Lamb Stew with Saffron and Tomatoes

Lamb Stew with Saffron & Tomatoes

Once again, I have to attribute the origin of yet another blog post to my better half. A couple of weekends ago, we were watching an episode of “Lidia’s Kitchen” on our local PBS channel. As she was cooking, I remarked that my only disappointment with Lidia Bastianich’s show is her neglecting to provide exact measurements for key ingredients to a dish.

While I continue to maintain she does it to promote sales of the cookbooks on which her shows are based, Andrew more forgivingly attributes it to Lidia’s being a “q.b.,” or “quanto basta,” chef, an expression found in Italian cookbooks that means “just enough” or “as much as you think you need.” However, when he recently surprised me with a copy of Lidia’s Commonsense Italian Cooking, which he “happened” to order after watching the aforementioned episode, I’m sticking to my “profit-motivated” position.

Read more

Roast Pork Loin with Rosemary and Garlic

Roast Pork Loin with Rosemary & Garlic

Whenever my skeptical aunt was underwhelmed by somebody’s claim of having made an earth-shattering discovery, she’d make the sardonic aside “Beh! Ha fatto la scoperta di Cristoforo Colombo.” (“Eh! He made the discovery of Christopher Columbus.”) Well yesterday, which just happened to be Columbus Day, I was similarly underwhelmed by my discovery in the fridge of a pork roast that had reached its use-by date. First off, it meant that I would have to abandon the pasta recipe I had planned on for today’s post. Moreover, I had already done my shopping for the day and wasn’t up for a return trip to the market to look for any special ingredients that might be required by a pork-roast recipe.

Read more

Baked Chicken with Potatoes & Lemon

Baked Chicken with Potatoes & Lemon

One problem led to another this weekend, which eventually led to cancelling a dinner party and leaving me with a bunch of potatoes and a plethora of chicken thighs. The problematic weekend also took its toll on writing a post for this blog, which I wasn’t able to get to until today.

After all the drama, I really wasn’t up to cooking last night but needed to put those spuds and thighs to good use. It’s at times like these that I turn to reliable favorites among my cookbooks for a no-brainer recipe requiring minimal prep and cleanup. It didn’t take me long to find one that met these requirements: Baked Chicken with Potatoes and Lemon. It’s from Michele Scicolone’s 1,000 Italian Recipes, one of the most comprehensive and dependable collection of Italian dishes there is.

Read more

Vinegar Chicken with Crushed Olive Dressing

Vinegar Chicken with Crushed Olive Dressing

For my last birthday, a dear friend gifted me with a subscription to the New York Times “Cooking” website. Although I had been tempted to subscribe, given my ever-growing number of cookbooks, I doubt that I would have ever done so on my own. For the last few months, however, prompted by the site’s daily email updates, I’ve become a frequent visitor and have grown even more grateful for the gift.

Read more

Musing: Dining à la mood

Eggs in Purgatory

Sometimes the way I feel dictates what I cook. Such was the case the other night when I returned from the hospital after my husband underwent emergency surgery. He had been in severe pain and the anguish on his face conjured up in my mind images from Gustave Doré’s illustrations for Dante’s Inferno.

Dore’s Illustration for Inferno, Canto VI

I was going to skip dinner but knew I’d need my strength to face the next day. After finding some left-over marinara in the fridge, I decided on something fast and easy that mirrored my dismal mood: Uova in Purgatorio, Eggs in Purgatory, a dish I’ve written about before here. Somehow, served on a thick slice of toast, they provided the comfort I needed.

Crisp Gnocchi with Brussels Sprouts & Brown Butter

Crisp Gnocchi & Brussels Sprouts

When the publication of an intriguing New York Times Cooking recipe for crisp gnocchi coincided serendipitously with my finding a forgotten shelf-stable package of those dumplings in the back of my cupboard, I had to make the dish.

Read more

Neapolitan Breaded Pork Chops

Neapolitan Breaded Pork Chops

Ever since losing my cookbook library to a flood from super-storm Sandy, I’ve been rebuilding it slowly. Since many of the books in my original collection are now out of print, I’ve been relying on used-book sellers both local and online. One book I was especially happy to secure, at an affordable price, is Jeanne Carola Francesconi’s La Cucina Napoletana. Close to 700 pages in length, it’s a treasure trove of classic Neapolitan recipes, often succinctly written, with many ingredient measurements marked “q.b.” which means “quanto basta,” Italian for “just enough.” Given her laconic style, I’m pretty certain that Francesconi had relatively experienced cooks in mind as her audience. But even a novice one can acquire an understanding of authentic Neapolitan cuisine, which today seems sadly to have been overshadowed by its Northern counterparts or bastardized by many popular chain restaurants.

Read more

Dinner for One: My Father’s Marinara

My Father’s Marinara

Planning, preparing, and sharing dinner with my husband may be the quotidian pleasure I enjoy the most. It’s our time to look back on our day, discuss what’s on our mind, and give thanks for what we have. Unfortunately, fate occasionally steps in, snatches this delight away, and leaves me alone for dinner. In my youth, I may have handled this disappointment with a pre- and post-prandial libation, skipping the dinner between them. These days, however, being much older and a tad wiser, I may limit myself to one cocktail but shall never forego cooking and having at least a simple meal after it. I guess it’s my way of countering fortune and carrying on.

Read more

Short Ribs Braised with Potatoes and Mustard

Braised Short Ribs with Potatoes & Mustard

A great sale on beef short ribs at my local Whole Foods triggered our Sunday supper. After returning home from the market, I started to look for recipes and found one I thought would be perfect for a late-summer night, Jacques Pepin’s “Beef Short Rib, Mushroom, and Potato Stew.” The fact that it utilized a pressure cooker made it especially appealing, as we were having a bit of a heat wave. I made another trip to the market to pick up the potatoes and dried shiitake mushrooms called for by the recipe. Back home, as my husband was unpacking the shopping bag, he asked what the mushrooms were for. When I told him, he looked a bit perplexed and said: “Didn’t you write that one up already?” I searched my blog and, sure enough, I had done a post on the dish last year.

Another cook-book search for a recipe that wouldn’t require another walk to the market (We don’t have a car.) yielded one that could use the just-purchased potatoes and didn’t call for anything I didn’t already have on hand. The source was Mark Bittman’s tome How To Cook Everything; the recipe, “Short Ribs Braised with Potatoes and Mustard.”

Read more

Musing: Thinking about Frittate

A frittata slice

An insightful essay by food-and-wine mavens Diane Darrow and Tom Maresca on the evolution of Italian-American cuisine brought me back to growing up in Brooklyn with a family that had survived the Great Depression. Although my parents and aunt were better off than most, having been gainfully employed and comfortably housed, during that dismal era, they nonetheless were deeply affected by it. My mother especially, who frequently recounted woeful stories of having witnessed people on breadlines in her youth, was extremely frugal, despite being the wife of a successful attorney. Moreover, as a family, our weekly dinner menus closely reflected the Depression-Era pattern described in Darrow and Maresca’s essay:

“Pasta three days a week was common; soups and frittate (Italian-style omelets, usually with vegetables or cheese sufficed for two or three other days. Monday, in almost every household, was soup night. Sunday was sacred to un buon’ pranzo. . . antipasto or soup, or at least a broth, followed first by a pasta course, then by a roast meat, most often a chicken. Dessert in the time-honored form of fresh fruit usually concluded the meal.”

Read more