an active sourdough starter. You can now use this starter to make bread, pancakes, waffles, etc. The starter should resemble a consistency of pancake batter. Add more or less flour to achieve that.

After feeding my starter it becomes active and starts to expand in the jar. The rubber band allows me to see how much it expanded. It’s ready to use.

After you make your bread and you replace the starter you took out with equal amounts of flour and water, you can loosely cover the jar and allow to rise. Then you can place it in the refrigerator until you are ready to make another loaf. The day before you make your bread, take the starter out of the refrigerator and discard a cup of starter and replace it with the cup of water and flour and this will help reactivate your starter for your next loaf you will be making the following day.

No Knead Sourdough Bread

My version of King Arthur’s baking recipe

  • 1 cup (227g) ripe fed sourdough starter
  • 1 3/4 cups (397g) filtered water, lukewarm
  • 120g whole wheat flour
  • 482g organic unbleached bread flour
  • 1 tablespoon Celtic salt or sea salt
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon natural raw honey

This is what the dough looks like after mixing.

Combine all the ingredients in a large mixing bowl. I use a Pyrex bowl with the cover. Mix everything together with a big spoon or dough whisk to make a sticky, rough dough.

One hour rise.

Leave the dough in the bowl, cover it with the lid or a piece of plastic wrap and let it rise for 1 hour. I place my bowl in the oven with the oven light on and that creates the perfect temperature for the dough to rise, unless your kitchen is over 75 degrees.

After wetting your hands, grab the dough and lift up to stretch.

Fold the dough over itself.

Take the bowl out and with wet hands gently pick up the dough and fold it over on itself several times, turning the bowl a quarter turn to get all four sides. Cover the bowl again, and let it rise for another hour.

This is what the dough looks like after 3 hours of resting and stretching.

Repeat the rising-folding process one more time (for a total of 3 hours), folding it again after the last hour. Then place the bowl covered in the refrigerator, and let the dough rest for at least 8, up to 48 hours. The longer it ferments in the refrigerator the more sourdough taste your bread will have.

After 18 hours in the refrigerator the dough is relaxed and expanded.

Roll the dough between both your hands, pulling down and under. This will strengthen the dough. Notice the air pockets already developed in the dough.

When you are ready to make bread, turn the dough out onto a well-floured work surface, and shape it into a rough ball. Leave the dough seam side up, cover it and let it rest on the floured surface for 15 minutes.

Gently roll the dough with your hands to fit the size of the loaf pan

Next, shape the dough to fit the vessel in which you’ll bake it. I use a 13″ x 4″ pullman loaf pan made by USA Pan Bakeware. It gives me the perfect size for sliced bread. You can also use a large round boule or Dutch oven for a round rustic loaf. Place the shaped dough into the lightly greased base of the baker and cover it with a towel or lid. Let the loaf warm to room temperature and rise, this should take 3 hours. It won’t appear to rise upwards that much, but will relax and expand. Again, I place it in my oven with the oven light on to keep it at the perfect proofing temperature.

With the rack positioned in the middle, start preheating the oven to 500 degrees F about a half hour before you’re ready to bake. Obviously, take the rising baker and dough out of the oven while you preheat it and place it on the counter. (Did I really need to tell you that?)

Just before baking dust the loaf with a fine coat of flour and use a sharp knife to make one or several 1/2″ deep slashes through its top surface. If you’re baking a long loaf, one arched slash down the loaf lengthwise is nice, or if baking a round, a crosshatch or crisscross pattern works well.

Cover the baker with its lid and place in the oven. If you’re using the long Pullman pan leave the lid off. Reduce the oven temperature to 450 degrees F and bake the bread for 45 minutes for the Pullman loaf. If you’re using a dutch oven remove the lid after the 45 minutes and bake the bread for 10 to 15 minutes longer, until the bread is deep golden brown and crusty.

Remove the bread from the oven and transfer it from the pan to a rack to cool completely, about 3 hours.

Store the leftover bread in a plastic bag at room temperature for several days, freeze for longer storage. I slice the bread as I use it. After 7 days I preslice the rest and place in the freezer until I need it. It toasts up real well but don’t expect the golden brown toast you get from the store bought bread. It doesn’t have enough sugar and sweeteners in it to brown that way.

This is the way bread was meant to be eaten. Cut a slice of warm sourdough and spread on some butter and slow down a bit. Life goes by too quickly, take a moment and enjoy it.

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Fusilli with Meat Sauce and Peas

Enemies At The Gate

Ever had a childhood memory that became an Urban Legend? Well, this is one of them. This story has been told more times at family gatherings then the time my cousin stole and hid my grandfather’s night cap and got barred from the house for months. This story does include my two cousins and my brother. Yes the same cousin that hid my grandfather’s sleeping cap.

This is the old house today. I believe the new owners put in a metal fence.

This is the old house today. The new owners installed a metal fence.

We lived on 77 Street in Brooklyn where the row houses were semi-attached. We shared a driveway with our neighbors the Volaro’s. At the back of the houses we each had our own garage and next to the garage a small plot of dirt that my grandfather used for his vegetable garden. It didn’t get much sun back there but God forbid if you planted a vegetable garden in the front of the house. That was not considered proper, at least on our block. At the foot of the driveway my father made a wooden fence that we closed at night to keep the driveway private I guess. The fence was about 6 foot high and each side swung in when it was opened. On this particular day the fence was closed.

Me on the left and Junior a few years before the incident.

At the top of the driveway my brother Richard and cousins Johnny and Ralph (my grandmother’s sister’s boys) were horsing around with our pedal cars. Junior, my best friend that lived next door to me had a modern red sedan and my car looked more like my grandfather’s 53′ Hudson Wasp, bad paint job and all. That is how I remember them. My brother must have been around 11 years old, my cousins Johnny and Ralph a little older. Junior and I were about 3 or 4 years old and playing with our cap guns and plastic horses and cowboys in the back yard.

The day started out innocent enough with one of my cousins in a car, my brother in the other, and my second cousin was the engine, pushing both down the driveway in a race to the finish line, which ended just before or at the fence. Now, if there was an angle to create chaos my cousin Johnny was always the instigator. On a trip to the home town in Sicily, Johnny was throwing bags of water out the hotel window and hitting the grounds crew. When the manager came up to complain my Aunt Angie insisted it couldn’t be her boys! Like a true Italian mom Aunt Angie!

The boys about six years later in 1964. Left to Right, my cousin Johnny, Ralph and brother Richard.

So back to the Bensonhurst 500. On this one trip down the driveway my cousin Johnny gave the cars too much umph, or didn’t bother to stop pushing until they got within inches of the wooden fence. With that amount of force and giving the fence had many years of service, both cars and their passengers went crashing through. As my cousin likes to describe it, ” pieces of the fence flew everywhere”. My cousin Ralph and brother Richard were shocked and mortified as they flew through the fence. First thing out of my brothers mouth was, “my mother is going to kill us!” But this didn’t faze Johnny, his devious mind had a plan. They pulled the cars back and gingerly put the fence pieces back together so it looked like nothing had happened. But it didn’t stop there.

They brought the cars back to the top of the driveway where Junior and I were playing and offered to allow us to race down the driveway like the big guys. Holy smoke! I would always do anything to be included with my brother and cousins. Junior and I gleefully accepted and got into the cars. I’m not sure who pushed us but we had an engine for each car. We flew down that drive way so fast that our feet couldn’t keep up with the pedals circling under us and had to lift our feet up to save our soles. About halfway down the driveway they stopped pushing and at that point we were scraping our feet to the driveway trying to stop the cars. All I remember is the cars barely tapped the fence and they went flying off their hinges. Immediately my cousin Johnny summoned my mother out of the house and found me and Junior under the carnage. Yes, Junior and I got blamed for wrecking the fence. WE HAD NO CLUE! We thought we did it. Well, such is the price you pay for playing with the “big guys”.

The fence was never repaired after that. My father just took everything down, nothing was salvageable. Not even my cousins conscience.

This traditional Sicilian dish is an old standby for a hearty meal. It has all the major food groups and is easy to prepare. I bought a good fusilli imported from Italy that made this meal even better. This is enough to serve 4-6 people with a side salad and some bread. For this meal I had some chopped beef from grass fed cows which adds to the nutritional aspect of the meat. I like to use plumb tomatoes because I like the sauce chunky. I prefer Redpack brand but you can use whatever you desire. There is nothing fancy about this dish, I only ask you never to use dried basil. Fresh basil really makes the difference. After all, this is America and you can get fresh basil year round. Nothing is worse than dried herbs in a tomato sauce, in my opinion. Go the extra step and always use fresh. The peas add a little snap and texture and a bit of freshness. Sicilians love to add peas to a dish, especially pasta. I think it comes second to eggplant.

  • 1 Pound chopped beef
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 small onion finely chopped
  • 4 cloves of garlic finely chopped
  • 1 cup any red table wine
  • 1 28 ounce can of whole peeled tomatoes, mashed by hand or with a potato masher
  • 6 basil leaves torn
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • A touch of sugar if desired
  • 1 pound fusilli

In a pan large enough to cook the sauce, brown the chopped meat. Remove the meat from the pan and drain all the fat. Over medium heat add the olive oil to the pan and cook the chopped onions until soft. Add the garlic and cook a few minutes more. Add the chopped meat back to the pan and stir to combine everything. Add the red wine and cook down for about 5 minutes. Put the crushed tomatoes in along with 3 torn basil leaves, salt and pepper and a little sugar. Cook uncovered about a half hour stirring occasionally. Just before the pasta is cooked add the peas and cook for 5 minutes. Add the remaining basil once the pan is off the stove.

In the meantime, cook the pasta till desired doneness in salted water. Reserve a cup of the pasta water. Drain the cooked pasta and add the meat sauce to the bottom of the pasta pot. Add back the pasta and pour the remaining sauce over the pasta. Do this over low heat, stirring the pasta till everything is covered with the meat sauce. Add a little pasta water if too dry. I like to add the pasta water to the leftovers before putting them away.

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Escarole and Bean Soup

Here is a real simple yet hardy soup my grandmother and mom used to make. This is a great meal that takes no time to prepare, and with a loaf of crispy Italian or sourdough bread to dunk into the soup, can be your entire meal. Did I say it was healthy? We ate it anyway because we loved it and it tasted so good. You can feed a family of 6 for pennies with this soup. That’s why when you are brought up with parents that went through the depression this meal becomes a staple. Chances are if you grew up in an Italian family you have had this soup before. This is our version. Hope you enjoy it!

Escarole and Bean Soup

  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 6 whole cloves of garlic, peeled
  • 1 large head of escarole, washed and chopped into bite sized pieces
  • 2 – 32 oz containers of chicken stock
  • 3 – 15.5 oz cans of cannellini beans, drained
  • a 3″ block of Parmesan cheese rind or the cheese itself
  • 1/4 pound of Ditalini pasta or any small soup pasta
  • Salt and pepper to taste

In an 8 quart stock pot add the olive oil and place on medium low heat. Add the whole garlic cloves and allow to cook till tender. Smash the cloves with a fork to distribute the flavor.

Before the garlic burns add the escarole to the pot. Sprinkle with some salt and sauté until the leaves start to wilt, about 5 minutes. Turn up the heat to high and add the two containers of chicken stock. Stir and cover until the stock starts to boil. Once the stock is boiling add the 3 cans of drained cannellini beans and the hunk of Parmesan cheese. Stir and bring back to a boil, then add the pasta. Stir well and allow to cook for 11 more minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste and the soup is ready.

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Chicken Rollatini

I was going to make a escarole and bean soup this week before the weather warmed up too much but my grocery store did not have any escarole. I’ve been noticing lately that they have been out of a lot of things weekly. I’ve never seen that before, but that is another story I do not want to get into on my food blog. Let’s just say things are terrible on the supply chain side, not to mention prices and inflation, and I don’t see them getting any better soon.

I had some boneless chicken breast and had plenty of ham left over from Easter so I had all of the main ingredients for this dish. I used my homemade sourdough bread for the stuffing but you can use any day old bread without the crust for this recipe. Use what you have. That seems to be the mantra for 2023.

This is a very simple and tasty dish that you can make with all sorts of options. You can make a marsala wine sauce to go along with it or just use the pan drippings from the recipe. Also, you can either serve each rollatini as a serving or slice up and serve on a platter. Whatever works for you.

Give this a try soon, I think you are going to like it. If you want to be creative and add additional herbs and flavorings to the stuffing, go at it. I’m a firm believer in making it your own. But this version is pretty tasty as it.

  • 2 chicken breast, cut in half
  • 1 small chopped onion
  • 1 celery stalk, chopped
  • 1/2 pound chopped cooked ham
  • 1/2 cup olive oil, divided
  • 3 oz of day old bread, crust removed
  • 4-5 ounces of mozzarella/provolone
  • 1/2 cup Pecorino Romano cheese
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1-2 cups Italian style breadcrumbs
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/2 cup white wine

In a medium fry pan, on low heat, add about a tablespoon of olive oil and sauté the chopped onion and celery until tender. Add salt and pepper to taste. Set aside or place in a medium bowl.

Take your day old bread and break up into little pieces, rubbing with your hands and place in the bowl with the celery and onions. Add the chopped cooked ham, Mozzarella/provolone combination, Pecorino Romano cheese and mix well. Add salt and pepper to taste before adding the eggs. Break the three eggs into the bowl and get into it with your hands making sure everything is combined well. If the stuffing does not hold together well add some Italian style breadcrumbs to firm it up.

The preparation for the chicken cutlets are as follows. Either have your butcher cut and flatten them for rollatini, or take each half of the boneless and skinless chicken breast and butterfly it, opening it so now you have one flat breast. Do that to the remaining three halves of the chicken breasts. Now cover each butterflied breast with Saran wrap and flatten it well with a meat mallet.

In a large platter, spread a cup and a half of Italian style breadcrumbs (use more crumbs as needed). In a medium bowl add about a half cup of olive oil. Have a 9×13″ Pyrex or metal pan prepared with a coating of olive oil.

Take each piece of chicken and coat one side in the olive oil. Now place the coated side in the breadcrumb, taping down to adhere the coating. Take 1/4 of the stuffing and place it in the middle of the breast. Starting on the short end, roll up the chicken over the stuffing and make sure it is well coated with the breadcrumbs, patting and turning in the crumbs. You can seal the rollatini with toothpicks but I just place the finished rollatini seam side down in the roasting pan and that usually is fine without them opening up.

Once you do the same to the remaining chicken, space evenly in the pan and pour about 1/2 cup of white wine to the bottom of the pan.

Cook in a preheated 375F oven for about 50 minutes or until the chickens internal temperature reaches 165 degrees and is brown . Add some water to the bottom of the pan if too dry for the last 15 minutes.

Allow the chicken to cool for 10 minutes and place on a platter. Here is an optional step for a wine sauce:

Add about three tablespoons of butter to a fry pan. Add about 3/4 cup of Marsala wine to the melted butter and cook on low for 1 minuet. Add about a cup of chicken broth or stock and bring to a boil. In a small cup add 1 tablespoon of cornstarch and 2 tablespoon of cold water. Mix well and add the slurry mixture to the simmering sauce. Cook till thickened and add salt and pepper to taste Plate the Chicken Rollatini and pour this sauce around the chicken.

*Special note: You can either serve one rollatini as a portion or slice each rollatini jelly roll style and serve on a platter surrounded by the sauce.

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Simple Chicken Cacciatore

There are many recipes for chicken cacciatore out there. This one utilizes the ever popular cherry tomato, which lately have become the tomato of choice for all the modern chefs. Traditional cacciatore uses white wine, plum tomatoes, onions, garlic. I flavor this cacciatore with sage and rosemary which lends an earthy flavor to the chicken. The cherry tomatoes add a unique sweetness and blush to the sauce. And like many delicious Italian recipes, less is better. Using simple fresh quality ingredients is the hallmark of many delicious Italian meals. This one is right up there. I hope you try it.

  • 3 Chicken legs, 3 chicken thighs (or any cut of chicken you prefer)
  • 1 small onion, sliced
  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 1 whole clove garlic
  • 1/2 pint cherry tomatoes, cut in half
  • 1 cup white wine
  • 2 sprigs of fresh rosemary
  • 3-4 leaves of fresh sage
  • Salt & Pepper to taste
  • Hot pepper flakes to taste. optional

Place large non stick frying pan over medium heat. Add the olive oil, garlic clove and sliced onions. Stir, cooking for 3-4 minutes until onions are soft. Add the chicken, skin side down and cook for 4 minutes until browned. Turn the chicken over and deglaze the pan with the white wine.

Add the cherry tomatoes, sage and rosemary and cover and cook for 15 minutes.

Remove cover and turn chicken over. Stir and mash up the cherry tomatoes. Cover and cook another 15 minutes.

Turn the chicken one more time and stir up the contents of the pan. The tomatoes should be pretty much cooked down by now and adding some color to the sauce and chicken. Cook uncovered another 5 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Plate the chicken and pour the sauce over the chicken. Have some Italian bread on hand for sopping up the sauce.

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Italian Orange Cake

This orange cake is not overly sweet, but in the true Italian tradition, slightly sweet and flavorful. Perfect with the morning coffee or just a midday snack. It may seem odd but you add the entire orange, peel and all, to the batter. By mixing it in a blender the peel disappears and adds just the right amount of sweetness along with the zest of the peel. For those that have not had the experience of eating traditional Italian cakes you can always add a glaze to the top or dust with powdered sugar to add a little more sweetness to satisfy your American taste buds. I like it just the way it is.

Italian Orange Cake

  • 1 large organic orange
  • 3 large eggs
  • 80 ml vegetable oil
  • 100 g sugar
  • 250 g all purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons baking powder
  • pinch of salt

Wash the orange well. Cut off both ends of the orange. Cut the orange, peel and all, into eights. Cut each eight piece into three pieces. Place the entire orange (minus the ends) into a blender. Add to the blender the three eggs, vegetable oil and sugar. Blend all till smooth.

In a large bowl sift together the flour, baking powder and salt. Now add the orange mixture to the flour and whisk till it’s completely blended and smooth.

Prepare a small Bundt pan by oiling the bottom and sides and coating with flour. Pour the cake mixture into the bundt pan and bake at 355 degrees for 40 minutes. Allow to cool for 15 minutes, slide a knife around the sides of the pan and turn over into a dish. You can decorate the cake with powdered sugar if you prefer.

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This time of year we all have an excess of zucchini from our gardens. Some might even be overgrown. But not to worry, any size zucchini can be used for this recipe. If the zucchini went to seed just cut the vegetable in quarters lengthwise and cut out the center seed chamber. The surrounding flesh is perfect to eat. Of course if you buy your zucchini in the supermarket they are nice small young vegetables. After you cut the top and bottom off you can slice them in your mandolin.

Grandma Isabella would make this as one of her many side dishes for a family meal or special occasion. But she would egg batter the sliced zucchini and fry it till golden before layering it in this “zucchini lasagna”. I found slicing the zucchini really thin, 1/8″, and layering it raw with the other ingredients works really well and saves a step frying them. I also add slices of cooked ham to the layers to add some protein to the dish so it would even be a perfect main dish with some crispy Italian bread.

Zucchine Al Forno

  • 4-5 medium zucchini, sliced 1/8″ thin lengthwise (a mandolin slicer will help here)
  • 3/4 pound cooked sliced ham
  • 1/2 pound sliced mozzarella, sliced thin
  • 1/2 pound sliced provolone, slices thin, Boars Head if available
  • Grated Pecorino Romano cheese
  • Grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
  • Olive oil
  • Salt & Pepper to taste
  • 1 beaten eggs

Pour a thin layer of olive oil on the bottom of a 9×13 Pyrex or metal dish. Dip the sliced zucchini in the beaten egg and cover the bottom of the dish, alternating direction to cover. Salt & pepper to taste. Add a layer of the cooked ham. Then add a layer of the sliced mozzarella. Then a good sprinkle of the Pecorino Romano Cheese.

For the second layer add a sprinkle of the olive oil. Then add the egg dipped zucchini, salt & pepper, cooked ham and a layer of the sliced provolone. Add a good sprinkle of the Parmigiano Reggiano Cheese.

Continue the layers, alternating the mozzarella, provolone and grated cheeses. Finish with a layer of the mozzarella or provolone and sprinkle of olive oil.

Bake in a 375 degree oven for 45-55 minutes or until the top is golden brown. Allow to cool for 15 minutes before slicing and serving.

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Chicken with wine vinegar, capers and olives

I went back to Brooklyn recently to celebrate my cousins 80th birthday. It’s hard to believe my cousins are that old. I’m the baby of the family but 67 is no consolation. Traveling now is a planned event, especially trips that are over 2 hours. From my house in NEPA to my sisters house in Staten Island is a two hour ride, with no traffic. So my plan was to get to my sisters house and kick back for an hour or so, and then ride with them to Brooklyn, which was only a half hour trip.

I have taken the trip from Brooklyn to Staten Island and back hundreds of times since my sister moved there in 1965. It must have been 30 or 40 years since I made that trip so the ride in was all new to me. Staten Island is another city, crowded and congested. I always knew Brooklyn was like that but it was much worse than I remembered. Maybe I’m so used to living in a rural area that I panicked when there were more than two cars on the road at any given time.

We arrived at Sofia’s Ristorante Italiano on 84th Street and 3rd Avenue. Once inside the restaurant it became apparent to me that my cousin Bobby was not the only octogenarian in the room. My sister and brother in law will be turning 80 this year, although when I confront my sister with that fact she insists she only 49. My brother will be turning 74 this year along with my cousin Ralph. We are both sides of the baby boomer spectrum, a generation I’m proud to be part of. I’m finding that this stage in my life it’s more important than ever to have close family ties. Many have come before us and we are all leaving a wonderful legacy in our wake. My boys have grown into wonderful men. I’m proud of both their accomplishments. And now I get to see my granddaughter grow into a beautiful young girl. These are the treasures we can depend on in a life well lived. Few other things are as important. Happy Birthday Bobby, I hope to see you at my 80th.

There is nothing I like better than a simple dish with little clean up and flavor explosions from the first to last bite. This is one of those dishes. A simple peasant dish that will make your house smell like Italy. These are traditional Sicilian flavors that need only to be accompanied by a good glass of red wine and a crisp loaf of Italian bread. A side salad couldn’t hurt.


  • 4 chicken thighs, 4 chicken legs, or whatever cuts of bone in chicken you like
  • 1/3 cup red wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 heaping tablespoon sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/4 cup capers, drained
  • 1/4 cup pitted black or green olives (I prefer kalamata or oil cured)
  • 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning (rosemary, thyme, oregano, sage, basil, parsley)
  • 2 cloves smashed garlic

Preheat oven to 400 degrees

Place chicken in a roasting pan large enough to fit. Mix all the above ingredients well, then pour over the chicken. Turn the chicken over in the marinade to coat both sides, then leave skin side down.

Bake in the oven for 30 minutes then turn skin side up and cook another 20-30 minutes until chicken is crisp and done. It’s as simple as that. The aroma from the chicken will send the neighbors over so lock the doors and turn out the lights. Enjoy!

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Pork Scaloppini Marsala

This is one dish where the meat you use is very versatile. You can make this with veal, pork or chicken. The classic dish is made with veal. This week my supermarket didn’t have any good veal cutlets. They say necessity is the mother of invention, so I used pork cutlets instead. There are many times I go to the supermarket and plan my menu depending on what they have available at the particular time I’m there. If you have a good local butcher nearby, all the better.

This is another one pan meal that takes no time to cook and has really intense flavors. It’s one of my favorites. Hope you try it.

Pork Scaloppini Marsala

  • 1 1/2 – 2 pounds of thinly sliced pork cutlet
  • 4-6 ounces of sliced mushrooms
  • 2-4 tablespoons butter
  • 2-4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup sweet Marsala wine
  • 3/4 cup beef broth
  • 1/8 pound prosciutto
  • 1/8 pound sliced provolone
  • Salt & pepper to taste

Cover each slice of pork with some plastic wrap and pound it thin with a kitchen mallet. Set aside.

Heat a large frying pan over medium high heat and add two tablespoons of butter and olive oil. Add the mushrooms to the pan in a single layer and allow to cook for 4 minutes without moving them. Now stir to cook the other side until the mushrooms are a golden brown. Remove from the pan to a platter.

Salt and pepper the pork cutlets on both sides and dredge in the flour on both sides. Add the rest of the butter and olive oil to the pan and brown the pork about 2 minutes on each side. Remove the pork to the platter with the mushrooms.

Add to the hot pan the Marsala wine and cook down for a minute or two. Now add the beef broth and bring to a boil.

Add the pork and mushrooms back to the pan and cover each pork cutlet with a slice of prosciutto and a slice of provolone cheese. Reduce the heat to medium low and cook down the sauce till it thickens. Taste the sauce for salt and pepper.

Remove the scallopini to the platter and surround them with the mushrooms and pour the thickened sauce over everything.

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