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Thursday, February 26, 2015

Caribbean Contributions: A Tale of Caldrons and Authenic Dominican Delights

Who doesn’t love a vacation? Especially in the Caribbean in the middle of the winter.  I recently had the privilege of visiting my beautiful Country, the Dominican Republic during the holidays.  Between the perfect 80 degrees weather, beautiful beaches and festive atmosphere every day of the week, the only complaint that I have are the 4 pounds that I gained from eating everything that I came across.

I can’t speak for other nationalities, but I feel like everything on my island tastes better than back home in the United States. I mean something as simple as a ham and cheese sandwich will leave you nibbling on the crumbs.  It might the fact that things are grown naturally, or the fresh air, or maybe even the fact that you can sit down at noon with your family and enjoy lunch stress free. Whatever the case might be, they have some really good food in the Dominican Republic.
Fried Fish :sunbaths near the beach

Here are some of the delicious dishes that I enjoyed while on my trip:

1. Sancocho: This is one of the most popular dishes of the Dominican culture. It is a thick stew, with different types of meats. Typically the perfect sancocho is called “7 carnes” or 7 meats, It has chicken, beef and pork and even hen (gallina). No worries the rest of the meats fall under that category, (sausage, pork ribs, etc.)  The thickness of the soup is gained from the multiple root vegetables that are included.  You can pretty much add anything from yucca, plantain, and potatoes.

Marileidy : The Social Butterfly

Sancocho is our go to plate for almost everything.  It is our comfort food in a cold day, the perfect cure to a hang over, and a great dish for a get together that will guarantee a lot of guests will be showing up.  Sancocho is yummy anyway that you have it, but it is best served with a side of white rice and a slice of avocado.

2. Mangu: Ever heard the term, “ I am more Dominican than mangu?” that is because Mangu is literally the most Dominican food in existence. Sure we share other dishes such as sancocho and rice and beans with other Latin American countries. But the mangu is an authentic dish of the beautiful Dominican Republic. The plantain is a tropical fruit that is very abundant and affordable in our land. People in the country grow it in their back yards and Dominicans eat it in every way possible.

Mangu Platter

During some point in Dominican history, someone had the bright idea of smashing the plantains, frying some onions and throwing it over it.  There are many things that you can eat mangu with; but there only 3 sides that makes it a great dish, which are called “ Los Tres Golpes” The Three Hits. The sides which are by the way all fried, are eggs, cheese and salami.  The peculiar thing about this dish is that the sides are not really sides; but displayed gracefully on top.

3. Fried Fish: Okay, so I won’t sit here and claim that fried fish is a Dominican invented dish.  It’s something that you can pretty much have anywhere. However, you can’t just go to any beach in the world and have fresh fish that was just caught friend on front of you. That is the beauty of my land, we pride ourselves in freshness and flavor. A Dominican “sazon” or seasoning is unmistakable.  It takes some special hands to marinate a good fish just right.

Fried Fish

You can enjoy your fried fish are some fried plantains,  fried sweet potatoes and some breath taking views of the Caribbean sea.

Contributed by : By: Marileidy Morel

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Pork Lovers, Wake Up . Dinner is served !

Continuing with my them of playing with contrasts, for all you meat lovers out there, here is a dish that my guests and fan club loved. Can you count the ingredients here ?

Braised Pork Chop , Sweet Corn Fennel Medley , Spanish Membrillo Cubes


Saturday, February 14, 2015

Cute Caramelized Cipollini Anyone ?

I love playing with bold flavors, combining them so that they play off of each other  I came up with the side dish idea of juxtaposing the sweetness of sweet potatoes, mild taste of cipollini , wrapped in a veil carmelized goodness and dashes of aleppo pepper. Oh yes, the flounder filets too, were excellent. 

Flounder in Lemon Butter, Side of  Carmelized  Sweet Potatoes and Cipollini, Aleppo Pepper 


Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Expressions of Love , Squared - Part I

Two Back to Back Events - Both Connected with :Love , Expressed with Food made with Love

Anniversary Appetizer 

Lite ‪bay‬ ‪scallop‬ ‪chowder‬ 

Anniversary Main Dish

Garden vegetable Spelt freekeh topped with lump lobster and Japanese mushroom in white wine butter reduction.

Anniversary Salad

Baby spinach sumo mandarin salad cranberry orange vinaigrette , black cheeries and pistachios

Cin Cin My Friends


Monday, January 19, 2015

Finding Roots: Spaniards, Ancient Greeks and My Own Kind

Sometimes I get very excited about my roots. I suspect that a part of me radicated from some noble clan from old Spain; I suspect too that, going in back even further to some earlier time , that another part of me, can claim blood from ancient colonial Greeks, who occupied the South of Italy; and of course, I know, not that much suspect, that the most recent part of me, is as Italian as you can get, off the boat, stuck in a cultural purgatory, with roots in two continents,  stuck in a time warp of traditions, old and new.

All this contrast, friction and excitement pushed me around,  a set of forces that just told me: "cook it away , dancing Chef , cook it away ". And so I did .The result, a set a creations that thanks all in equal parts, well almost: I do recognize that some pork is missing: that's a different topic all together.

So here you are my friends, here are  two interesting dishes, elaborate in their own way , elaborate in their emotional and mental genesis, tasty , bold, and yet authentic with a touch of modern.

Papparde with Black Chickpeas, Calamari Rings, Topped with Sauteed Frisee

Braised Octupus with Purple Dandelions in Lemon Wine Sauce 

Braised Octopus Lemon Wine Sauce

Do you know where your roots are ?

Salute !

Monday, January 12, 2015

When in Stress, COOK !

This is what happens when I feel like de-stressing: Spaghettoni in a zesty tomato scallop sauce

Spaghettoni Zesty Scallops

Happy to report that I was able to fall  back to my normal self after fan club applauded.

Salute !

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Warming Up The Coldest of Nights

What better way to warm up an entire family on the coldest of nights, than with a bowl of vegetarian pastina, a broth-based delight, a lite and fast soup, born in a time and a place very different than the fast and fancy world we live in today, a pauper's broth that only soothes and enriches the soul, one slow spoonful at a time ?

Here's a dish born out of love , so worth passing on from aunts to nephews.

Pastina alla Zia Vittoria 

Warm night of peace, my wish to all of you .


1 small yellow squash , diced
2 small potatoes , diced
1 cup of  anici di pepe  pastina
1/2 cup  grape tomotoes
Italian Parsely
1/2 cup of cooked white beans , the small kind

EVOO  and Salt

Serve warn, topped with fresh , raw EVOO, and small cubes of Crotonese cheese cubes.

Preparation Tips 
Bring your 1 1/2 quarts of water to a boil , add veggies, cook for 3 minutes, add pastina, EVOO , salt.  Add pastina, cook until potatoes tender and pastina is al dente.

Friday, January 2, 2015

Noah's Pudding , Symbol of Togetherness and Friendship

It's only January and Pink Party Nostalgia is already in the air, a party that brings together a United Nations of cultures and food, a gathering  often held on , luck has it ,  stormy , wintry evenings somewhere in Central New Jersey.  It's a time of expanded fun, a gathering where Turkish meets Italian , and Chinese meets Braziilan  and food meets song meets dance.

So yesterday when I saw the Facebook post that the hosts Miriam and Erbil had shared of a beautiful festive dish , my anxiety about the Party was not just  a hunch , it was fully warranted, as if I had a sixth sense predicting what I was about to come across.

So , I reacted, A quick note out to Miriam about sharing this wonderful dessert dish with my readers, and , et voila, permission granted, picture and story, all in my in box within minutes.

Ashure , Noah's Pudding

It turns out that Ashure, a pudding made grains, fresh and nuts, topped with vivid and crispy pomegranate seeds, and shredded coconut,  a true Turkish delight, has a very interesting story . We are told, from that great authoritative source in the cloud that is Wikipedia:

In anecdotal history, it is claimed that when Noah's Ark came to rest on Mount Ararat, Masis sar in northeastern modern-day Turkey, Noah's family celebrated with a special dish. Since their supplies were nearly exhausted, what was left (primarily grains, dried fruits and the like) was cooked together to form a pudding, what is now call Ashure.

What wonderful fact. Can you imagine! Noah , a common ancestor , respected across many cultures and religions and the legend of Mount Ararat, all coming together in a traditional dish.  The case for a new dessert, needs no more. It's now added to my recipe box, and yes, special thanks to my good friends Miriam and Erbil.

Salute !


Saturday, December 27, 2014

Simple  Family Style  Holiday Eats

Holiday Cheese Platter

Korean Short Ribs Cooked In White Wine

Simple Roasted Potato

Artichokes and Pinoli

Something about these colors that makes me hungry.  What dish would you add these to ? 

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Side Dishes - Make a Meal Out of them

Here are few sides that I prepared

Cilantro Cremini

Almond Beet Salad 

Sproutsm Beets and Puffy Cranberries

Lost and Found - Goodiness Rediscovered

A few plates that we lost, now found amongst the hidden archives . What a treat

Catalan Inspired Cod Salad and Filling 

Tofu and Peppers
Turnip Fritters

Sword Fish with Turnip Fritters , Turnip Hotcakes Over Bed of Sweet Yellow Squash
Pepper Salmon

Friday, August 8, 2014

Culinary Creations Part 1

Here's a small sampling of the dishes that have come out of my kitchen over the past few months. Does this read like a resturant menu ?  Would be great to know, my hungry friends.

Warm Garlic Pimenton Pimentos (Red Peppers) Brushcetta
Radish with Spicy Anchovy and Caper Sauce
Pimentos y Pimenton
Red Beets with Blood Orange Reduction
Long Stemmed Artichoke Hearts
Smoked  Maple Salmon , Pimentos Tapas

Minestre (Soups)
Cicerciehie (Wild Chickpeas) , Pomodori e Patate in umido
White Northern Beans with Baby Arugula and Shaved  Percorino Romano Cheese
Lentils with Grape Tomatoes and Smoked Provolone
Santorini Lentils with Goat Feta, Kalamata Olives , and Smoked Sturgeon
Spinach and Asparagus with Goat Ricotta
Green Lentil and Almonds
Udon with Lotus Root Miso Broth

Paste e Riso 
Fusilli Corti , Pomodori , Zucchine with Goat Cheese
Arborio Riso e Patate in Rosso
Cous Cous with Mexican Inspired Black Beans
Cous Cous with Sauteed Eggplant
Coud Cous with Artichoke Hearts
Red Quinoa  and Millet  with shallot , carrots, tomato
Whole Wheat Papardelle , Chick Peas and Red Pepper with Sharp Pecorino

Farfalle with Beans and Pimenton
Ziti with Spicy Flageolet Beans and handmade Pesto
Wild Rice and Japanese Eggplant
Spaghetti alla Chitarra  al Pomodoro and  Goat Ricotta
Bucatini with Fresh Garlic  Scapes

Pork Chops with Spicy Lentils
Catalan poached cod in Vietnamese Rice wraps
(Pic here)
Cod Fish and Scallops infused with key lime
Halibut over bed of Kale and Sweet Potato Garlic Saute'
Cod Fish wtih Pesto Primavera
Halibut with Lemon and Aleppo Pepper Sauce
Shrimp , Potato and Pimenton Crema
Red Snapper Filet with Escarole, Kalamata Olives , Red Peppers and Pine Nuts (pinoli)
Monk Fish , Asparagus and Lotus Root

Pistachio Encrusted Halibut with Blood Orange Reduction

Contorni (Side Dishes) 
Asparagus with Orange Vinaigrette
Spicy Escarole with  Celery
Sauteed White Mushrooms with Cilantro, Lemon and Red Jalapeno
Sweet Potato with Savory Lentils
Sauteed Portobello Mushrooms with Shasito Peppers
Mediterranean Potato with Green Beans
Turtle Peas and EVOO

Insalate (Salads)
Long Italian Eggplant, with  Beets and Baby Arugula
Baby Frisee' with Lyon Mustard , Kumquat Vinaigrette
Pickled White Anise Salad
Cactus Pears in Light Syrup

Stay Hungry My Friends

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Tale of Two Michaels

It was an exciting Sunday . After more than 6 months planning , I finally got my friend Slava and his entire clan to come over for a pasta making lesson . I love events like this where I can teach aspiring chefs, to cook up some good food.

Meet Little Michael. He was my apprentice for the day and passed with flying colors.

Litttle Michael In Action

Today's Menu 

Terra BlueChip
Assorted Focaccia (Tarry Market)
Fried Red Pepper Medley with Iberian Pimenton 
EVOO Marinated Roasted Jalapeno Peppers
Umbrian Pecorino Cheese
Sharp Auricchio Provolone
Prosecco Mionetto

Tagliatelle al Pomodoro

Braised Brazilian Carne Seca (Oregano and Garlic Sauce)
Sauted Artichokes Hearts
Roasted Lemon Potato Wedges

Tomato Cucumber Mozzarella Salad

Espresso Coffee
Italian Torrone

A few details about today's pasta. These tagliatelle were extra light and I did this by almost omitting any use of egg. Most recipes you will find include lots of eggs when making the dough . But,. as you know my dear Fans,  I am adverse to eggs. So I barely used 3 eggs for more than 3 1/2 pounds of flour.

For this pasta I use about 75% "00" (Doppio Zero" Italian flour with another 25% semolina flour.  That provided the extra gluten content to make a good.

We ran this batch of tagliatelle through the rollers with a setting that was ab bit t thinner than usual. This made them delicate , very fast to cook and lighter to the palette.

Finally , the tomato sauce  was also very simple, a mixture of crushed (Pomi'  brand) and fresh grape and  tomatoes that ripen in my kitchen over periods of 2-3 weeks.. The sauce was flavored with just 1 clove of garlic (not crushed) , and some fresh basil.

Tagliatelle  Spread (uncooked)

Little Michael; welcome to my island !

Tarry Market
Auricchio Provolone
Antico Mulino Caputo Farina 
Mionetto Prosecco 

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Tales from the Antipodes

What better way to start the year than with a resolution  to put an end the drought of my blogging. And to top it, what better way than to kickstart things by writing about my good friend Frank, a man who has ventured out to the antipodes in search of  adventure, food and reality of a different kind.

Let me tell you about Frank a bit. German by origin, Frank has lived in at least three continents. That makes him interesting, and a perfect interlocutor, especially in the company of  good cognac or robust wine. He has taken several trips to the tip of Argentina,  to "La Tierra del Fuego" to visit a set of  remote bird sanctuaries that host populations of small penguins. Frank loves these remote places so much that he will not disclose their exact geographic location. Don't even think of using Google Maps.they won't be able to get streets view in those places, You can only get there by foot, sleeping bag and ship

Now back to cooking .

For a few years now, Frank has provided me with pictures and stories of his cooking exploits. So this year, I thought that I would honor our friendship by featuring his culinary creation. Christmas goose has been a holiday tradition  for him, and I think he has become a master at it.  This year's in particular just looks wonderful.

Christmas Goose

Rather than try to explain and paraphrase, a little excerpt in Frank's own words can color this picture much more than I can .

"... roasted goose is the traditional German Christmas dish  ( and I grew up with the distinctive smell and taste. Most female members (the males did not cook when I was a kid) of my family hated cooking it and I understand now very well, why. It is not that easy to do, it occupies and messes up the whole kitchen plus, when it goes wrong, it usually goes REALLY wrong. 

Every German has that horror story of the burnt, undercooked, overcooked, tough, too fat, stringy goose that almost set the kitchen on fire and ruined Christmas for the whole family that year. I cooked around 10 geese in my lifetime (I started late ...) and managed to screw up two of them, rendering them virtually inedible and putting me in a bad mood for weeks. 
I have absolutely no idea, how my grandmothers managed to produce delicious, perfectly cooked geese using their tiny inadequate ovens with kids (=my parents, aunts and uncles) running around their feet ... I have a lot of respect for that and think about it every time I ignite my turkey proof Viking stove that goes to exactly 500 degrees Fahrenheit within 8 minutes so I can shove in the goose comfortably resting on my Williams and Sonoma non sticking roasting pan. The funny thing is, despite all the technology and tools, I will still be nervous for the following couple of hours, anxiously basting the bird and getting the dripping fat out (which by the way I will use for cooking until the end of spring, healthy and unbelievably tasty) until it's time to cut and taste. And then, only if the universe is well spirited and the goose was a good, though expensive, organic one and I did everything right and the stars all line up in exactly the right order ... THEN it's finally Christmas!
The goose was perfect, cooked for 40 minutes with 500 degrees to get most of the fat out and then roasted for 3 more hours with 400 degrees. The taste is so strong that you do not need any special seasoning - just salt, a little pepper and mugwort (German or Asian stores have it). I fill it with apples, Granny Smith this time. A good sauce is essential, I use all the parts of the goose we do not eat, the wing tips, some of the fat and the meat juice mixed with wine that drips of the goose while it roasts. Then we ate it the German traditional way, with red cabbage and potato balls. A nice Bordeaux goes very well with it. "
Frank, my friend, the stars were definitely lined up for you this Christmas. And here is the finished product.. 

The Spread

Cheers all my friends, those of you in the Northern Hemisphere and Southern alike

Penguine from La Tierra del Fuego