Saturday, December 19, 2009

Holiday Rum Cake

WIth less than one week to go to Christmas, what better way to wrap up this year's posts than with a holiday dessert. Everyone has their favorite cookie recipes, but I guarantee you this recipe takes the cake...literally.

This rum cake recipe was passed along by my good friend Barb Mercer, courtesy of her mom, Mrs. Barbara Drosey. Barb had brought this cake into work a few years back and it was a BIG hit. She was gracious enough to share the recipe, and it's been part of our holiday tradition ever since.

As the story goes, the original recipe was given to Mrs. Drosey by an acquaintance from the beauty salon where she worked. The recipe was actually orginally for a whiskey cake. Mrs. Drosey said it was so strong it was nearly inedible, and powerful enough to get you drunk! She tweaked the recipe, swapping out the whiskey for rum. It has since become a holiday classic.

Thank you, Mrs. Drosey, for allowing me to share your famous recipe.

And thanks to all of you for visiting my blog. I'll be back in the new year with plenty more recipes and stories to share.

Buon Natale e nuovo anno felice!


1 yellow box cake mix
4 eggs
1 3-oz French vanilla instant pudding mix
1 cup milk
1 cup chopped walnuts
2 tblspn flour
1/2 cup oil
2 ounces white rum

1/4 lb butter
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup white rum

Combine cake mix, pudding mix and eggs, blend. Beat in milk, oil and rum. Beat two minutes. Mix flour and nuts together and fold in mixture. Pour into greased and floured tube pan. Bake at 350º for one hour.

Leave cake in pan. Heat butter, sugar and rum in sauce pan, bring to a boil.

Perforate the top of the cake with holes. Pour the hot glaze over it. Leave in pan for two hours. Wrap in foil and refrigerate.

Eat and be merry!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Website Suggestion - Petitchef

For great new recipe suggestions, blog links and recommendations, be sure to check out my friends at Petitchef is a French based cooking recipes portal. Lots of great offerings on their site! I've also added a link under my Recommendations column for easy reference.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Christmas Dinner

Here we are...two weeks away from the big day! Were has the year gone?
Of course, being from an Italian family, our big lead-off for the holiday is the Christmas Eve Feast of Seven Fishes dinner. It's a glorious feast, and one that we look forward to sharing with my family each year.

Christmas Day with my wife's family is just as big a celebration for us. While the meal may not be as complicated as the deep fried, broiled and baked variety from the night before, it's equally as tasty and just as special.

Lasagna Roll-ups
My wife and I are usually responsible for a pasta dish. The common go-to is lasagna. What I like to do as an alternative to the standard lasagna tray is make lasagna roll-ups. It's very simple: just follow your standard lasagna recipe, or the recipe supplied on the lasagna shell box. Instead of layering the pasta and cheese, you'll want to lay the cooked noodles flat on a piece of wax paper. Spread some of your filling on the noodle and gently roll up until it's the size of your fist. Place the roll-ups in a sprayed baking dish side-by-side, spoon your sauce on top, sprinkle with parmesan cheese and bake as you would for traditional lasagna. It makes for easier serving and better portion size.

We also like to make two half trays - one with red sauce and one with chicken broth. The broth version makes for a much lighter dish, yet still has a remarkable taste...lots of great flavor! I suggest going light on the broth at first. Too much broth will make the noodles too soggy and will cause the cheese to run. Check the lasagna often as it cooks and add broth as needed.

Although we don't actually host the dinner, I do have a few other festive recipes that I have made on several special occasions that would work very well for Christmas dinner. Below are the links to the original recipes.

Eggplant Sausage Ziti Casserole
Our good friend Jung made this casserole dish for my wife and I a few years back as part of our Christmas gift. It was a beautiful gesture from the heart, and one that I'll never forget. This is an amazing dish. Hearty, lots of great flavor, wonderful aroma. It's one of my all time favorite dishes, and I can't say enough good things about it. If you want to fill up your guests with one dish, this is it!

Coca Cola Ham
A perfect traditional dish with a nice combination of sweetness and spice!

Crock Pot Risotto
Unlike traditional risotto, which requires a lot of time and attention, this dish is a 'set it and forget it' version that is very good. A great suggestion if you are hosting and want to spend time socializing with your guests!

Bourbon Pecan Smashed Sweet Potatoes
I've made this a number of times as a side with ham, chicken and turkey. Works great with all of the above! A delicious alternative to standard mashed sweet potatoes.

Up next...the most amazing Rum Cake you'll ever taste!!!

Monday, December 7, 2009

Chicken Cutlets: Reader Suggestions!

I got a couple of great follow-ups to last week's post on Chicken Cutlets. Thanks to my pals Johnny DeCarlo and Lisa Gardner-Inglima for submitting the recipes! And thanks Valerie for sharing Neum's recipe on the last post! I owe you a beer next time we head out!

Next up, I'll be posting suggestions for Christmas dinner and a killer recipe for Rum Cake that will knock your socks off!

Submitted by Johnny DeCarlo

In a large bowl, combine one can of cream of chicken soup, one small jar of marinated mushrooms, and ½ a cup of Pinot Grigio

Place 8 chicken cutlets in a shallow buttered casserole pan and season with salt, pepper and garlic powder. Layer two slices of Gruyere cheese on top of each piece of chicken and cover with the sauce

Bring a pot of water to a boil and cook ¼ of a pound of string beans to pre-aldente (¾ of the way through), then pour them all around the chicken—surrounding them

Sprinkle 1 cup of herb stuffing mix combined with ½ cup of slivered almonds on top, along with some diced fresh green shallots. Drizzle 4 tablespoons of melted butter all over the top. Cover pan with foil

Bake in the oven at 350 degrees for about an hour

Serves 6-8

Submitted by Lisa Gardner-Inglima
Dredge cutlets in olive oil (in place of milk and eggs). Roll cutlets in seasoned bread crumbs. Place on grill for a delicious, smokey bbq taste!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Chicken Cutlets: Think Outside the Pan

Like many of you, chicken cutlets are a regular part of the dinner rotation in our house. They're easy to prepare (dip, bread, season, fry, repeat), they work well as either a sandwich or platter, and both kids and adults enjoy them (the last point being a biggie for parents with children who have picky appetites).

Occasionally, my wife and like to stray away from the standard frying method. We've tried baking the breaded cutlets to be a bit more healthy and to avoid the lingering fried smell, but weren't really happy with the end result. Too dry and not enough flavor. There are a few other alternatives to the standard cutlet that we've tried and really liked. I also have a few new ideas that I'll be experimenting with, and I'll be sure to post them as soon as I get to try them. Listed below are some of our favorites. These recipes are easy enough for you to judge for yourself the needed amount of ingredients, depending on your serving size.

Chicken Cutlet Roll-Ups
This dish works well with either breaded or unbreaded cutlets, although I prefer unbreaded. Season both sides of the cutlets with some salt, pepper, garlic and onion powders. Drizzle lightly with olive oil (no need to if you are breading the cutlets). Lay the cutlets flat, then add a layer of thin sliced ham or pepperoni, then a thin slice of provolone cheese. The pepperoni will add more of a spicy flavor, while the ham will be more mild. For a special treat, use a slice of prosciutto, a slice of provolone and a piece of fresh basil. Roll up the cutlet and hold in place with a toothpick. Bake in oven at 350º for 20 minutes or until chicken is done. You can also cook on the grill, turning the chicken every 6 minutes until all sides are done. Be sure to use thin sliced cutlets for easy rolling.

Chicken Pretzel Tenders
This is a fun dish that kids always enjoy, and it also works well as a party or game day appetizer. The pretzels add a nice salty flavor, so no extra seasoning is needed. I've tried both baking and frying this dish, and actually prefer the fried method better. Crush up a bunch of pretzels into tiny pieces, but not to the point where they become powdery. You want to keep some crunchy texture. Simply batter the chicken tenders as you would for standard cutlets, substituting the pretzel crumbs for breadcrumbs. Fry or bake until tenders are done and outside is slightly crispy. For extra flavor, try frying in peanut oil with an added teaspoon of sesame oil. Of course, your regular frying oil will work just fine. Serve with honey mustard for dipping.

Marinated Chicken
Believe it or not, bottled marinade works great with cutlets. It's a quick and easy go-to when you have the marinade on hand. We've used a number of flavors, but always seem to gravitate back to the honey mustard. I would recommend tenders of thicker sliced cutlets. Poke the chicken with a fork to allow the marinade to works its magic. Place the chicken into a large zip-lock bag, add the marinade, shake it up and let it sit in the fridge for up to 8 hours. Place the cutlets into a baking pan or on your grill, discarding the excess marinade. Cook until the chicken is done.

* Do you have a suggestion for chicken cutlets? E-mail me at, or post it on the Cucina Domenico Facebook Group page, and I'll be happy to post your recipe!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Thanksgiving Desserts...and Drinks!!!

Last week I gave you some suggestions on Thanksgiving side dishes (sausage stuffing plus a few sides from last year's post). This week we're dipping into the fun stuff...the dessert! As I said in my previous post, Thanksgiving is all about tradition, and there is nothing more traditional than pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving dessert (don't forget the whipped cream!). Since there are countless recipes out there for pumpkin pie, what I thought I would do is post a couple of alternative pumpkin desserts.

As you probably know by now, my wife is the baker of our house. Just last week, she made a Pumpkin Ribbon cake for my dad's birthday. To say anything less than this cake was off the charts would be a dishonor. It was AMAZING. She found the recipe in a Pampered Chef book, and topped it off with a dollop of cool whip and drizzled it with melted caramel. Sounds decadent, but the cake was actually much lighter than we expected. This one is definitely a winner!

Next up is Pumpkin Tiramisu. I love pumpkin pie, and will probably make one for home. But what kind of Italian would I be to turn down a tiramisu, especially if it's combined with my other favorite dessert! I'll be making this for the first time this week, but I have no doubts that it's a knock-out.

Courtesy of Pampered Chef
2-1/2 cups all purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1-1/2 tsp cinnamon blend (mixture of cinnamon, ginger and allspice)
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1-1/2 c granulated sugar
3/4 cups butter or margarine softened
3 eggs
3/4 cups solid pack pumpkin
1/2 cup milk
1 tsp vanilla

1 pkg (8 oz) cream cheese softened
1/2 cup granulated sugar

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a deep baking dish with nonstick cooking spray.
2. Combine flour, baking powder, spices, baking soda and salt in small bowl. In large bowl beat sugar and butter till light and fluffy. Add eggs, pumpkin,milk and vanilla. Beat well! Slowly add flour mixture to pumpkin mixture. Set aside.
3. Filling- Whisk cream cheese and sugar till well blended. Smooth 2-1/2 cups cake batter on bottom of pan. Spoon cream cheese mixture over cake batter using a large spreader. Pour remaining batter over top and spread evenly.
4. Bake 45-50 minutes . Cake tester will come out clean.

Before serving- sprinkle with powdered sugar-serve with whipped cream sprinkled with a bit of the cinnamon spice mix if desired.

Courtesy of Better Homes and Gardens
1/4 cup pure maple syrup or maple-flavor syrup
1 tablespoon bourbon
1/2 of a 15-ounce can (3/4 cup) pumpkin
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup whipping cream
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 of an 8-ounce container mascarpone cheese, softened
1 tablespoon powdered sugar
1/2 cup whipping cream
1 3-ounce package ladyfingers, split
Ground nutmeg or freshly grated nutmeg

1. Line a 9x5x3-inch loaf pan with plastic wrap; set aside. For syrup, in a small bowl, combine maple syrup and bourbon. Set aside.
2. For filling, in a small bowl, combine pumpkin, cinnamon, ginger, and salt. In a small mixing bowl, combine 1/2 cup whipping cream and granulated sugar. Beat with an electric mixer on medium speed until soft peaks form (tips curl). Gently fold whipped cream into pumpkin mixture.
3. For topping, in another small mixing bowl, combine mascarpone cheese and powdered sugar. Beat on low speed until combined. Gradually beat in 1/2 cup whipping cream just until thickened (do not overbeat).
4. To assemble, arrange half of the ladyfingers in a single layer in the bottom of the prepared pan. Drizzle evenly with half of the syrup. Top with half of the filling, spreading evenly. Arrange remaining ladyfingers in a single layer over filling. Drizzle with remaining syrup and top with remaining filling. Dollop topping over filling. Using the back of a spoon, carefully spread topping evenly over filling. Cover and chill for 8 to 24 hours.
5. Use the plastic wrap to lift tiramisu out of pan. Place tiramisu on a serving platter. Sprinkle with nutmeg. Carefully cut the dessert crosswise into slices. Makes 6 servings.

Now, if you enjoy a tasty holiday cocktail, be sure to check out these fun Thanksgiving drinks. My friend John made his own pumpkin pie shot concoction last year that went over really well at his dinner. The Pumpkin Pie-tini is the closest to his drink recipe, but I'm sure that both of these suggestions will help crank up the fun during dessert.

Wishing you and yours a Happy and Safe Thanksgiving!

1 oz. good quality Gin
1/2 oz. canned cranberry sauce
1/2 oz. Ginger ale
Garnish: 3 roasted walnut halves, speared cranberries or a sprig of rosemary
Shake vigorously with ice and strain into martini glass. Add a float of ginger ale after straining. Garnish with 3 roasted walnut halves, speared cranberries, or a sprig of rosemary

1 oz milk
2 tbsp Pumpkin puree
1.5 oz Three-O vanilla vodka
1.5 oz creme de cacao
Using a small amount of honey, rim martini glass with graham cracker crumbs. Shake milk and pumpkin puree over ice to combine. Pour in remaining ingredients and shake well. Strain into the martini glass.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Thanksgiving Sausage Stuffing

Can you believe that Thanksgiving is less than two weeks away? I couldn't be happier. It's my favorite holiday and my favorite time of the year. It's all about family and tradition, and of course good food. In our house, it always starts off with an argument of which parade to watch on tv, the Philly parade or New York's Macy's parade (I'll admit, I'm a fan of the Macy's parade. Willard Scott IS the voice of Thanksgiving!). Then it's off to Mom's for the best dinner of the year. Follow that up on Black Friday with a trip to G-Boys in Marlton, NJ to check out their amazing Christmas displays and take pics with Santa, then off to spend some good time with my wife's family. Wrap it up on Sunday with the neighborhood tree lighting...a perfect start to the holiday season!

A few of my friends are hosting Thanksgiving for the first time this year, and have asked me for some serving suggestions. Since my mom hosts the 'big dinner,' I don't have many suggestions of my own to offer. That's my mom's gig and I dare not get in her way. Now, we do bring a few sides, and I posted them last year (click here to check them out). However, my mom was gracious enough to share with me her sausage stuffing recipe. This may be my favorite part of the meal. Lots of flavor, and a great mix of crispy and moist texture. I love it even more when reheated on leftover day. My mom prefers to bake it in a pan rather than stuffing it in the turkey. It cooks faster and more evenly. Also, she does not prefer to use the gizzards (the heart and liver of the bird). But if you prefer to use the gizzards in the stuffing, have at it! Just chop them up and saute with some butter, onions and seasoning, then add to the mixture. It does make for more texture and flavor, but it's not necessary to complete the dish.

We're also going to experiment this week with a few alternatives to the traditional desserts. I'll be sure to post them next week!


2 celery stalks, chopped fine
1 medium yellow onion, chopped fine
1/2 stick butter
1lb. Sweet Italian Sausage, removed from casing
Celery Salt
(add all seasonings to taste)
1 bag Pepperidge Farm Herbal Stuffing Mix

In a large pan, melt butter. Add onion and celery and cook until soft. Add sausage, season with salt, pepper, celery salt and oregano. Cook until sausage is brown. In a separate pan, cook 1/2 bag of herbal stuffing (entire bag for larger crowd). Follow instructions on bag for butter and water measurements (for extra flavor, substitute chicken broth for water). When finished cooking, combine herbal stuffing with sausage mixture; stir together. Spoon into a greased 13x9 baking dish (I prefer an aluminum dish for this), cover with aluminum foil and heat in oven at 350º for approximately 30 minutes.

For extra crunch, you can add chopped walnuts, pecans or chestnuts to the mixture before baking.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Sweet and Savory Country Chicken

This week I'm featuring a guest recipe from my friend, Johnny DeCarlo. A few weeks back, I posted a request for some slow cooker ideas on my Cucina Domenico Facebook group page. Johnny submitted this delicious recipe. Be sure to check it out.
Thanks agin for the suggestion, Johnny!


Begin by mixing the following ingredients together in the slow-cooker to make sauce
¾ of a bottle of KC MASTERPIECE bbq sauce
¾ of a bottle of ketchup
1 can of CENTO tomato paste
1 can of chicken broth (then 1 can of water)
½ a jar of GREY POUPON onion dijon
6 tablespoons of balsamic vinegar
4 tablespoons of worcestershire sauce
4 tablespoons of ginger sauce
4 tablespoons of butter
4 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons of honey
3 tablespoons of diced garlic
3 tablespoons of red wine
Spices (a hearty handful of salt, fresh cracked pepper, MC KORMICK steakhouse grinder spice, sugar, brown sugar)

Leave sauce on HIGH for a half hour to get warm, then add in a package of 8 large chicken drumsticks. Keep crockpot on HIGH and allow everything to cook for 6 hours. The sauce will thicken and absorb the juices from the chicken, and the drumsticks will become extremely tender. When ready to serve, arrange platter with boiled rice and drumsticks on top. Ladle out a nice amount of the sauce and pour it all over

Jar extra sauce to use next time. Also makes a nice marinade. This same recipe can be used to slow-cook pork chops and spare ribs

Serves 4-5

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Give me an egg, and I'll give you a meal...

Last week I made myself a nice peppers and egg white sandwich for dinner. Just the smell of the sizzling peppers immediately took me back to when I was a kid, visiting my grandparents on Saturday afternoon. My grandfather would always have a big frying pan of peppers and eggs going on the stove. My grandmother would fix it up in a roll for me, just in time to watch Dr. Shock's weekly monster movie. And we still tell the story of when we were working the church flea market one Saturday afternoon. Like Superman, Grandpop showed up just in time with some peppers and eggs sandwiches for lunch. Ah, the good ol' days!

As with many Italian and Italian-American families, peppers and eggs are a staple. Breakfast, lunch, name it. It's simple, old-world comfort food. My friend Lorraine calls it Italian Soul Food. I love that! For many of us, it also represents a way of life. Your principal handed you the diploma when you graduated. But it was the peppers and eggs sandwich that you mom brown-bagged and handed to you on your first day of work that REALLY meant you were entering the real world.

Of course, peppers and eggs are just one example of Italian Soul Food. My mom would always say, "as long as you have eggs and a vegetable in your fridge, you'll have yourself a meal." This goes for asparagus and eggs, spinach and eggs, potatoes and name it*. Potatoes and eggs are still part of our regular rotation. Hot dogs and eggs (the poor man's ham and eggs) were a favorite dish when I was growing up, and my grandfather would often make the triple-threat...peppers, hot dogs and eggs!

Now, some of you may be wondering...what the difference is between these dishes and an omelette? Think of it as marinara sauce versus Sunday gravy (for a better understanding, check out my Sunday Gravy post). I love me a nice breakfast omelette. You crack a few eggs, scramble them up and add some bacon, tomatoes, peppers...whatever you like. It's quick, like a marinara. The Italian Soul Food version, however, requires some love and patience, like a Sunday gravy. You're also working in reverse order. You start by heating up some oil in a large pan and adding some garlic. Then you add your chopped up vegetables, season to your liking and let them slowly cook up until tender. You can also season the chopped vegetables with onion and garlic powders, some salt and pepper and whatever other seasonings you prefer, prior to frying. This method works particularly well with potatoes. At this point you'll have a heavenly smell wafting in your house, one that not even the best omelette would ever leave behind. Finally, you scramble up some eggs (I prefer to use egg whites for a lower cholesterol version) with salt and pepper and a teaspoon of grated parmesan cheese, then add them to the pan. Stir all ingredients together until eggs are done. The eggs are actually secondary in taste, but play an important role. They're the glue that hold everything else together. Grab yourself a nice roll, and you have yourself a sandwich that will rival any hoagie or cheese steak around!

* You can use egg whites to keep these dishes more heart healthy!

Friday, October 23, 2009

Old-Fashioned Banana Crisp

Let's talk some dessert this week. This recipe originally appeared on The Essence of Emeril many years ago, before the Food Network even had a web page (I actually had to send in a $5 check and a SASE and have the recipe mailed to me!). The original recipe called for a cranberry filling.* I replaced the cranberries for bananas and cut way back on the sugar. I also added a splash of dark rum for a little extra kick...and a good kick it is! This is a great dessert to serve this time of year, using whichever filling you prefer. And don't forget the scoop of vanilla ice cream. And the caramel sauce. Maybe a nice cup of coffee....

Old-Fashioned Banana Crisp

6 large or 8 medium bananas, sliced
1 tablespoon
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
2 cups pecans or walnuts, chopped
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup flour
1 tablespoon dark rum (optional)
1 stick cold butter, cut into small pieces

Preheat oven to 400F.

In a bowl combine bananas, sugar, rum, cinnamon and nutmeg. In another bowl combine nuts, brown sugar and flour. Add butter and mix lightly with your fingers until crumbly.

Fill a 2- to 2 1/2-quart glass baking dish with fruit mixture and top with flour mixture. Bake until bubbly and golden-brown, about 30 minutes. Serve hot or warm.

*NOTE - for the cranberry filling, use 6 cups cranberries and 1 1/2 cups sugar. Apples and peaches would also work well, just be sure to adjust sugar to taste.

This recipe yields 6 to 8 servings.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Pesto Lasagna

Here's a fresh and unique alternative to a traditional Italian dish.

Because the filling between each layer of noodles is not as thick and dense as a traditional cheese and/or meat filling, you are going to end up with more layers of noodles to fill the dish, approximately 10-12 deep.

Instead of making fresh pesto, I decided to use Bellino brand Pesto Sauce with Olive Oil. It's a good alternative to home made – tasty, all natural and no preservatives. One jar equals approximately one cup. For a great fresh pesto, be sure to check out Ina Garten's recipe. It makes 4 cups, so be sure to refrigerate leftover pesto for future use.

For 8x8 dish (serves 4):
1 box uncooked lasagna noodles
2 cups pesto (or 2 jars Pesto Sauce)

For 9x15 dish (serves 6-8):
1-1/2 boxes uncooked lasagna noodles
3 cups pesto (or 3 jars Pesto Sauce)

1/2 cup grated parmesan or pecorino romano cheese

Preheat oven to 385º and set pasta water to boil.

Salt the boiling pasta water, add a spoonful of oil to it so the sheets won’t stick. Add the pasta, three noodles at a time. Cook until al dente, remove the noodles with a slotted spoon, then place on a clean cloth or piece of wax paper to dry.

Melt a dab of butter in a hot serving dish, then lay down a layer of pasta, spread a thin layer of pesto, then lightly sprinkle the pesto with grated cheese. Continue alternating pasta, pesto and sprinkle of cheese until all is used up. Heat, uncovered for 25 minutes. Remove from oven, cover loosely with foil and let sit for 15 minutes before slicing and serving.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

NEW - Veal Pizzaiola (Peez-Eye-Ola)

This is a nice dish that is fairly simple and is easy to serve on either the weekend or during the week. There's not much prep work involved, and it sits on it's own for a good 20-25 minutes. Just enough time for you to settle in with a pre-dinner glass of wine after a long day at work!

4-6 thin slices veal
1 tblspn olive oil
2 cloves garlic, sliced thin
1 15-oz can tomato sauce
1 tablespoon Italian seasoning
handful fresh basil, finely chopped, divided*
salt and pepper to taste
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
4-6 slices of mozzarella or provolone cheese (optional)

Veal Pizzaiola
Heat olive oil, add garlic, sauté for 30 seconds.
Add veal, then immediately add the can of sauce, Italian seasoning, salt,pepper and 2/3 of the chopped basil.
Let simmer on Med-Lo to Medium for 25 minutes, slightly covered.
Add the remaining basil and sprinkle the remaining parmesan cheese, simmer uncovered for 5 minutes. Add the sliced cheese, let sit until cheese is slightly melted.

Serves well with mashed potatoes.

*Note - I like to reserve just a bit of basil until the very end. The first addition marries well with the sauce, while the final addition allows for the fresh taste.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Melanzana Marinata (Marinated Eggplant)

The fall season is finally here...and now is the perfect time to put all of your harvest (or whatever veggies you purchase at the store) to good use! I would always look forward to this time of year, when my grandmother would marinate and jar eggplants. It would be put to especially good use around the holidays when my grandfather would add it to his famous hot pepper salad. I decided to start marinating and jarring eggplant myself a few years back and have now made it a tradition that I look forward to every year. It’s not nearly as labor intensive and time consuming as jarring your own tomato sauce (something I still haven’t done yet!), but there is still some quality time and effort involved. As a time-saver, I now shred the eggplant in the food processor instead of slicing. I also think it makes for easier serving. Whatever method of slicing you prefer will work well. However, after all of the slicing, shredding, straining, boiling and packing (and a few precious months of aging), you will be guaranteed instant gratification. The eggplant works great as a topper on eggs, pizza, sandwiches, cutlets, pasta, name it! It also makes for a nice, from-the-heart holiday gift, as the jars will be ready for serving just after Thanksgiving, if you decide to do the jarring by mid-late September. Give it a’ll be sure to impress!

Melanzana Marinata (Marinated Eggplant)

6 lb. eggplants
2 1/2 tbsp. salt
3 c. white vinegar
2 c extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for topping off jars
6 cloves garlic, peeled & sliced
2 tbsp. dried oregano
1/4 tspn red pepper flakes
4 pint-size glass canning jars (often called mason jars) and 2-piece metal canning lids

Rinse and peel eggplant. Either a) shred the eggplant in a food processor, or b) cut into 1/4 inch lengthwise vertical slices, then cut slices into lengthwise 1/4 inch french fry-size strips. Place the shredded/sliced eggplant into a nonreactive (plastic or stainless) colander and toss with salt. Place a plate on the eggplant and place a weight (several large cans of tomato sauce works well) on the plate. Let colander stand in the sink for 2 hours, so that bitter eggplant juices drain away. Place colander under running cold water and rinse eggplant quickly. After rinsing the eggplant, take a handful at a time and squeeze out all the excess water from it.

Put the eggplant in a bowl with the vinegar and marinate it for 30 minutes (it will return to shape like a wet sponge). Drain the vinegar from the eggplant and squeeze it dry again. Put the eggplant into a bowl with 2 cups olive oil and remaining combined ingredients.

Wash 4 pint jars with hot, soapy water and rinse thoroughly. Then, gently immerse the jars into a large pot of boiling water, turn down heat and let simmer for 10 minutes. Carefully remove jars with tongs. Fill jar with eggplant mixture to within 1 inch of top. Ladle oil into jars, filling them to within 1/2 inch of the top. Wipe rims of jars with a clean, damp cloth, as residue may not allow for lids to seal properly. Immerse lids (flat disc portion only - not the ring part) into hot, but not boiling, water. Remove and press lids onto top of jars. (NOTE: Some lids have different preparation steps, so closely follow the lid manufacturer’s directions for heating time). Screw rings onto cool jars.

Allow jars to cool undisturbed for 24 hours. During cooling, you might hear a soft "ping" when the lids seal tightly. Once the jars are cool, test for vacuum seals by tapping the top of the jar with a spoon. You should hear a bell-like tone, not a "clunk." Also, the lids should be concave; a convex lid is a sign of a bad seal. Finally, the lids should not move when you press on them with your finger. Refrigerate the jars that did not seal properly. (Resealing jars after they have cooled isn’t safe.)

Store the jars in a cool, dark place, such as a cupboard or a basement for at least two months prior to opening. Once the jar has been opened, keep it in the refrigerator.

For complete tips on jarring, please visit

Sunday, September 20, 2009

A Quick Tip on Butternut Squash!

I picked up a butternut squash yesterday at the supermarket, not sure what direction I was going to go with it. Not quite feeling like a soup today, we decided to do the traditional baked - splitting it length-wise, seasoning with butter, nutmeg, cinnamon and brown sugar. To give it a little kick, I threw in a bit of vanilla extract. Worked great...even my 5 year old loved it! Next time I plan to get some toasted pecans in the mix.

I tend to follow the baking instructions that come with the squash. There should be a sticker on the squash with both baking and microwave instructions - the microwave option actually works very well and only takes about 8-10 minutes.

Here's a link to a basic butternut squash recipe that would work well. I just added my own favorite fall spices to the mix.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Calamari e Piselli (Sauteed Calamari and Peas)

I recently picked up a frozen bag of calamari (squid) pieces at the supermarket. I
wanted to try something other than fried calamari, so I went with an old
world-style, rustic dish. Gotta say that I was very impressed with the end
results. We first served it over some penne, but I decided to have a second
helping on it’s own with a nice, thick slice of Italian bread. Works great
either way! Would also make a nice option if you celebrate the Seven Fish
Christmas Eve Dinner.

Calamari e Piselli (Sauteed Calamari and Peas)

Calamari pieces, fresh or frozen* (I used about 1/2 pound of rings and tentacles from a 2-1/2 pound frozen bag)
2 tblspn Olive oil
1 Garlic clove; crushed
1 small Onion; diced
1 15-oz can tomato sauce
1 teaspoon fresh Basil, chopped
splash of red wine
Salt & pepper to taste
1/8 tspn crushed red pepper (optional for some heat)
1 cup frozen peas

*Note - if you are using frozen calamari, be sure to defrost it first. Running it under water in a colander for a few minutes works well

In a large saucepan, heat the oil. Sautee the garlic and onion in the oil
until soft and translucent. Add the calamari pieces and sautee until
slightly brown and tender. The sauteed calamari will create it’s own juice
that blends well with the tomato sauce. Add the tomato sauce, basil, splash
of red wine, crushed red pepper,salt & pepper. Simmer for 30 minutes. Add
the peas and cook for another 10 minutes, stirring frequently. Serve as a
sauce over pasta or as a stand-alone stew.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Grillfest 2009, What's Serving Up Next and Beer!

Today I entered my version of Bobby Flay's Grilled Open Face Cheesesteaks into our street's annual Grillfest competition, adding some caramelized onions as a finishing touch. While I was very happy with the way that my entry turned out (even though the onions still have my house smelling like the corner of 9th and Passyunk), the coveted 'Golden Spatula' award went to our neighbor, Brian, for his incredible Pulled Pork, and rightfully so. However, everyone stepped up to the challenge and brought some amazing dishes. All entries had to be prepared on the grill, and they were all fantastic: Sesame Chicken, Salmon with Watermelon Salsa, Cheesesteak Stromboli, Peppers and Sausage, and Pork with Grilled Peaches. My neighbors really know how to cook, and it made for a great, fun day with lots of excellent food, screaming kids, and plenty of beer. A perfect way to end the summer!

With the grilling season coming to an unofficial close, I've been putting together a bunch of recipes to post on the blog over the next few months that I look forward to sharing with you. Along with Calamari and Peas, Lasagna Roll-Ups, Marinated Eggplant, Empanadas, and Steamed Dumplings I'm also planning to try out some recipes using some of my favorite fall spices and ingredients (pumpkin, cinnamon, nutmeg, etc). So be sure to check back often!

Another sign for me that autumn is in the air is the arrival of the fall seasonal beers. I've really grown to enjoy the Oktoberfests, Pumpkin beers and various other harvest brews that make their way onto the shelves (and into my refrigerator) this time of year. In fact, I just stocked up on a nice variety of seasonals just the other day to hold me through the season. While I do not consider myself a connoisseur of beer in any way, I will attempt to post a quick recap on whatever new brews I get to try out this season. If you are interested in reading up on some good beer talk, be sure to visit Joe Sixpack's or the Philadelphia Exbeeriment's website. Great sites, great info, great beer.

Happy fall, y'all!

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Apple-Cinnamon Honey Glazed Chicken

My brother passed this recipe along to me a few years ago. He first tried it while tailgating at a Jimmy Buffett concert – after all, parrotheads do know how to get their grillin' on. Anyway, the first thing he said to me about the recipe was the attraction that the smell was making. People were walking by, getting slight whiff of apple pie! And that's exactly what comes to mind when you grill this dish. The smell of the apples and cinnamon are amazing. The flavor, however, isn't quite as overpowering as you may expect. Instead you get a nice, subtle hint of the apples, cinnamon and honey as the marinade forms a nice, crispy glaze.

I've only tried this dish on the grill, but I'm sure it would also work well in the oven. Bonus points: oven baking this dish would probably eliminate the need of a scented candle in your house for that night!

Apple-Cinnamon Honey Glazed Chicken

1/3 cup apple jelly
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 chicken breasts

Heat grill, making sure to oil grill racks. In a small bowl, combine all ingredients, except chicken. Brush chicken with apple mixture, place on grill over medium heat. Cook 15 to 20 minutes or until chicken is fork tender and juices run clear, turning occasionally and brushing frequently with apple mixture.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

NEW - Join the Group!

The brand new Cucina Domenico Group Page has been launched on Facebook. Meet other members and share your stories and recipes! Be sure to check it out!

Click here to join!!!

Sunday, August 23, 2009

A Day at the Movies..."Julie & Julia"

This weekend I decided to take off from cooking and had nice afternoon movie date with my wife. Any opportunity that we have to do something without the kids is usually few and far between, so today was a nice treat for both of us. We went to see 'Julie & Julia', the new movie that's is based on two true stories: the first being about the start of Julia Child's cooking profession, and the second being about Julie Powell, who challenges herself to make every recipe published in Child's famed cookbook within a year, and to blog about her experiences. Now, I'm not a movie critic, so I will not get into an in-depth review. But I will say that we both enjoyed the movie very much.I was fairly warned before we went that it was a 'chick flick', but I have to say, not-so-much (granted, I did also spend quality 'man time' at the bar this weekend with my best bud, watching the Phils and shooting the shit over quite a few beers). Yes, it's a fun, light-hearted movie. Yes, there's cutesy husband-wife scenes. However, there's also great food, great restaurant scenes and great cooking scenes. Lots of 'em! So, if you have an interest in food and cooking, I highly recommend checking it out.

Aside for the food aspect, what really appealed to me was the idea of Julie blogging about her cooking experience. Although I have never set any timeline goals for myself like Julie does, I do find lots of joy and pride working on my blog. It's been very therapeutic for me. While I still haven't found a way to track exactly who or how many of you are looking at my blog, I do enjoy the feedback that I receive, and I have made many more Facebook friends because of it. It's very gratifying, and I thank you for that!

WIth that said, there are two remaining Chillin' and Grillin' recipes to come: Apple Cinnamon Chicken, and my surprise entry in the Friendship Road Labor Day Cook-off Competition. I've already started to compile a bunch of recipes for the fall and look forward to experimenting with many more ideas and sharing them with you.


Monday, August 17, 2009

Grilled Romaine with Strawberry Vinaigrette Dressing

I'm not usually a big salad eater. When this dish was offered as a special at one of our favorite restaurants, I was sold. It's very simple to make, and takes only a few minutes to grill. If you're used to the crunch of fresh romaine, you'll be in for a surprise with this. The heat from the grill does make the leaves wilt, but the freshness still holds up and is very tasty. I decided to add some crumpled feta cheese to the salad for extra flavor. You could also add toasted pine nuts, sesame seeds, pieces of chicken, or any other salad topping that you prefer. I also found a recipe for strawberry vinaigrette, which was similar to the one that was served at the restaurant. The dressing recipe is for four servings, so you will have plenty of dressing left over. Again, feel free to use your dressing of choice.

Grilled Romaine with Strawberry Vinaigrette Dressing
Split one heart of romaine lettuce, lengthwise. Heat your grill to high-heat, making sure to spray or oil the grates. Place the romaine halves on direct heat. Cook for about 3 minutes, until the leaves starts to wilt and grill marks are visible. Turn the lettuce and cook for another 2-3 minutes. Remove from heat, drizzle with dressing, top with crumpled feta cheese. Serves two.

Strawberry Vinaigrette
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 cup fresh strawberries, halved
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/4± teaspoon white sugar (adjust sweetness to your liking)

In a blender or food processor, mix strawberries, balsamic vinegar, salt, pepper and sugar. Slowly add the oil. Blend until smooth.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Grilled Shrimp Wrapped in Prosciutto

Once again, here's a fine example that proves that anything wrapped in prosciutto is delicious! When buying prosciutto, you may come across a few varieties. Of course, the better varieties can be a bit expensive. For a grilled dish like this, I feel that you can get away with a moderately priced prosciutto. For this dish, I used the Canadian prosciutto ($12.99/lb, as opposed to the $22.99/lb. Parma prosciutto) and it tasted fantastic.

Grilled Shrimp Wrapped in Prosciutto
1 lb raw shrimp, shelled and deveined
1 bottle Lawry's Tequila Lime marinade
1/4 lb prosciutto, sliced thin

Soak shrimp in marinade for approximately 2 hours, covered and refrigerated. Remove shrimp from marinade, wrap piece of prosciutto around shrimp, hold in place with a toothpick. Heat grill to medium. Grill shrimp on medium heat for about 10 minutes, turning every few minutes, until shrimp are pink and prosciutto is slightly crisp.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Crabs and Macaroni

When I was a kid growing up in South Philly, there were certain foods that we would always look forward to and enjoy during the summer. There was Pop's Water Ice, with real chunks of fruit floating in a refreshing cup of icy goodness. There was the pretzel man who would push his wagon up and down the streets, ringing his bell and yelling "soft pretzels!!!" and he would slather the mustard on your pretzel with a paint brush. There was the Mr. Softee ice cream truck that knew to come around the neighborhood blaring it's famous jingle just as you were finishing up dinner. And then there was my favorite summertime meal – spaghetti and crabs. Just the smell of crab gravy (spaghetti sauce cooked with crabs instead of meatballs for you non South Philly readers) brings me back to when I was a kid – sitting in my parents' living room on a hot Sunday afternoon, listening to Harry Kalas and Richie Ashburn call a Phillies game on the tv or radio, anxiously waiting to crack a claw or two. These days, I have to settle for the neighborhood Rita's Water Ice (good, but not Pop's), there is no more neighborhood pretzel man, and Mr. Softee....well, he now comes around just as we're starting to eat dinner (damn that jingle!!!). But I still make it a tradition to have at least one Sunday Crabs and Macaroni dinner each summer.

What's so unique and special about this dish is the amazing flavor that comes together when you cook the crabs in the sauce. Words can't describe how good it tastes and smells. The sauce also adds an incredible tenderness to the crab meat. Most people I know would call it Spaghetti and Crabs. When my mom would make crab gravy, she would serve it with thin spaghetti and we would dig into the crabs afterwards. They were the reward for eating your entire plate of pasta. She would also use blue crabs that my Grandfather would either catch or buy fresh and send over to our house. I decided on a slightly different approach when I started making my own crab gravy. First, I prefer using either ziti or rigatoni. That's why I went with the more generic "Crabs and Macaroni," but feel free to use whatever pasta you like. Second, I like to add a can of crab meat to the sauce for extra flavor*. I also like the fact that you get some meat into the mix with your pasta. Why wait until the end to enjoy the taste? Third, while it's more expensive, I prefer to use pre-cooked snow crabs that you can find at the seafood section of the supermarket. I always felt that the smaller blue crabs involved a lot of effort with little payoff. The snow crab legs, however, have plenty of meat with much easier access. Feel free to use whatever choice of crab you like best!

Now, if you decide to make this meal (and I encourage you to do so), there are a few things that you should be forewarned about.
1. This is a very messy meal. All shame goes out the window. Shells will be flying and sauce will be splashed. There's no way around it. With that in mind...
2. Keep plenty of napkins on hand. You can even go rib-shack style and just keep an entire roll of paper towels at the table.
3. Do not wear a white shirt. You will walk away from the table looking like you were involved in a crime scene.
4. No matter how much you wash them, your hands will smell like crabs for the rest of the day. It's a special meal...savor the funk.

* If you decide to use a can of crab meat, be sure to buy the large 16-oz cans of crab meat that are located in the seafood section of your supermarket. While they can be a bit pricey at times, they are packed with 100% crab meat. The smaller cans that are found near the cans of tuna are packed with about 1/3 water, so you are getting your money's worth with the larger cans.

Now get crackin'!

1 tblspn olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1 29-oz can tomato sauce
1 28-oz can crushed or pureed tomatoes (depending on your preference), plus 1-1/2 cans of water
1 6-oz can tomato paste
2 tblspn sugar
1 tblspn Italian Seasoning
1/2 tspn Old Bay Seasoning
1 1-lb can of crab meat
2-lbs crabs

Heat olive oil in a large pot over medium-high heat until hot, but not smoking. Add garlic, heat for 30 seconds. Add tomato sauce, crushed tomatoes, tomato paste and water; stir. Add sugar, Italian Seasoning, and Old Bay; stir. Bring to boil, the lower heat to medium-low. Add can of crab meat and crabs; stir and partially cover. Stir occasionally. Cook on medium-low for 1-1/2 to 2 hours.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

White Sangria

It's it up!

White Sangria

1 Bottle of Dry White WIne
3/4 c. of Peach liqueur
3/4 c. Sugar
1 bottle Seltzer
1 lemon, 1 lime, and 1 orange, cut into half moon slices
(other fruit may be added, such as apples, peaches, cherries etc.)

Mix the wine, liqueur and sugar in a pitcher until sugar dissolves and chill. When chilled, add the seltzer and fruit slices. Serves well over ice out of punchbowl. Makes about 1/2 gallon.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Grilled Caprese-Style Stromboli

This is based on a suggestion from my previous Stromboli post from my paisano, Tiffany Longo (aka Una Mamma Italanio). For tips on rolling Stromboli, check out the previous post.

Delish. Nothing else to say.

1lb. pizza dough
1 12-oz jar roasted peppers, finely chopped and drained.
2 cups pesto (see recipe below)
fresh mozzarella cheese

Roll out dough, but not too thin. The wet ingredients will cause the thin dough to break. Spread the pesto, add the peppers, then sliced mozzarella cheese. Roll up and place on a piece of aluminum foil sprayed with cooking spray (to avoid the dough from sticking). Heat grill to medium high, cook 'boli on inidrect heat (not directly over the flames) for approx 35-40 minutes, until dough is ice and brown. Remove from heat and let sit for 5 minutes before slicing.

Fresh Basil Pesto Recipe
2 cups fresh basil leaves, packed
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan-Reggiano or Romano cheese
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/3 cup pine nuts or walnuts
3 medium sized garlic cloves, minced
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Combine the basil in with the pine nuts, pulse a few times in a food
processor. (If you are using walnuts instead of pine nuts and they are not
already chopped, pulse them a few times first, before adding the basil.) Add
the garlic, pulse a few times more.

Slowly add the olive oil in a constant stream while the food processor is on. Stop to scrape down the sides of the food processor with a rubber spatula. Add the grated cheese and pulse again until blended. Add a pinch of salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Summer Sides: Grilled Squash and Polenta

Here are a couple of side dishes that I like to serve when cooking on the grill. Both are wickedly easy, go with just about any grilled dish, and both share the same core ingredients: salt, pepper and olive oil.I prefer using sea salt. It's much better than regular table salt, and doesn't pack quite the punch as kosher salt.

First up are yellow squash and zucchini. I usually use on of each for two servings. Just slice the zucchini and squash into thin slices, but not too thin - you want them to hold together while cooking. Place the slices in a bowl, drizzle with olive oil, add salt and pepper, and stir. Cook them over medium heat for about 5-7 minutes, until they start to get brown and slightly crispy. Flip the chips and cook for another 3-4 minutes. They go great as a side or even as a sandwich topper. I suggest using some sort of grilling tray or even some foil to keep the chips from falling through the grates. They're very inexpensive and easy to find, usually available in any grocery store or even a Dollar Store . You can cook directly on the grates, but expect at least one or two casualties to fall through.

The second side dish that I grill up regularly is polenta. Polenta is an old world dish made of cornmeal and served several ways. I've had it both as a soft dish similar to mashed potatoes and baked like a cornbread. While it is often considered a peasant food, often used back during the depression, it has recently become somewhat of a delicacy. It' not uncommon that you'll find it as a pricey appetizer at some of your fancier restaurants. A friend of mine once saw it on a menu for $14.95 and said to me "do you know how many tons of polenta my mother could make for $14.95?!?!" What I like to use is the pre-cooked tubes of polenta, which can be found in the produce section of the grocery store. I simply slice them into about 1/4" slices, brush both sides with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Again, just place them on the grill at medium hear for about 5-7 minutes until they start to get slightly brown and crispy, flip and cook for another 3-4 minutes. I like to top them with a slice of mozzarella or sharp provolone for the last few minutes, then serve them with either a side of sauce or salsa as a topping. They are absolutely delicious, and you can even pass them off as mini pizza crisps for the kids!

Friday, June 26, 2009

The Simple Life

This week I have decided to postpone my summer recipe suggestions in favor of posting a link to a fascinating article than ran in today's Philadelphia Inquirer. The article is about Domenico Scicchitano, a 90 year old man who still lives the old-fashioned, simple lifestyle: Plant, Harvest, Eat. I found the article very touching and inspiring, and encourage you to give it a read. If more of us were to carry even a tiny portion of Mr. Scicchitano's values and traditions, I truly believe the world would be a better place.

By Ginny Smith

Friday, June 19, 2009

Kansas City Sweet-and-Smoky Ribs

Recipe courtesy of How-to-Grill, by Steven Raichlen

If you are planning to serve ribs at this weekend's Father's Day barbecue cookout, or at any other barbecue bash this summer, this is the go-to rib recipe! It makes for some of the best tasting ribs I've ever had.

What I like best about this recipe is the use of a dry rub. While the recipe calls for a light brushing of barbecue sauce, I actually prefer the juicy, sweet and savory coating and flavor of the rib rub alone, and will serve the bbq sauce on the side for dipping. Included below is a link to Steven Raichlen's basic rib rub and barbecue sauce recipes. Another option for a great rib rub is Williams-Sonoma's Memphis Rib Rub. My friend Charlie turned me on to it last year, and I have kept a can of it on hand ever since. And I always swear by Sweet Baby Ray's Barbecue Sauce.

Also, the ribs work well both with and without the smoked wood chips, in case you don't have any on hand.

Kansas City Sweet-and-Smoky Ribs
4 racks of spareribs (4 to 6 pounds total)
6 cups apple cider, plus additional for spraying the ribs
2 whole lemons (optional), halved
2/3 cup Basic Barbecue Rub or your favorite commercial brand (I prefer Williams-Sonoma's Memphis Rib Rub)
3 cups of your favorite homemade barbecue sauce or your favorite commercial brand

3 cups wood chips (preferably hickory), soaked for 1 hour in apple cider to cover, then drained; spray bottle; rib rack (optional)

1. Trim each rack of ribs or have your butcher do this for you.

2. Place the ribs in a large nonreactive roasting pan. Pour the cider over the ribs. Squeeze the juice from the lemons over the ribs, catching the seeds with your fingers. Turn the ribs a couple of time to coat all over with marinade. If desired, let the ribs marinate in the refrigerator, covered, for 4 to 6 hours, turning several times.

3. Drain the ribs and blot dry with paper towels. Sprinkle 1/2 cup of the rub on both sides of the ribs, patting it onto the meat with your fingers. Let the ribs stand in the refrigerator, covered, for 1 to 2 hours.

4. Set up the grill for indirect grilling and preheat to medium. If using a charcoal grill, place a large drip pan in the center. If using a gas grill, place all the wood chips in the smoker box or in a smoker pouch and preheat to high until you see smoke, then reduce the heat to medium.

5. When ready to cook, if using charcoal, toss 1 cup of wood chips on the coals. Place the ribs in the center of the hot grate, away from the heat. Cover the grill and cook the ribs for 2 to 3 hours. After 30 minutes, spray the ribs with apple cider and continue to spray every half hour until ready to brush with the sauce. If using a charcoal grill, you'll need to add 12 fresh coals and 1/2 cup wood chips per side after each hour.

6. Lightly brush the ribs with 1 cup of the sauce 20 minutes before the ribs are done. When the ribs are fully cooked, the meat will have shrunk back from the bones about 1/4 inch, and the meat will be tender enough to tear apart with your fingers. But don't overcook; the ribs should have some chew to them. If the ribs start to dry out, wrap them in aluminum foil for the last hour of cooking.

7. Transfer the ribs to plates or a platter. Sprinkle the ribs with the remaining rub and lightly brush again with barbecue sauce. Let the ribs rest for a few minutes, then serve with the remaining barbecue sauce on the side.

You can also cook the ribs in a smoker. Smoke them for 4 to 5 hours at 225°F

This is a wonderful way to prepare baby back ribs. In this case, you'll need to allow 1 to 1 1/2 hours for indirect grilling or 2 to 3 hours for cooking in a smoker.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Pesto-stuffed Salmon

This is a healthy and tasty recipe that cooks up quick and easy on the grill or broiled in the oven.

4 (5 ounce) salmon fillets
Olive oil
Kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper
1 cup pesto (recipe below, or you can use jarred pesto)

Make a slit two-thirds of the way through the center of each salmon fillet making sure not to cut all the way through. Brush both sides of fillets with olive oil. Stuff fillets with pesto. Season tops of fillets with Kosher salt and ground black pepper.

Grilling: lightly oil grilling grates. Heat grill, then place fillets on medium heat. Cook salmon for 7-10, flipping once, until the fish flakes easily with a fork.

Broiling: Preheat the broiler. Place salmon on a baking sheet lined with foil. Broil fish about 4-5 inches from the heat for approximately 8-10 minutes, until golden brown.

Fresh Basil Pesto Recipe
2 cups fresh basil leaves, packed
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan-Reggiano or Romano cheese
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/3 cup pine nuts or walnuts
3 medium sized garlic cloves, minced
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Combine the basil in with the pine nuts, pulse a few times in a food
processor. (If you are using walnuts instead of pine nuts and they are not
already chopped, pulse them a few times first, before adding the basil.) Add
the garlic, pulse a few times more.

Slowly add the olive oil in a constant stream while the food processor is on. Stop to scrape down the sides of the food processor with a rubber spatula. Add the grated cheese and pulse again until blended. Add a pinch of salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Chillin' and Grillin'

Summer is here, and it's time to fire up those grills and enjoy some great outdoor eating and drinking! I've especially been looking forward to this season, because I just bought myself a new outdoor grill. Now that indirect heating has become part of my vocabulary, I'm anxious to dive in head first into the deep end of outdoor grilling.

Over the next few weeks, I plan on posting a variety of grilling recipes and great dishes to enjoy out on your patio, such as:
Pesto-stuffed Salmon
Apple Cinnamon Chicken
Baby-back Ribs
Grilled Polenta
Summer Sides
Prosciutto-wrapped Shrimp
Spinach Quiche
(or Spinach Egg Pie for you tough guys)
White Sangria
and the crown jewel of the summer...Crabs and Macaroni

For this week's entry, I've decided to post a link to Joe Sixpack's website. He wrote a fantastic article on Barbecuing and Grilling with Beer. The article includes some nice tips and advice, and be sure to check out his website in the upcoming weeks as he writes about some great summertime ales and lagers.

Happy summer!

Saturday, May 16, 2009


If you've ever been a guest in our house, either for a party or just to hang out, chances are that at some point you've eaten our home-made stromboli. For those of you that may not be familiar with stromboli, it's similar to a calzone. Instead of being in a pocket-shape, a stromboli is rolled into a long loaf, baked, then sliced into 1" - 2" pieces. It's a popular, often requested dish that we not only serve at our house, but also bring along to parties that we're invited to as guests. We've made strombolis for big vacations with family and friends, for our family's New Years Eve parties and even for grill-outs (more on that later). It's our way of breaking bread with friends....only this bread is stuffed with cheese and usually either pepperoni, ham, steak, meatball or spinach. It works well as either an appetizer or as a meal, and it's not nearly as greasy as one that you may get from a corner pizza shop. They taste best when rolled and cooked fresh, but you can pre-roll them and freeze them for future use. If you are freezing them, be sure to spray them with cooking spray before wrapping them in aluminum foil. This will help avoid the dough from sticking to the foil.

Not to brag, but our home-made stromboli has always been a big hit. The first thing my best buddy John said to me when he first saw my blog was "Almond Asparagus? Post the recipe for the meatball stromboli." And not a time has gone by when his wife, Manuela, hasn't berated me for not selling our stromboli. Now, you might be saying, "Yo, Dom...what's the big deal? You roll out your dough, slap down some meat and cheese, fold it up, bake it and bada-bing...stromboli!". While the actual steps are about as involved as making a sandwich, the key to ANY good dish is the ingredients. So, what I've decided to do for this recipe is to give you step-by-step tips and tricks on what has helped me make good, and even occasionally not-so-good stromboli.

STEP 1: The Dough
The best type of dough to use is pizza dough. You want the dough to bake to a nice, crispy finish and not be too bready. If you don't make your own pizza dough, your best bet is to find a bakery that sells their own pizza dough. Trader Joe's sells a great garlic herb pizza dough that works great for a spinach stromboli. If you can't find fresh pizza dough, you can get frozen pizza dough at the super market. I prefer not to use regular bread dough, as the taste and texture just doesn't seem to work as well for me.

Prepare 1lb. dough as you would for pizza or bread, letting it rise in a bowl covered with a towel (instructions are usually on the pre-made pizza dough packets). This makes for easy rolling and shaping. Roll out the dough into the shape of a large rectangle. Roll it thin, but not to the point where it breaks apart.

STEP 2: The Fillings
The standard fillings that I use are either pepperoni, ham, thin steak, meatball, sausage or spinach. If you are using a lunchmeat filling, be sure to get it sliced fresh from the deli. You'll use about 1/4 pound per 'boli.
Pepperoni - use the large deli-sliced pepperoni as opposed to the small, snack sized pepperoni. It's easier to work with and you'll use less.
Ham - any ham of your choice would work, although I prefer tavern ham. Prosciutto would be fantastic, but hey, we're in a recession!
Steak - when making steak 'boli, I simply use cooked Minute Steak and season it with salt, pepper and onion powder (you get the onion flavor, but without actual pieces of onion).
Meatball - I like to crush up the cooked meatball and spread it on the dough. I try not to use too much sauce, because it makes the dough soggy and hard to work with. You can always serve with a bowl of sauce on the side for dipping.
Sausage - I've only made this once, but it was a big hit. I used ground sausage out of it's casing, spread it on a pan and baked it until slightly crispy, then mixed it with roasted red peppers. Nice!
Spinach - this one goes over well with those that don't eat red meat. I use a box of frozen spinach, defrosted and strained (strain it by using a kitchen towel - you lose the water without losing any of the spinach). Spread it evenly over the dough and top with garlic and onion powder.
I've tried using jarred mixed vegetables in a tomato sauce once, but had bad results. The sauce turned the dough into a pile of mush. Not good.
Another filling that I'm thinking of using down the line is thin sliced turkey with bacon bits.

STEP 3: The Cheese
I always use two cheeses, mozzarella and provolone. They both melt nicely, and the provolone adds a bit of a bite. Deli sliced is the best way to go, but you can also buy a bag of mixed shredded provolone and mozzarella, which works well. I might go with Swiss if/when I make the turkey and bacon 'boli.

STEP 4: Assembly
After you've rolled out your dough, spread your filling on top, then add your cheese. Gently roll from left to right, then tuck the ends under to seal off. Spray the top with a cooking spray, or brush with an egg wash. Sprinkle the top with oregano. Cut a few slits across on the top to avoid massive air bubbles.

STEP 5: Cooking
The traditional method is to bake. Spray a baking pan with cooking spray, place the 'bolis on the pan and bake at 400º for 30 minutes or until golden brown. Let cool for a few minutes, then slice and serve
Grilled - yes, I have tried grilling stromboli last year at my in-law's Labor Day BBQ Block Party, and yes it was damn good! The crispy crunch of the crust was out of this world. I grilled both pepperoni and ham 'bolis. The pep was the better of the two, but I think that had to do with timing on the grill. I simply placed the 'boli on a sheet of aluminum foil sprayed with cooking spray, and cooked them over medium-high indirect heat (if you have a 3-burner grill, fire up the left and right burners, and place the 'boli over the center burner). I plan on experimenting with grilled 'bolis a lot more this summer.

Like I mentioned above, I don't prefer adding sauces to the 'bolis because they tend to make the dough soggy. I prefer serving a side dish of sauce for dipping. Ketchup works well with the steak 'boli. And if I ever decide to do the turkey/bacon/swiss cheese 'boli, I'm thinking a side of ranch or blue cheese will do the trick.

So there you have it...'boli 101. Give it a try, experiment with the filling, crack open a beer and enjoy!

Friday, May 8, 2009

Mother's Day Breakfast: Apple Cinnamon French Toast

Mother's Day is once again upon us. It's that very special time of year when we get to honor our moms by showering them with much deserved gifts and flowers. It's also one of the most popular days to dine out with your family. Just drive by any diner in the morning, and you'll see a wall of patrons pouring out the door, waiting to be seated.

If you are looking for an alternative to spending money in an overcrowded restaurant, why not make a special breakfast at home? This recipe for Apple Cinnamon French Toast is incredibly easy to make, looks as good as it tastes, and is also a great dish to get the kids involved with during the preparation. For this recipe, I've decided to use canned apple pie filling. While a home-made apple pie filling sounds more impressive, the canned apple pie filling works very well, tastes just as good and is all ready to go. Just a few seconds in the microwave, and you get a nice, warm and gooey sweet topping. Assembling the layers of French Toast and pie filling is an easy and fun step for the kids to handle! Be sure to top the French Toast with a light dusting of powdered sugar, maybe add a piece of fresh fruit and a dollop of whipped cream, and you're as good as gold.

Happy Mother's Day!


3 eggs
3/4 cup milk
1 tblspn sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 tspn ground cinnamon
1/8 tspn salt
8 thick slices of bread
1 can apple pie filling

Whisk eggs, milk, sugar, vanilla, cinnamon and salt until smooth. Heat griddle or skillet over medium heat. Grease griddle with margarine or butter. Test the griddle with a few drops of water - when the water jumps, the griddle is heated just right. Dip the bread into egg mixture (for extra cinnamon taste, sprinkle a dash more of cinnamon onto battered bread). Cook on griddle about 4 minutes on each side or until golden brown.

Empty the pie filling into a microwave-safe bowl. Microwave on high for 20-30 seconds, until filling is warm. Arrange two pieces of French Toast onto a plate, one slice slightly overlapping the other. Spoon an generous amount of the apple pie filling on top. Sprinkle a dusting of powdered sugar on top. Enjoy!

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Almond Asparagus

This is a beautiful, great tasting side-dish that works with just about any main course. The crunchy snap of the asparagus holds up well with the lemon juice and butter, and the almonds make for a great, flavorful addition.


2 pounds fresh asparagus
2 tablespoons butter or margarine
1 tablespoon lemon juice
3/4 cup slivered almonds, toasted
1/2 teaspoon salt 

1/4 teaspoon pepper

Snap off tough ends of asparagus. Cook asparagus in boiling water to cover 3 minutes or until crisp-tender; drain. Plunge asparagus into ice water to stop the cooking process; drain. Melt butter in a large skillet over medium heat; add asparagus, and sauté 3 to 5 minutes. Toss asparagus with lemon juice and remaining ingredients.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Zucchini Bread

This recipe was given to my wife in a home-made cookbook that she received as shower gift from her friend, Glenda. The book contains a bunch of Glenda's recipes written on index cards (great idea, btw!). My wife (the bake of the house) loves this recipe and has gotten tons of compliments on it. It's a great bread to bring to dinners parties. The sweet, cinnamon taste also makes for a delicious treat for the kids to enjoy!


2 cups grated zucchini, unpeeled
3 eggs
3 cups flour
1 cup vegetable oil
3 tspn cinnamon
2-1/2 cups sugar
3 tspn vanilla extract
1 tspn baking soda
1/4 tspn baking powder
1 cup chopped nuts (optional)
1 tspn salt

In a bowl, cream eggs and oil. Add zucchini and vanilla. Add dry ingredients which have been sifted together. Add nuts and pour into two greased & floured 1 quart baking pans. Bake at 325º for one hour.

Makes two loaves.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Pasta Giardino (Garden Pasta)

This is a nice alternative to traditional pasta with gravy. It''s quick and simple, healthy, and absolutely delicious. Below are my vegetables of choice. Use whatever vegetables you enjoy most, but I suggest keeping the bell peppers and tomatoes in the mix. They add great texture and flavor. Goes great with a crisp white wine!


1 container grape tomatoes
1 small eggplant, diced
1 yellow squash, diced
1 zucchini, diced
3 bell peppers, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon dill
salt and pepper
olive oil
2 tablespoons pecorino romano cheese
1lb pasta (I recommend ziti or rigatoni)
1/3 cup pasta water, reserved (optional, for extra flavor)

Mix all of the diced vegetables, garlic and dill in a bowl. Drizzle lightly with olive oil and stir (you don't want to saturate the vegetables with the oil – if the veggies are looking dry while cooking, you could always add some more oil). Add salt and pepper to taste and stir. Spread the vegetables into a 13x9 pan, bake at 375º for approx 15-20 minutes, until vegetables are tender and tomatoes start to pop.

Meanwhile, boil one pound of pasta, until al dente. Drain pasta, reservig about 1/3 cup of the pasta water. Drizzle pasta lightly with oil to avoid sticking. Using a large serving bowl, stir the pasta and vegetables together. Slowly add the reserved pasta water and continue to stir. Add the pecorino romano and stir. Serve and enjoy!

Feeling extra creative? Try adding some shrimp, crabmeat or scallops to the dish!

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Easter Traditions, Italian Style

There is an old Italian saying, "Natale con I tuoi, Pasqua con chi vuol," which means "Christmas at home with your family, Easter with whomever you please." Regardless of with whom you are spending your Easter holiday, if you are celebrating in an Italian household, you will no doubt be partaking in a glorious feast.

Easter, perhaps the holiest of holy days celebrated by Christians, marks the end of the Lenten season, which is a time of fasting and abstinence. While Easter dinner is made up of a main course such as lamb, ham or turkey (and don't forget the first course of pasta), many Italians make it a weekend long celebration filled with breads, pies, omelettes and sweet desserts. It is a time of year that is rich in both taste and tradition, and a time of year that I particularly look forward to.

In our household, the festivities start on Palm Sunday, the Sunday before Easter. After going to Church and collecting some palm, we prepare a nice Sunday dinner, followed up by home-made cannoli for dessert. Be sure to check out this fantastic palm weaving article and tutorial by Anthony Parente. Each night of the week is then filled with either dying Easter eggs, or making different Easter pies. For as long as I could remember, Easter pies were always a big tradition in my family. There were always two served: Easter Ham Pie, also known as Pizza Rustica or Pizza Chena (pronounced Pizza Gaina), and Easter Rice Pie. The ham pie is similar to a quiche, filled with egg, cheeses and various Italian meats (ham, pepperoni, salami). The rice pie is more of a cheesecake texture with rice and is sweet-tasting, often with a hint of lemon or orange flavoring. I still remember Easter dinner at my Grandmother's. Each of my Aunt's Easter pies and breads were represented on the table. All had similar ingredients, but each was unique in taste and texture, and all of them were out of this world. Now my Mom, on the other hand, is the family matriarch of cheesecakes. To this day, everyone practically salivates as their eyes light up when she starts do distribute her countless aluminum foil-wrapped dishes of her cherished cheesecake. Another traditional Italian dish that my Uncle Angelo makes is Fritatta, an omelette made with fillings such as potatoes, sausage and asparagus. This is usually served as a breakfast on either Saturday on Sunday.

Easter bread is also a very popular item, which is usually available starting about a week or so prior to Easter. It is a sweet bread, sometimes with a hint of anise flavor. It is woven into a circular or elongated loaf, nesting actual colored Easter eggs. It often has a sweet sugary glaze and is topped with mini sprinkles. It goes perfect with a nice cup of coffee or espresso.

I'm sure you now understand why I made sure to have my 6-month cholesterol check taken two weeks ago!!! Since I am trying to be more health-conscience these days, I have started using egg subtitutes (such as Egg Beaters) in my ham and rice pie. The taste and texture is just as good as using real eggs.

Buona Pasqua!

PIZZA RUSTICA (Easter Ham Pie)
Fills two 9-inch unbaked pie shells or one 9x13-inch baking pan

2 lbs. Ricotta cheese, drained
8-oz shredded mozzarella cheese
6 eggs, beaten
1/4 c. grated parmesan cheese
2 c. ham, diced
1/4 lb. slicing pepperoni, chopped
1/4 c. chopped parsley
1 small can sliced or chopped olives (optional)
1 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. black pepper

Preheat oven to 375º. Mix Ricotta, mozzarella, eggs and parmesan cheese in a bowl. Stir in ham, pepperoni, parsley, olives, salt and pepper. Spoon into pie shells, bake 50-60 minutes until center is set and crust is golden brown. Cool slightly before serving. Serve hot or cold.

3 c. flour
3 tbsp. sugar
4 eggs
1/2 c. shortening
1/8 c. milk plus 1 tbspn milk

Mix the flour and sugar together. Make a well in the center, add 3 of the eggs, shortening and milk, mixing together until dough is easy to handle. Divide in half; roll out one portion and fit into 9x13 inch baking pan. Cover other half until later.

Spread filling into crust. Roll out remaining dough and fit on top of mixture. Seal edges; cut slit in top. Brush tops with a mixture of 1 well-beaten egg and 1 tablespoon of milk (makes crust shiny). Bake for 50-60 minutes in preheated 350 degree oven until crust is golden brown. Cool slightly before serving.

(recipe courtesy of

1 c. cooked rice
8 eggs, beaten light
2 lbs. Ricotta cheese
1 c. sugar
Juice of and zest of one lemon
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. vanilla
2 (10-12 inch) unbaked pie shells

Preheat oven to 350º. In a bowl, mix rice, beaten eggs, Ricotta, sugar, lemon juice/zest and cinnamon. Add vanilla. Fill pie shells with rice mixture. Bake until firm for 1 hour. Let pie stay in oven for at least 1 hour after it's done. Enjoy!


Making cannoli shells from scratch can be a long and tedious project, so I prefer to use the pre-made boxed shells. For best results, do not fill shells until ready to serve, otherwise the shells will become soft and mushy.

2 c. marscapone cheese
1/3 c. confectioner's sugar
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 cup mini chocolate chips

Mix mascarpone cheese, sugar, cinnamon and vanilla. Stir in mini chips. Pipe or spoon filling into shells when ready to serve. Dust with confectioner's sugar.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Awesome Turkey Burgers

Grilling season is just around the corner, and if you're looking for a nice and tasty turkey burger, I think you'll find this recipe to be a winner. I like to use the 93/7 ground turkey (meaning 7% fat). 99/1 ground turkey is also available, but I find that to be too moist to work with, and the mixture usually ends up mushy. I also prefer the taste of the 93/7 mixture. The 93/7 is also more moist than ground beef, so I never use an egg and try to avoid using many liquid ingredients in my mixture. Ground turkey is also very bland in taste. You really need to jack it up to get a nice flavor. This recipe only uses a few ingredients, but they pack a flavorful punch. Now, I don't have exact measurements, so adjust the seasoning to your liking. Also, while these burgers taste great on the grill, I actually prefer broiling them. They retain all of their tasty juices and are just that damn good! If you do decide to broil the burgers, but are still craving that smokey, grilled taste, you can add a dash of liquid smoke to the mixture. Liquid smoke is very powerful and potent, so you only need a drop or two at most.


1lb ground turkey (93/7 mixture)
1 8oz packet onion soup and dip mix
Approx. 1 tblspn Worcestershire sauce
1/4 cup breadcrumbs
salt & pepper

Mix all ingredients together, shape into 6 nice size burger patties. Grill or broil to your liking. Enjoy!

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Stuffed Peppers

Here's a nice dish that has become a Sunday staple for us. Nice and filling, goes great by itself or with a side of pasta (and, of course, some red wine). One of my favorite dishes to end a long weekend!

There are a number of stuffing recipes to use for Stuffed Peppers. This recipe originally called for ground beef, but we like to use ground turkey. Ground sausage removed from it's casing would also work well and add a nice punch (hmmm..think I'll try that next time). I've only used rice as my base, but am interested in trying other stuffings (breadcrumbs, etc.). Do YOU have a good Stuffed Pepper recipe? If so, please pass along! Ciao!


1 pound ground turkey (or ground beef if you prefer)
1/2 cup uncooked long grain white rice
1 cup water
6 large or 8 small green bell peppers
2 (8 ounce) cans tomato sauce
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon onion powder
salt and pepper to taste
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning

Preheat oven to 350º.
Place the rice and water in a saucepan, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover, and cook 20 minutes. In a skillet over medium heat, cook the ground turkey until evenly browned.
Remove and discard the tops, seeds, and membranes of the bell peppers. Arrange peppers in a baking dish with the hollowed sides facing upward. (Slice the bottoms of the peppers if necessary so that they will stand upright.)
In a bowl, mix the browned ground turkey, cooked rice, 1 can tomato sauce, Worcestershire sauce, garlic powder, onion powder, salt, and pepper. Spoon an equal amount of the mixture into each hollowed pepper. Mix the remaining tomato sauce and Italian seasoning in a bowl, and pour over the stuffed peppers.
Bake 1 hour in the preheated oven, basting with sauce every 15 minutes, until the peppers are tender.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Egg White Lobster Omelette

Another get-together for my wife and her friends...another chance for me to have some fun in the kitchen! Since Julianna had just come off of an exceptionally good week, she was treated to a Happy Meal and a Shamrock shake. I know, blasphemy to umpteenth level for an Italian American parent who loves to cook. But the door was wide open for me to get creative with my dinner.

I was in the mood for some sort of jacked-up omelette. I'm a big breakfast fan, and can eat a breakfast meal any time of the day. Plus, Italians can mix just about anything with an egg to make a great meal (potatoes, peppers, asparagus, ham, hot name it). I had just bought a pack of lobster meat earlier in the week. Although it wasn't 100% pure lobster meat, but rather pollock mixed with lobster, the taste and texture isn't bad at all. Plus, I'm sure it's much better than the Loobster that was served at the Hungry Heifer (Norm's favorite restaurant on Cheers). Obviously, I would prefer real lobster meat, but hey, we're in a recession!

I decided to try an egg white lobster omelette. With just a few spices and a chopped up green bell pepper, I had a very tasty and filling meal in a matter of minutes. I'm sure I'll experiment more with the spices the next time I make this dish. However, it was quite tasty as is. If you're a fan of omelettes and seafood — or if you can't make it to the Hungry Heifer for it's Roast Biff and Loobster surf & turf meal — I'm sure you'll like this.

Egg White Lobster Omelette

1 package imitation lobster meat (or real lobster meat if you prefer), chopped
1 bell pepper, finely chopped
3 large egg whites
1 teaspoon parmesan cheese
1 teaspoon milk
Spices to taste: salt, pepper, paprika, Old Bay seasoning

Drizzle vegetable oil to coat bottom of a medium size skillet; heat on medium. Add chopped peppers; saute until crisp-tender. Add chopped lobster meat plus dash of salt, pepper and paprika; stir until heated. Remove from skillet, set aside.
Mix egg whites, parmesan cheese, milk, dash of salt, pepper and Old Bay. Pour mixture into a heated non-stick or greased pan. Flip egg once, then immediately top with lobster mix and fold egg into a half circle. Remove from pan and enjoy!

Saturday, March 7, 2009


I am a person who values tradition. It plays an important part in our family. As the seasons change, we look forward to special events, family visits, road trips and of course, special meals!

A few years back, my Uncle started a tradition of making his own home-made wine. Like many Italians from generations past, he takes great pride in crafting his wine and passing out the bottles for all to share. His passion and dedication inspired me to start my own tradition - making home made orangecello. The recipe I chose takes about 3 months to age, so this is the perfect time of year to prepare the liqueur in order to enjoy it during those hot summer nights. I made my first batch last year and named it Domenicello. We had the ceremonial unveiling after the birth of our second daughter, Ava Lynn. I have to say...I was very pleased with the end result, as were everyone else who shared in drinking it. There was no doubt that making orangecello would become an annual event for me.

As I was sitting in my kitchen just the other night, shaving down the orange peels for this year's batch, it occurred to me that I was not only starting my own tradition, but also carrying on the tradition of my grandfathers. My Grandpop Condo was a brick layer, responsible for helping build many of the churches, schools and some of the most famous sports facilities in the Philadelphia area. My Grandpop Ricciuti was a chemist and a professor at Drexel University, whose works and studies have been documented in chemistry books. Here I am, many years later, using my hands to carefully craft and scrape the key ingredient to my orangecello, and eventually I will be measuring and scaling the remaining ingredients, making sure to that the end result is balanced out to perfection. While a simple bottle of orangecello is not nearly as impressive as the works that both of my grandfathers helped create, it has taught me to appreciate the love and dedication that they both showed for their craft. And I'll be sure to toast them both with my first sip of my 2009 Domenicello.

NOTE - While I love posting recipes and hearing great feedback on your great dishes, Domenicello is my own special little baby. So, I've decided to keep that recipe to myself. However, I am always more than happy to share a glass with you! Salute.