Sausage Rolls

A lot has happened since my last post. So here is the “Reader’s Digest” version. I left New York, sold my house and moved to North East Pennsylvania. Found a job on a daily newspaper that covers Wayne and Pike county and bought my retirement house on a lake, next door to a local tavern. Can it get better than that?

I’m planning on raising some chickens, ducks and guinea fowl. The guinea fowl are great for depleting the tick population that thrives too well here. I have an unfinished cellar, with a stacked stone foundation,  that is ideal for curing and storing meats, canned goods and root cellar vegetables. Did I mention I’m next door to the local tavern?

The view from my back porch.

This area couldn’t be more different from my roots growing up in Brooklyn, but there are many similarities. In Brooklyn your block was your town and your neighborhood was an extension of that town. Here it’s no different. Neighbors are friendly and helpful. They are all God-fearing folks and would give you the shirt off their back if you had the need. I work in a cute little town called Honesdale. I found my Mayberry. Folks here have roots, deep roots. Many have been here all their lives, generations. It sets up a down home base, like my block in Brooklyn, everyone knew each other, everyone was friendly. There is a local market here called Clark’s Sunrise Market. It’s run by three generations of family. We had places like that in Brooklyn, one called Monzelli’s, a family run market, run by three generations. Went to school with their son. His grandparent’s knew my Grandparents and his mother and father knew my mother and father. They all grew up in the neighborhood, went to school there and worked there. Honesdale is the birthplace of the Steam locomotive, the song “Walking In A Winter Wonderland” was written by a gentleman that lived on Church Street, just a few yards from my office. And right across the street from my office is the first headquarters of the children’s Highlights Magazine and still in use today.

When I first moved up here I felt like a fish out of water until I realized how similar it was to growing up in Brooklyn in the mid 50’s. First thing I did was search out my comfort foods. Where to shop, where to buy pizza, bagels, any good Italian restaurants, deli’s, was there a good Chinese Restaurant here? Any Kosher deli’s? I could tell you one thing, no one delivers. And nothing is close. This is farm land and acres of state hunting grounds, rivers and streams, huge lakes like Wallenpaupack, and seasonal. After Labor day three-quarters of the population leaves. Off season it’s quiet. But come Memorial day, look out. It never really gets that crowded, but you notice different folk arriving and shopping in the stores.

I’m about 15 minuets from a town called Milford, PA. And that’s where I found Fretta’s. At first I couldn’t believe it. Fretta’s started out in Little Italy at about the time my Grandfather arrived there from Italy. They moved to Brooklyn, on 86th Street in my neighborhood and was there for many years, until the grandson, who was living in Staten Island, decided to take the family business to Milford. This place is the holy grail of Italian pork stores and it was right here in Milford. The moment you walk into the place you smell the pungent aromas of the homemade soppressata, capocollo and beef braciole hanging from the rafters curing alongside the imported provolone and prosciutto hanging displayed. Not to mention all the homemade fresh sausage, pinwheels, prime cut steaks and chops. I died and went to heaven and it was right here in Milford. Could I be any closer to home? And just up the road is a place called Jorgensen’s Dimmick Inn, an old world tavern revived by a couple of Brooklyn boys from Bay Ridge. They even have an item on their menu called the 79th Street Burger. Milford has to be the 6th borough. I feel closer to home up here in NEPA than I did in Rockland County New York.

There is also a different culture up here than I was used to in New York. One Monday morning I was driving to work and when I passed the local high school I noticed it was closed. I couldn’t imagine what holiday it was for the school to be closed. Did I miss something? When I got into work I asked my coworkers why the school was closed. They look at me like I was an alien and said, “it’s the first day of hunting season, the schools always close first day of hunting season”.  Silly me for not knowing that. Almost everyone hunts up here. Not for trophy, but food. Although if they bag a six pointer it’s unlikely they will not display it. Our newspaper runs a Big Buck contest every year and the residents bring their bucks in to have us judge who’s the biggest. From the first day of the contest, beginning at 8am, people were driving up with their entries. I couldn’t believe the range of hunters, from 16-year-old girls to seasoned huntsmen that have been doing this for decades. No wonder they close the schools that day. Everyone is out hunting.

These are good people up here. They respect God, country and each other. But they don’t know how to make a good Pizza. That was my next quest. Finding good pizza. There is a pizza style here that is not New York Style Pizza. A hundred year old hotel called the Waymart Hotel has been making pizza for as long as it’s been in existence. And is famous for their square pie. Legend has it Italian immigrants settled here mining coal and as many immigrants do,  make the food of their country. But they had to settle for ingredients that was local and the “Old Forge” style of pizza was born. Nothing like NY pizza, the cheese blend is just that, not mozzarella but a blend of different cheese. I have to say, it was tasty, different, but not New York Pizza. I came across a place called Mike’s pizzeria not far from my house and discovered the owner is from Nutley, New Jersey. Not bad pie. For now it’s my go to pie. But I’m still searching.

All in all I now call NEPA my home.  I’m only an hour away from my son Joseph and an hour and a half from my older boy and his wife, Michael and Jess. It’s a two-hour ride into Manhattan, Brooklyn and Staten Island, so I’m close enough for visits. Scranton is only a half hour away so I still need to explore that.  It’s nice to walk out my back door and fish in my own lake, and pass farmland with cows grazing in the fields. And live near towns where the people are friendly and all know one another. Not to mention, I’m right next door to the local tavern.


We had a bakery in Brooklyn called Termini’s. They made great bread, cookies, cakes, pizza and these sausage rolls. They only made them on Saturdays so it was always a special treat for me when my mother or grandfather would pick up bread from there and come home with these sausage rolls. I never bothered heating them up, but ate them right out of the bag my mother brought them home in. Their pizza was also a treat, and I ate that cold as well. It was THAT good.



Sausage Rolls

  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 medium onion sliced
  • 1 red bell pepper,seeded and sliced thin
  • 1 green bell pepper, seeded and sliced thin
  • 3 tbl olive oil
  • Salt & pepper to taste
  • 1 lb of sweet Italian sausage,raw with casing removed
  • Provolone cheese, grated
  • pizza dough
  • Egg wash (one beaten egg with teaspoon of water)

Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees

In a medium fry pan heat 3 tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat. Add the red and green pepper and sliced onion and saute for 12 minuets until soft. Add the chopped garlic and cook for another 2-3 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Roll out the pizza dough and cut into 9 rectangles.

Break off a piece of sausage and form it into a log to fit inside the sough.

Top with the sauteed peppers and onions , and sprinkle of grated provolone.

Fold the little packet into a roll and pinch the seams shut. Place seam side down on an oiled sheet pan or on parchment paper on top of the sheet pan.  Brush with egg wash and score each roll with three slits.

Place in oven and cook till golden brown, about 20-25 minuets. Cool slightly, remove from pan and serve.


Posted in Antipasto, Bread, pizza, Pork | Tagged , , | 14 Comments

Eggplant Rollatine

Eggplant is one of my favorite dishes. I don’t care how you prepare it, it’s all good. For years I was a firm believer that if you didn’t fry the eggplant it wasn’t worth cooking. I’ve since curbed that idea and have found you can prepare the eggplant differently for certain dishes and not lose the flavor or quality. Grilled eggplant works so well for some dishes, fried for others, and yes, I even found that baking your eggplant properly can do a dish justice. And save on some calories as well. I have tested making eggplant Parmigiano baking the breaded eggplant instead of frying. It actually came out very good. Not exactly like the fried version, but very close. For us older folks you have to weigh the dietary benefit of making it that way. I find that as I get older I cannot tolerate fried foods as much as I did when I was younger. So, you have to adapt. Now, for you young whippersnappers out there, fry away. You can take any recipe I have for baking and fry the food instead. Whatever works for you.

Eggplant rollatine works very well with baking the eggplant. I don’t bread the eggplant in this dish, I find the flavors of the ricotta, and tomato basil sauce, along with a top quality pecorino Romano cheese brings out the best in the eggplant that way. When my grandmother prepared eggplant Parmigiano she never breaded the eggplant. She didn’t even use any mozzarella! You can find my recipe for that here.  We have come to know many American versions of Italian food. Sometimes it’s best to stick to your roots.

If you are a member of Weight Watchers you will be happy to know that the following dish serves 10 and each serving is only 6 points. If you are not concerned with calories you should use whole milk ricotta and mozzarella cheese.



  • 2 medium eggplant, sliced lengthwise 1/4″ thick
  • Olive oil cooking spray
  • 1 large egg
  • 15 ounce part-skim ricotta cheese
  • 1/2 cup grated Pecorino Romano cheese
  • 10 ounces frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/8 tsp black pepper
  • 3-4 shaves of fresh nutmeg or 1/4 tsp of ground nutmeg
  • 3 cups of homemade Marinara Sauce, recipe here *
  • 1/2 pound part skim shredded mozzarella

*leave out the butter and only use 3 tablespoons of olive oil for Weight Watchers version.

First thing is to prepare the eggplant. Slice the eggplant 1/4 inch thick long ways. Use a mandolin slicer if you have one. I like the OXO Good Grips V-Blade slicer. If you do it with a knife, use a very sharp or serrated blade for the best cut. You should wind up with 20 usable slices of eggplant. Sprinkle the sliced eggplant with kosher salt and let sit to drain in a colander for about 1/2 hour. Dry each slice off with a paper towel.


Heat your oven to 400 degrees. Using a large sheet pan, lightly spray the pan with olive oil. Place the eggplant on the pan in a single layer, fitting as many slices as you can side by side. Lightly spray the top of the eggplant with the olive oil. Cover tightly with foil and bake for 10 minutes. Use 2-3 pans if you need to fit all the eggplant in one time. Don’t over cook at this point, it’s easier to handle if it’s a little under cooked. The eggplant will finish cooking later. Once cooked remove the foil (save it for later) and allow to cool enough for you to handle


While the eggplant is cooking, in a medium bowl, mix the egg, ricotta, grated cheese, spinach, garlic, salt, pepper and ground nutmeg till well combined. Set aside.

Add about 1/4 cup of marinara sauce to the bottom of a 9 x 13 baking dish. Spread it out evenly.


On your work surface lay out two slices of cooked eggplant slightly overlapping each other long ways. Spoon about 3 heaping tablespoons of the ricotta mixture onto the short end of the eggplant.


Carefully roll the eggplant around the ricotta filling and place seam side down in the prepared baking dish.


Do the same with the remaining eggplant until you have 10 servings. If you have any eggplant left over, no problem. Just double layer some of the rollatine with them. I don’t like wasting anything. I even cook the little scraps and just add it right in when I roll up the eggplant.


Spoon the remaining marinara sauce over the eggplant.


Cover with the shredded mozzarella and another 2 tablespoons of grated Pecorino Romano cheese. Cover the dish with aluminum foil and bake 1 hour at 350 degrees.


Remove the foil and bake an additional 10 minutes.


Allow to cool for 10 minutes before serving.

Posted in vegetable | Tagged , , | 3 Comments

Oxtail Stew

October had different meanings for me growing up in Brooklyn then it does now living in the northern suburbs as an adult. Halloween was in October. And if you lived in Bensonhurst, you looked forward to Halloween.  Halloween was the first holiday your mother opened up the large chest in the basement that stored all the Halloween decorations. They were usually on top of the larger assortment of Christmas decorations that were stored in the same chest, just below. I would follow my mother into the basement as she headed towards the chest of holiday treasure. As soon as she opened it I could smell the faint aroma of pine from last year’s Christmas. It was an amazing smell and brought back all the childhood memories I had of Christmas past. But first, it was Halloween.Halloween1

Mom carefully lifted the familiar fragile paper decorations with dried tape marks on them  left from last year’s Halloween. I can’t tell you how many years these decorations were used. A smiling pumpkin, a black cat, a skeleton, Witches.4ddd06d13f7e89bee3f72137c7bcc977The challenge was to set up the skeleton on the front door with the legs and arms bent in such a way that they would scare everyone coming to the door.  I had the same challenge with the black cat. 3742f1051340de6b943826e73e76641fThe cat had to be positioned just right so it looked like it was about to jump at you. At least that’s what I thought. Most of the other decorations were just taped to our front porch windows, in hopes that the trick or treaters would know this was the house with the best candy. Once the decorations were up the decision had to be made as to what I was going to be for Halloween. That was the questions all your friends asked in October, “Hey Pete! What are you going to be for Halloween?” A pirate, a hobo, Dracula, Superman. SUPERMAN! That was my best Halloween ever, the year I was Superman. My mother made that costume for me and I loved it. I practiced for days, weeks before Halloween, flying around the house jumping from sofa to sofa in my Superman costume. I loved it! I”m glad I was smart enough to realize that I really couldn’t fly, but that didn’t matter, I dreamed I could.

Trick or Treat came to an end at the age of 13. We were teenagers now and Trick or Treat was for kids. Now, Halloween took on a whole new meaning. Somehow we went from collecting candy to throwing eggs and beating each other with sweat socks filled with chalk powder. We mostly took out our “aggression” on each other and not neighbor’s property. Unless of course you were that family on the block that would constantly chase us kids away from playing in front of their house. But I’ll plead the 5th on that one.

Today, October means a lot of different things. Living in the suburbs of New York we get to enjoy the beautiful fall foliage as only one can living in the northeast. The days are usually sunny, cool and crisp and the local farms are pressing apple cider and selling apple cider doughnuts. Nothing is quite as good as New York State Apples. The sunny warm fall days and cool nights are perfect for the ripening of apples and they do really well in this part of the country. Another phenomenon which recently surfaced is the influx of everything pumpkin. From coffee to beer, October brings out pumpkin flavored everything. Some good, some not so good. And not so far away, Thanksgiving. My favorite food holiday. I almost can’t wait for Christmas!!!!!

Oxtail Stew is the perfect fall dish to make for those cool October evenings.


Oxtail Stew

  • 5-6 pounds of Oxtail (beef), cut into 2 inch pieces
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour for dredging
  • salt and pepper
  • 1/4 cup light olive oil
  • 4 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 2 stalks celery, chopped
  • 5 carrots, scrubbed, un-skinned, and cut into 2 inch chunks
  • 1 cup of red wine
  • 1 – 28 oz. can of Italian Plum tomatoes, such as San Marzano, with their juices, crushed by hand
  • 3 bay leaves
  • a few sprigs of fresh thyme
  • a few sprigs of fresh rosemary
  • water to cover
  • 1/2 – 1 pound of wide pasta such as Mafaldine or Pappardelle
  • Grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese

Preheat oven to 325 F.


In a large dutch oven, heat 1/4 cup olive oil on medium high heat. In a medium bowl mix 1 cup of flour with salt and pepper to taste. Dredge the oxtail pieces in the flour and brown them in the pot, not overcrowding them.


Brown them in batches if you need to. Remove from the pot and place on a plate.


Add to the pot the carrots, onions, and celery and stir well. Add salt and pepper to taste. Leave untouched about 4-5 minutes till they start browning before you stir up. This browning adds to the flavor. Add the chopped garlic and stir, cooking for another 1-2 minutes. Deglaze the pot with the cup of red wine and cook down for 2 minutes. Add the tomatoes straight from the can, crushing each plum tomato by hand. Add all the juices from the can. Stir well. Add back the oxtail into the pot.  Add enough water to the pot so everything is just covered. Stir well. Pull the rosemary from their stems and roughly chop and add to pot, along with the whole sprigs of thyme (you can fish out the stems at the end) and the bay leaves. Stir well and bring to a boil. Cover and place in the oven for three hours. Check halfway through to see if it needs more liquid to keep everything covered.


Once the stew is cooked, taste for salt and pepper and you can eat it just like that with some mashed potatoes on the side along with a salad . I like to pick the meat from the bones. I throw out the bones and place the shredded meat back into the pot.


Cook the pasta till al dente and after you strain it add back to the pot. Put a couple of ladles of the sauce and stew on the pasta and stir it up. Place the dressed pasta in large bowls and add more of the stew right on top.


Sprinkle with some Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese on top and enjoy.

Posted in Beef | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

Chicken and Potatoes Peasant Style

When my grandmother made any meal that included chicken and vinegar, just the aroma from cooking it made me run upstairs in our house to see what was in the oven. When I make this simple dish I can’t help but see my grandmother in her faded floral apron bending over the open oven spooning the juices in the pan over the chicken, and giving it a little taste to see if she added enough salt. She always had a smile on her face when she put the spoon down.  My grandfather would be sitting in the dining room reading his Sunday paper and anticipating when my grandmother would call him in to eat. I was never far behind him. That’s one of the advantages of living in the same house as your grandparents, you always had something good to eat. If I finished dinner with my family early I could run upstairs to see what grandma was cooking. And I usually did.

This is another “one pan dish”.  A simple Sicilian Peasant chicken that is full of flavor. Just add a salad and some bread and you have a complete Sunday supper. If you open the windows a bit you also might get a visit from the neighbors to see what’s cooking. So make plenty.

The secret here is you soak the chicken in a mixture of vinegar and water. This acts like a marinade while you are preparing the rest of the dish.


Chicken and Potatoes Peasant Style

  • 1 whole chicken, cut up
  • 1 cup of white vinegar
  • 3 medium potatoes cut into small pieces (I like to leave the skin on)
  • 2 small onions, rough chop
  • 1 cup of white wine
  • 4 very ripe fresh plumb tomatoes, cut into medium dice
  • 1 large sprig of fresh rosemary
  • 1 teaspoon of dried thyme
  • 1 teaspoon of dried oregano
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/4 cup olive oil

Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees.


Place the chicken in a large bowl or pot to fit and pour in the cup of white vinegar. Add cold tap water till chicken is covered. Let sit for 20 minutes.

In the meantime, toss into a large roasting pan, the potatoes, onions, white wine, fresh tomatoes, rosemary, thyme, oregano, salt and pepper and olive oil.

Drain the chicken, no need to rinse, just pat dry with paper towel.  Add to the pan and toss till everything is mixed well. Arrange the chicken, skin side down, between the vegetables in the pan. Roast for 35 minutes. Turn the chicken skin side up and stir up the vegetables. Cook for another 35-40 minutes, or until chicken and potatoes are golden brown.


Posted in Chicken | Tagged , , , , | 11 Comments

Eggplant Parmigiana – Italian/American Style

This is the standard for Eggplant Parmigiana at any Italian Restaurant or Pizzeria in the United States. I’m not knocking it, on the contrary, I could eat this every day. But this is not the way my grandmother used to make Eggplant Parmigiana. Back in November of 2010 I posted Grandma’s Eggplant Parmigiana here. This dish and my Grandma’s dish are very different. Grandma did not bread the eggplant and she did not use mozzarella cheese in the layers. Other than that, they are similar. What version you like best you will have to judge for yourself. I like them both.

This is the classic recipe for eggplant parmigiana, except I like to use grated sharp provolone along with the Parmesan cheese and mozzarella.  I think it adds a little more depth to the dish.  This dish has a lot of steps and is very time-consuming to prepare, so I make enough to freeze a tray for another meal. The end results is well worth your effort and time and whatever you don’t get to finish at the first meal only gets better the next day, warm or cold.


Eggplant Parmigiana

For the Sauce:

  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 onions, chopped
  • 6 cloves of garlic, diced
  • Salt
  • 1/2 or 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes, according to taste
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 3 cans of San Marzano peeled tomatoes, crushed by hand


  • 3 medium eggplant, sliced 1/4 inch rounds
  • kosher salt
  • 3/4 cup flour
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 6 large eggs, beaten
  • 3 tablespoons of whole milk
  • 4 cups Italian flavored breadcrumbs
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • peanut oil for frying as needed
  • 1 1/2 pounds mozzarella cheese, sliced
  • 1 pound sharp provolone, grated
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • fresh torn basil leaves


Slice the eggplant into 1/4 inch rounds. I leave the skin on. Salt each side of the cut eggplant and place either on a colander to drain or a sheet pan. Let sit for one hour. This salting draws out the bitterness of the eggplant.  At the end of the hour rinse the eggplant with cool water and dry well with paper towel or dish towel. Set aside.

After you salted your eggplant you can start on the sauce while the eggplant sit for an hour. In a large sauce pot heat the olive oil on medium flame. Add the onions, garlic, a sprinkling of salt and red pepper flakes. Cook, stirring occasionally for about 5 minuets or until the onions are soft and translucent. Add the cans of San Marzano tomatoes and sugar. You can crush the tomatoes by hand as you place them in the pot or toss in all three cans of tomatoes and mash down the tomatoes with a potato masher, just to break them up.


You’re looking for a chunky tomato sauce so you don’t have to make puree out of it. Bring the sauce to a boil, lower the heat to medium and simmer uncovered for 30 minutes, or until thickened. Taste for salt and pepper. Set aside.


While the sauce is cooking you can start your assembly line to bread and fry the eggplant. I use 3 – 9″x 9″ aluminum pans to hold the flour, egg wash and bread crumbs. In one pan or plate add your flour and a good sprinkle of salt and black pepper. In the second pan beat the 6 eggs with milk, season with salt and pepper and in the third pan add the flavored breadcrumbs and oregano.

Take your dried eggplant and coat it in the flour first, then dip into the egg wash to cover the entire eggplant, then bread them on both sides. Try and keep one hand for the wet ingredients and the other hand for the dry ingredients so you don’t get all your fingers “caked up”. But I don’t care how hard you try, your hands will be a mess. Not to worry, it all washes off.  Place the breaded eggplant on a sheet pan until you are ready to fry them.


In a large skillet or saute pan heat about 1/2″ of oil on medium high heat, until the oil reaches about 380 degrees. Fry each eggplant in the hot oil about 1 minutes each side or until golden brown. Don’t overcrowd the eggplant, fry in small batches until all the eggplant is fried. Place the cooked eggplant on layers of paper towel to absorb the excess oil. After each layer of eggplant place another sheet of paper towel. Once you have fried all the eggplant you are ready to assemble the dish.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

In a 9×13 baking dish pour a ladle and a half of sauce.


Put a single layer of eggplant on top of the sauce. It’s OK if some of the eggplant overlaps.


Top with the mozzarella cheese, a sprinkle of Parmesan and provolone cheese and a few fresh basil leaves torn over the top.


Ladle on more sauce and repeat the layers. You should have 3 layers of eggplant ending with mozzarella. Bake the eggplant for about 30-45 minutes or until bubbly.


Allow to rest for 15 minutes before cutting and serving.

This recipe makes two trays of eggplant Parmigiana. Do not bake the second tray. Cover the top with plastic wrap and cover that tightly with aluminum foil. Will stay in the freezer up to 6 months. Take out the night before to thaw in the refrigerator before baking for 35-45 minutes covered,  or until bubbly. Take the cover off the last 15 minutes.


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Red Wine and Coffee Braised Short Ribs

My children are responsible for placing me on different paths in the culinary world. Their encouragement and positive reviews also make all the work and preparation worth it. Nothing is more rewarding to the chef than to have someone appreciate the food you make. It’s the only reward you need. Years ago my sons got me a smoker. That summer I was having a ball experimenting with smoked meats and fish and telling the whole neighborhood that smelling hickory smoke all day is a  good thing. The most recent addition to my kitchen arsenal is a slow cooker.  My children got me a slow cooker for my birthday this year. I have not had one since the 70’s, and back then we called them crock pots. Today’s slow cookers come with some nice modern electronic features that helps you control and hold the cooking process. But in the end, all it does is slowly cook your food at low temperatures resulting in a tender, fall off the bone meat dish with tons of infused flavor. Mmmmmm!

So naturally, I’m now experimenting using my new slow cooker with some time-tested recipes I know. Braised short ribs heads my list of things to try. So here you go. What’s not to love about short ribs. If prepared properly, it’s one of the most tastiest, beefy , mouth-watering morsels you can put in your mouth.

I thought it would be fitting to include my new slow cooker in my short rib recipe and put it to work.  This dish takes two days to prepare, so just know, in the end, it’s worth it. Once prepared and cooked you can chill your short ribs for a few days before you heat and serve them. They only get better with time.


Red Wine and Coffee Braised Short Ribs

  • 1/2 cup red wine
  • 1 cup strong brewed coffee, cooled
  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1/4 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 Jalapeno peppers, minced (if you don’t want a lot of heat scrape off and discard the seeds)
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne
  • 1/2 teaspoon tried thyme
  • 5 pounds of beef short ribs, cut into 3 inch pieces

In a glass 13 x 9 inch glass baking dish, such as Pyrex, combine the coffee, vinegar, brown sugar, onion, garlic, jalapeno, bay leaves, paprika, salt and pepper, cayenne and thyme. Add the short ribs and turn to coat, leaving the meaty part facing down in the marinade. Cover the dish with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

The next day take the marinated short ribs out of the refrigerator an hour before cooking them. Place all the short ribs and marinade in your slow cooker and cover. Cook on high for 5 1/2 – 6 hours or low 11 to 12 hours. Both time tables gives you great results, it’s just a matter of how long you want them in for. If you’re home while cooking you might want them done sooner. If you set it and leave for the day the longer time will work for you.

Remove the short ribs from the liquid and place covered in the refrigerator. Pour the liquid into a container and allow the liquid to cool to remove the fat layer. When you are ready to reheat the meal, strain the liquid of all the solids and place into your slow cooker. Add the meat and reheat the meat and the liquid just before serving. An hour on high should do the trick. If you want more intense flavor, reduce the liquid by half in a sauce pan.


I serve these short ribs over a mound of mashed potatoes with the gravy drizzled over all. Make a green vegetable side dish and your meal is ready.

Posted in Beef | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

Lentil Soup with Italian Sausage and Kale

Rose.      FEATURE

Rose, Rosie, Roe, Mom, Aunt Rose, Grandma, Nana, a rose by any other name would smell as sweet. You broke my heart for the first time last week Mom.

Mom would have been 96 years old on October 27th. But we’ll just give her those few days. She passed on October 14.

She was born in 1918, so long ago. World War 1 ended in 1918. She survived the Spanish flu pandemic.  The US House of Representatives passed the amendment allowing women to vote in 1918.  Mom started her life on Elizabeth Street in the heart of “little Italy” in New York City. I guess you could say she was “old school”. That’s an understatement. She lived through the Great Depression, which influenced the rest of her life, and World War II, as well did my Father.  The influence she had on me and my brother and sister was epic. She made us what we are today. Her and my grandmother were my mentors in the kitchen. Everything I know and cook today was influenced by them. All of the recipes in my blog I cooked because of them. If you enjoy only one of those dishes, you can thank her. What I share on these pages are their legacy. And what a legacy they left.

I’ve been tested throughout my life by my mother. Early on she nurtured me and was always there for me. She bandaged my cut knee and chin and kissed the hurt goodbye. She saved my life a number of times. Once from a stubborn fruit bowl that got stuck on my head and another time when I stopped breathing from a bad fall and she lifted me up and ran with me in her arms to Doctor Gennarelli’s office at the end of my block. As caring and nurturing as she was she played the role as the disciplinarian in the family. My father was too busy going to work everyday and when he was home he would take his time to play and have fun with us. Mom always meant business.

My mother played a major role in making sure my brother Richard was not influenced by the high school gang members that turned out as wise guys from the neighborhood and landed in jail or were killed. She made sure she would know where and with who each of her children were hanging out with, going as far as meeting the families of our friends and getting close to them as we were with their children. My mother would never go to sleep unless we were all home in bed, no matter how old we were and what time we came back in. She always encouraged us to be the best that we could be. And if we didn’t quite make it to the finish line she praised us for our effort and giving it a good try. She was our safety net, our boo-boo blanket, our security blanket.

We loved her, we feared her, we always wanted to please her. We would also get very angry at her. Like the time I was paged at the Atlanta airport on my way home from a trip to Florida. When the airline administrator heard my voice on the phone she was surprised to hear I was a 42-year-old adult. She thought I was a child traveling alone when she got the message from my mother that my flight was cancelled to Newark and she booked me on a flight to Kennedy. My car was in Newark, and I didn’t need my mother’s help to get me home that afternoon. That was the last time I ever gave my mother flight information about my travels. She knew when I left, and I’d call her when I returned. But then again, my mother knew where I was before I even got there. She was always a step ahead of us. Ya just couldn’t fool Mom.

Like the time I played too much hooky from school. My guidance counselor, who my mother was very close with, called the house that day to see how I was doing because I was not in school all week. Much to my mother’s surprise.  She knew exactly where to go to find me, and dragged me home with her iron grip. I had no hiding places in my room from my mom. If she didn’t like what I had, or it was contraband, she would make it disappear, without a mention of a word. My mother’s word was law, and if you didn’t agree with her….too bad.

She never thought I could be happy unless I got married again. She would always say, ” I pray every night for you that you find someone who loves you and takes care of you”. I would tell her, “Mom, I’m very happy, I have plenty of friends and family. And besides, Bella, my dog, is always home to greet me when I arrive with her tail wagging.” She always thought that was amusing. All she ever wanted in life was to see her children and grandchildren happy. That is what she lived for. Nothing else mattered to her.

That night, after I found out she died, the first thing I thought of while I tried to go to sleep was my safety net was gone, my security blanket was not there anymore. It was a very lonely and scary feeling. And then I thought, this is what she prepared us for her entire life. These were the lessons taught and learned. Her compassion, her loving nature, her life lessons all came rushing back to me that night. She did for us what she thought  was best. She was always there to help us, it didn’t matter if we didn’t need it. In her own way she taught us to live in a very hard and cruel world and to find a safe haven and love in family. To always be close to one another because that is what got her through growing up in her world. You can always depend on family. They never let you down. I still had plenty of safety nets around me, by brother, my sister, my children. I know and realize I will never be alone. Thanks for teaching me that Mom.


Hot soup on a cold and damp fall day is like a mother’s hug. It’s a comfort food that makes you feel good inside. This soup is a  very simple soup to make and also very nutritious. If you are watching your calories you can have a serving of this soup and only use up 250 calories. Heck, have two bowls.


Lentil Soup with Italian Sausage and Kale

  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 3/4 cup chopped celery
  • 2 medium carrots, chopped
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • Salt & Pepper to taste
  • 16 ounces of dried lentils, rinsed
  • 28 ounces canned whole tomatoes,  chopped
  • 2 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 1 sprig fresh rosemary
  • 4-5 Italian pork sausages, a little over a pound.
  • 2 cups chopped kale or 12 ounces of frozen kale, thawed

In a medium frying pan over medium heat, add 1/2 cup of water. Prick each sausage in three places with a fork and place them in the frying pan and cover. Cook till the water evaporates. Continue to cook uncovered until the sausages are nice and brown. Remove the sausages to a plate and allow to cool in the refrigerator while you prepare the rest of the soup.

Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a large, heavy pot and add the carrots, celery, onion and garlic. Add a big pinch of salt and some pepper. Cook until softened, about 5 minutes.

Stir in the lentils, tomatoes and 6 cups water. Add the thyme and rosemary and a couple more pinches of salt. Bring to a boil, cover,  and then lower the heat to a simmer. Cook until the lentils are tender, about 1 hour, adding more water if necessary to cover the vegetables.

Meanwhile slice the cooled sausages into half moons.

When the lentils are just tender, taste the soup and add more salt if necessary. Add the kale and cook for about 10 minutes covered, until the kale is tender. Stir in the sausage and cook for another 5 minutes.

Serves 6
250 calories per serving

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Sourdough Pancakes

I know, this is the third sourdough posting in a row. I’m having fun with it and want to share. I know this is not Italian food. But it’s my food. And I think my readers trust me that when I post something it has to be good. And this is really good.

There really is no substitute for sour dough. You need to take the first step and develop your own sourdough starter. It’s easy and simple. My first posting, Sourdough Bread, has the instructions on how to develop those little beasties right in your own kitchen.

Sourdough pancakes don’t taste like any other pancake. Not buttermilk or buckwheat, they have a flavor all their own. Whenever I have a high carb breakfast, like a bowl of oatmeal or pancakes or waffles, I’m usually hungry three hours later. It’s like a flash in the pan. The carbs burn up quickly and I’m left starving before lunch. Not with Sourdough Pancakes. Sourdough pancakes have nothing in common with other pancakes, except in shape and color. And the proof is in the pudding, or sourdough. After a breakfast of sourdough pancakes I’m good until lunch, late lunch. These hotcakes really stick to your ribs. It has to be the high protein content of sourdough. The fermentation of the wild yeast changes things in the flour. It breaks down the grain into amino acids and makes it tolerable even for the gluten intolerant. If you are interested in all the health benefits of sourdough  you should read this article by Sasha Navazesh.

I’ve been making pancakes since the age of 9 or 10. When my mother Rose would get up in the morning and start making breakfast for by brother Richard and sister Annette, I would sit it out. “I’ll make my own breakfast, Mom”, I would say to her dismay. I just liked the way I did it better. My mother was a great cook. I learned everything I know from her and my Grandmother. But my breakfast had to be a certain way. Till this day, when I make breakfast for my sons, they tell me that no one makes bacon and eggs or pancakes and waffles like I do. By now I think I have it down pat. These sourdough pancakes are worth the effort of keeping a pot of sourdough starter going just for them. They are the most tasty, lightest and satisfying hotcakes I ever had. And they taste nothing like regular pancakes, even with all the added butter and syrup and honey you put on. These hotcakes stand alone.

IMG_2515sourdough pancakes cooking Italian comfort food

Sourdough Pancakes

  • 2 cups sourdough starter
  • 2 tablespoons of sugar
  • 4 tablespoons of melted lard or butter or vegetable oil ( I prefer the lard that I make from the pastured pigs I get)
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 teaspoon of salt
  • 1 teaspoon of baking soda diluted with 1 tablespoon of warm water

The night before I want to make pancakes I take out my sourdough from the refrigerator, stir it up and place a cup of it in a large mixing bowl. I replace what I took out of my sourdough container with a cup of flour and half cup of filtered  water. I let it sit on the counter for an hour before I place it back in the fridge to be ready for my next recipe.


To the cup of sourdough I just placed in the mixing bowl, I add a cup of flour and a cup of filtered or spring water. Stir it up, and cover the top with a paper towel or plastic wrap, and let it sit on your counter overnight. The next morning I should have a full 2 cups of  bubbling active sourdough in my bowl. Check to see if it’s the consistency you want in your pancake batter. You can add more water or flour at this point to get it there.


Beat the egg and add that to the sourdough, along with the salt, melted butter and sugar. Stir it up well. Leave the baking soda to the very end when your griddle is hot and ready. Once you have your griddle hot, butter it with some butter. Add the baking soda mixed with 1 tablespoon of warm water and gently fold this into your sourdough. Don’t mix it hard . You will notice the soda reacting to the sourdough and bubbling up.


Pour your sourdough batter onto the hot grill. Wait till the top bubbles before turning.


Turn only once and NEVER pat down your pancake with your spatula. Leave it until you are ready to place it on your plate.


Top with butter, honey or syrup and enjoy.

If you want blueberry sourdough pancakes add a handful of blueberries to the pancake you just poured onto the griddle. Flip it over when ready and enjoy.

I have to say, these hotcakes are good enough to have for dinner. Add some breakfast sausage or bacon or smoked ham to the side and a hot cup of Joe and your set. Guess what I’m having for dinner tonight?

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No Knead Rustic Sourdough Bread

Some of you might have heard of No Knead bread. It’s relatively a new concept in the world of bread making. The idea is to leave a very wet  dough to rise over a long period of time which helps develop the gluten strands. This takes the place of kneading.  This process gives the bread a wonderful airy center crumb and crisp crust. Also it’s baked in a large pot or dutch oven covered.  If you were using commercial yeast you would use maybe a quarter of what is needed to leaven the amount of flour in the recipe. That’s why you can let the dough sit from 12 to 18 hours waiting for it to rise. Making a sourdough no knead bread uses the same idea except the wild yeast from your starter gives the bread an added sourdough tang. That’s something you just can’t get from commercial years. If you do not have your own sourdough starter please reference my previous post Sourdough Bread. There I explain the way you can capture your own wild yeast and make a starter culture that you can use forever in your bread making adventure. Why bother buying yeast when mother nature provides all you can ever want.

IMG_2525 Cooking Italian Comfort Food

No Knead Rustic Sourdough Bread

  • 16 ounces of unbleached bread flour or 4 ounces of whole wheat and 12 ounces of unbleached bread flour
  • 1 1/4 teaspoon of sea salt
  • 1 1/2 cups warm filtered or spring water
  • 1/4 cup sourdough starter

Some starter might be thinner than needed for this recipe. The best way I can figure to have the right starter consistency is to place the 1/4 cup starter in a large mixing bowl and add 1-2 tablespoons of flour and stir till you get the consistency of a dough that will just about hold its own shape. This amount of flour is above the 16 ounces needed for the recipe. Add the warm water to your starter ball and mix to dissolve the starter as much as possible. Add the salt and stir. Add about 8 ounces of the flour and stir with a wooden spoon until you have a sticky mass. No knead sourdough bread cooking Italian comfort food Add the rest of the flour and stir till it’s all incorporated. That stirring motion is what also helps develop the gluten strands. Cooking Italian Comfort Food Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and allow to rise in a warm place for 18 hours. Best temperature is 80-85 degrees F. I found if I turn my oven on for 25 seconds and then shut it off, the temperature inside the oven will reach 85 degrees F.  It will stay close to that for the 18 hours. Just make sure you have a kitchen thermometer handy to make sure of the temperature. If you are doubtful, just leave it on your kitchen counter.


Liberally flour your work surface. Scrape out the dough onto your work surface.

IMG_2500 Cooking Italian Comfort Food

Sprinkle more flour over the dough and gently fold the ends onto each other on all four sides,  like folding a piece of paper before putting it in an envelope. Do this twice. Allow the dough to rest 15 minutes.


Sprinkle some flour in a greased bowl that will hold the dough with enough room to double in size. Allow the dough to rise 2 hours in the bowl covered.

The best possible place you can bake this bread is in a La Cloche. If you don’t have one, a large dutch oven with a lid or enameled cast iron pot such as Le Creuset works just as well.


Le Creuset


La Cloche

Preheat your oven to 500 degrees F with the La Cloche, or whatever you are using, in the oven. Pull out the oven shelf halfway and with an oven mitt, remove the cover and place close by. With your thumbs on the bottom of the bowl with the sour dough and your four fingers of each hand lightly holding the top of the dough, flip the bowl over and “dump” the dough onto the La Cloche pan or pot, releasing the dough with your fingers once it’s over the pan. Quickly put back on your oven mitt and cover the pan. Slide the shelf back into the oven and bake for 30 minutes. Lower the oven to 450 degrees F and remove the lid and bake another 10-15 minutes until your loaf is golden brown.

IMG_2522Rustic Sourdough Bread Cooking Italian Comfort Food

Cool the loaf on a wire rack for at least 30 minutes before slicing into it. I know, it will be hard, control yourself. If you cut it when the bread is too hot you will ruin the crumb, the inside of the loaf. You can take this time to listen to the loaf “crackle” as it cools. Or, whatever you feel like doing. Just wait the full 30 minutes.



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Sourdough Bread

I have been playing around with sourdough again. I was doing it for years and then I lost my sourdough culture after Superstorm Sandy. I lost my power for two weeks and whatever I had in my refrigerator was gone. I wasn’t in the frame of mind to save anything, other than the essentials, milk, eggs, etc. No power, no water, no heat. I was just trying to get through day by day.  It was at that point I stopped making sourdough.

A couple of weeks ago my son Joseph mentioned some of the best bread he ever ate was my sourdough bread. He planted the seed. I had to start from scratch. If you never had sourdough bread you have missed the way bread was made for thousands of years. The ancient Egyptians used wild yeast to ferment alcoholic beverages and leaven bread over 5,000 years ago. It wasn’t till the 1860’s and the invention of the microscope did scientist isolate these tiny organisms as yeast. Once they did that they were able to select pure strands of yeast and started to use them in commercial baking. It was a boom for bakers, they were able to produce bread in record time. Only problem was they bypassed the fermentation stages of bread making and lost the amazing taste that came with it.  Wild yeast takes much longer to leaven bread than modern commercial yeast. When the dough sits for 8-16 hours many other things happen. Real sour dough is probiotic, like yogurt. So not only is it better for you, but the taste is unequaled. The lactic acid that is produced during the fermenting period gives the sour dough that tang. I’m not going to get into all the health benefits. Let’s just say the Roman soldiers and Yukon miners all lived off of sourdough bread. It gave them all the protein and nutrients they needed. Sourdough also breaks down the gluten in the grain resulting in bread that gluten sensitive people can eat.

To get myself started, I took a plastic pint container and added a cup of purified water (you don’t want any chlorine or other chemicals in the water) or bottled spring water and added that to the container along with a half cup of bread flour and half cup of whole wheat flour. I mixed it all together well.  I left the container on my window sill with the cover placed loosely on top for 24 hours. The next day the “batter” looked just like flour and water. No activity yet. It takes 4-6 days before you see the bubbles of any active wild yeast. I discarded 1/2 cup of the batter and mixed in another 1/2 cup of water and 1 cup of bread flour. I placed it back on the window sill and let it sit for another 24 hours. After the second day there still was no activity. I repeated the procedure the third day, empty 1/2 cup of batter and add in 1/2 cup water and 1 cup of flour. By the fourth day I began to see bubbles in the mixture. The wild yeast from the air and flour started growing. If you smell it at this point is has a yeasty smell. I continued emptying a half cup of batter and adding a half cup of water and cup of flour for another three days. By now the starter was fully active. Within 4 to 6 hours of feeding it I was able to see the expansion of the culture. At this point I placed it all in a wide mouth quart Mason jar. This will be my sour dough cultures new home. Will will call this mixture “starter”.Cooking Italian Comfort Food Sourdough Starter

If you left the starter out at room temperature you would have to feed it every 6 hours or so. It would get to the point where it would over flow the glass jar. Being we are not commercial bakers, we might only bake bread once a week. So you have to keep your starter in the refrigerator to slow down the process and “deactivate” the yeast. You need to take the starter out a day or two before your bread making in order to reactivate it. It’s quite simple to do. After the starter has been in the fridge for a week, take it out, stir it up well and empty out and discard a 1/2 cup of starter. Add 1/2 cup of warm water and 1 cup of flour. Stir well and leave at room temperature. At this point you only want the jar 3/4 full. You need the extra space for it to expand without over flowing. NEVER TIGHTEN THE LID. JUST LOOSELY PLACE ON TOP. Other wise the jar could explode from the pressure of the gas released by the yeast. You will notice that within 6 hours or so the starter is expanding to the top of the jar. I keep the consistency of my starter like a really thick pancake batter, not too runny and not too stiff. You should be able to stand a spoon up in it.  You can adjust by adding more or less water till you get to the consistency you want. If you leave the starter in the refrigerator for more than a week you will notice a dark liquid forming on the top. That’s fine. We call that “hooch” . It actually protects the yeast from bad bacteria forming. When you are ready to use it just stir it back into the starter and begin.

So, we begin with a starter that has been dormant for over a week. I take it out about a day before I want to make bread. Stir it up and discard at least a half a cup. I now place in 1/2 cup of warm water and stir it in good. I then add 1 cup of bread flour and stir it in well. I place the lid on loosely  and leave it at room temperature for at least 6 hours. You should notice the starter growing. When it reaches the top of the lid it’s activated and ready to use. At this point whatever you use, replace with 1/2 cup of water and 1 cup of flour and leave on the counter to activate for about 4-6 hours before placing it back in the refrigerator and ready for your next loaf of bread. It’s not as complicated as it sounds. If you got the bug to make homemade bread the conventional way, using sourdough starter is just the next logical step. And once you start you will not want to make bread any other way. But remember, real bread making is a time-honored process. And the more time the bread sits, the better it will taste and the better it is for you.

I adapted a recipe I had to make basic white bread using my sourdough starter. This makes 2 loafs of the best tasting, superior toasting sandwich bread you ever had! I also use my KitchenAid stand mixer with the dough hook. Cooking Italian Comfort Food Sourdough Bread

Basic Sourdough White Bread

  • 1/2 cup fully activated Sourdough starter
  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 3 tablespoons of unsalted butter (I use Kerrygold butter)
  • 1 1/2 cups of warm water
  • 5-6 cups bread flour

Place milk, sugar, salt and butter in a small saucepan and heat over low flame until the butter melts. Remove from the heat and cool to lukewarm. Place the 1/2 cup of sourdough starter in the mixing bowl. A tablespoon at a time, add flour and mix with a spoon until you have a firm dough that will keep its shape. The flour you use here is in addition to the 5-6 cups.

Add the cooled milk mixture along with the 1 1/2 cups of warm water and mix well dissolving the ball of starter. Place the bowl on the mixer with your dough hook. Add 4 1/2 cups of flour and turn it slowly up to speed 2 and mix for 1 minute. Continue on speed 2, add the remaining flour, 1/2 cup at a time and mix about 2 minutes, or until the dough clings to the hook and cleans the sides of the bowl. Knead on speed 2 about 2 minutes longer, or until the dough is smooth and elastic. Dough will be slightly sticky to the touch.

Place the dough in a greased bowl, turning to grease the top. Cover and let rise in a warm place for 6 hours, or until doubled in bulk. I found the best place to make the dough rise in a controlled environment is in my oven. I turn on the oven for about 20 seconds and then turn it off. I keep a thermometer in the oven with the dough to make sure the temperature is within 80-85 degrees F. This is the optimum temperature for the dough to rise in. Another trick to keep the oven at this temperature is to turn on the oven lights. The heat generated from the light will keep the temperature about 85 degrees. Just keep an eye on it so it doesn’t go above that.

Punch the dough down and divide in half. To make a loaf, on a lightly floured surface, roll each half into a rectangle approximately 9×14 inches.  A rolling-pin will smooth dough and remove gas bubbles. Starting at the short end, roll dough tightly. Pinch dough to seal seam. Pinch ends and turn under. Place, seam side down in a greased loaf pan. Cover and let the dough rise in a warm place for at least 2 1/2 hours, or until doubled in bulk. Score the top with a serrated knife and bake at 400 degrees F for 30 minutes, or until golden brown. Remove from the pans immediately and cool on a wire racks for at least 30 minutes before cutting.

I will share my recipe for sourdough peasant bread on my next blog.DSCN2477

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