Recipe of the Month August: Sausage and Clams

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Buon giorno!

So I just returned from my 50th high school reunion in Binghamton, NY, where I was fortunate to rekindle friendships with some of the finest people I have ever known. In a word, it was somewhat surreal! Since this event, I have thought of little else, along with memories of all sorts of fun times and yes, even some mischief. Some of the memories that came to mind involved clambakes at a place called “Mountain Top” where we consumed more clams on those warm days than you might think possible in a place so far inland and also sausage and pepper sandwiches, on the bill of fare at well attended Italian festivals.

I began to yearn for those flavors and decided to put together a little Italian dish in honor of those good folks with whom I reunited, combining the distinctive flavors I remembered so well at the clambakes and festivals of my youth. Here we have it – – SAUSAGE AND CLAMS. (I should have called this “Bowls of Heaven”!)

You might wonder how this duo might be at all complimentary, but I assure you that when the briny/sweet clams come together with pork sausage, it is magic time. The broth that is so simply created in this recipe makes good crusty Italian bread an essential ingredient to make this dish truly complete. The broth itself is so extraordinary as to enchant even the most skeptical of gourmands at your table. The looks you will receive and the sounds that you will hear upon serving this dish, laden with the golden broth in particular, are sure to please you and validate your efforts.

Clams and Sausage 1

This dish is surprisingly easy to prepare and an especially good one to choose for a crowd. Your Italian guests will appreciate the flavor similarity to an old fashioned sausage and peppers sandwich especially when they begin to scoop up the peppers and onions from the broth.. but then of course the twist of the added clams will surely send them into outer orbit. Obviously, the merging of the special flavors of the clams and the sausage might be wonderful enough, but the real secret to a truly successful preparation is one that is true of almost any Italian dish – FRESH INGREDIENTS! The freshness makes all the difference in this recipe. Just look at the ingredients below, and you will see that almost everything involved is fresh.

This amazing dish is almost a soup, could be a stew, but is definitely a flavor bomb! You can’t take a wrong turn with it. It is easy, fairly quick to prepare, and will make you a star in your own kitchen. Get the bowls ready… and don’t forget the bread!

Yeah. yeah, I know THE WINE!!! I am a fan of the beautiful Italian white wine, Falanghina, with any seafood dish. It is simply made to order for seafood and almost bears the very essence of the Mediterranean. For those who might like a red which would actually be lovely with the sausage, I might like a lighter red, like a Dolcetto or even a Barbera – but nothing too heavy.

I will leave you with a cautionary tale…When you buy your fresh clams, do NOT close the bag before cooking them. Clams are living things and need to breathe just like you do. I remember going to my local fish market and while waiting for my turn, overheard the gentleman customer ahead of me rudely berating my fish monger for handing him an open bag of clams.

CUSTOMER: “You are not going to even bother to close the bag?? What kind of service is this?” he said in a very loud voice. My fish monger was speechless and seemed embarrassed.

ME (sticking my nose where it did not belong – a bad habit): “Sir, do you plan to eat those clams?”

CUSTOMER: “Well, of course, I am”. (Responding in a very haughty and mind your own business tone)

ME: “ If that is the case, you better leave that bag wide open or you will have dead clams for dinner! This man did you a favor giving you an open bag allowing the clams to breathe!”

He never said a word of apology and stalked off with the open bag of clams. I, on the other hand, got free fish that day!

Now while I am off to Mountain Top or an Italian festival in my dreams, or maybe just the patio –  here are the keys to the kingdom:


Serves: 4-6

Prep: 20 minutes

Cook: 25 minutes


1/2 Stick (4 Tbsp.) Butter

1/4 C. Olive Oil

1 lb. Italian Sausage, sliced

I Onion, thinly sliced

1 Green Pepper, sliced thinly

2 Cups Sweet Grape or Cherry Tomatoes, sliced in half

Red Pepper Flakes – amount up to you but at least 1/4 tsp recommended

3 Fresh Cloves Garlic, chopped finely

A good handful fresh flat leaf Italian Parsley – chopped

About 50 Clams – I like Littleneck, scrubbed and rinsed

3/4 Cup Dry White Wine or Dry Vermouth

1/4 cup Bottled Clam Juice

Zest of one fresh lemon

Lots of fresh ground pepper

Fresh Parsley for garnish

Extra Virgin Olive Oil – a good one – for drizzle


In a wide pan, place butter and oil and heat. Add Sausage, onion, pepper, tomatoes,  red pepper flakes and cook until sausage is browned and veggies are just tender – about 10-15 minutes.

Clams and Sausage 2

In last 5 minutes of cooking, add the chopped garlic, black pepper, and parsley.

Clams and Sausage 3

Give a quick scrub to the outside of the clams with a brush under running water. This is important! Then add the clams to the pan. Pour the wine and clam juice over them. Add the lemon zest .

Sausage and Clams 4

Cover and cook about 8-10 minutes. Uncover and check to see if any of the clams did not open. If there are some, you might cook another minute or two. Sometimes if the clams are larger, they need more time. If any remain unopened, discard them!

Sausage and Clams 5

Taste the broth for seasoning – You should not need salt at all – but if you would like it – add it now.

Garnish with fresh parsley and served in bowls with plenty of Italian bread for dunking.

A drizzle of good Extra Virgin Olive oil before serving finishes the dish!

It’s showtime!!!





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May: Roasted Diced Potatoes with Gorgonzola

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Buon giorno!

Potato, Po-tahhh-to, as they say. Lately growing tired of the usual cuts, I have been on a tear for preparing diced potatoes. On the surface you might think it wouldn’t make a difference how they were cut before roasting – but it does. Potatoes in this tiny shape carry more of the roasted flavor than the usual larger slices. Each little bite is FULL of flavor! I have served them more recently in all sorts of ways, but the ROASTED DICED POTATOES WITH GORGONZOLA seem to have launched the siren call in my world for the perfect side to outdoor summer dining and grilling.

My accomplished gourmet friend, Eric, consulted with me the other day on a potato suggestion for his very special dinner of Duck Confit. Immediately, my passion for the little diced spuds came to mind to compliment his luscious and ambitious French effort, and I decided that I needed to share this one with you as well.

These potatoes can be made ahead and reheated successfully. As a matter of fact, I suggest making extra, just for the purpose of having them left over for breakfast the following day served with a lovely poached egg! With that in mind, I also highly recommend using them for a special Brunch with the same poached or fried eggs – maybe served on a small bed of greens?

The great thing about these “dicey” wonders is that you can put your pearls on and serve them with a fancy beef or pork dish or “git down” in your favorite jeans and offer them with burgers, spiedies, barbecue, or a myriad of outdoor grilled items. They just seem to fit in with the occasion.

So pour yourself a glass of Brunello and start dicing!


Serves 4-6

Prep 15 minutes

Cook 30-35 minutes


6 Large Yukon Gold Potatoes

4 oz. Chopped uncooked Pancetta

1 Chopped Sweet Onion

1/2 C. Olive Oil

Kosher Salt and Coarsely Ground Black Pepper

Pinch of Red Pepper Flakes

1/2  Cup Crumbled Gorgonzola (or a creamy Blue) Cheese

(Don’t use the pre-crumbled cheese as it can be very dry – It is best to buy a small block and crumble your own)


Mix all ingredients together in a bowl except the cheese.

Roasted Potatoes with Blue Cheese 1

Spread the diced potato mixture out in a single layer on a shallow baking pan lined with foil.

Roasted Potatoes with Blue Cheese 2

Bake at 400 degrees for about 15 minutes and stir.

Cook 15-20 more minutes adding the crumbled cheese in the last5-10 minutes of cooking.

You can make these  potatoes ahead – early in the day and warm them just before serving.


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July:Frutti di Mare On the Grill

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Buon giorno!

There is no shortage of recipes for Frutti di Mare. Literally it means “fruits of the sea” – more to the point: seafood! The term and recipes are most closely associated with the Amalfi Coast and Bay of Naples, although you can find them from other regions sometimes given different names. the term, Frutti di Mare, is more often seen in recipes for spaghetti and linguine but the preparation is similar also to the Italian fish soup, Zuppa di Pesce.

In the featured recipe here, we are taking the traditional idea of Frutti di Mare and cooking it on the grill in packets – thus, FRUTTI DI MARE ON THE GRILL!  If you love seafoood, will be right at home with this one especially after you see the ease with which you can prepare it. The flavor is amazing and you will be transported immediately to the Italian coast with the resulting aroma. It is simply…divine!

Part of the fun of this recipe is choosing the seafood. It is totally up to you as to what you ultimately select. Choose your favorite shellfish items or even chunks of cod or haddock. It is your “oyster” – choose everything you love!

The key to this recipe is organization – having everything ready to go and distributing the ingredients into the assorted packages. This is sooo easy and everyone will love you for it! It is not only fun to serve but your guests and family will have a ball with it – each person focusing and plowing through his packet – noting with hoots and hollers about all of the favorite seafood items inside.

Although you can serve it any time of year, the recipe cries out for a balmy patio evening, a gentle breeze, and an amazing wine – perhaps a Rosato! But please don’t forget the Italian songs that will lull your guests so beautifully into thinking they are dining on a high patio overlooking the fabulous Amalfi Coast.


Serves: 4

Prep: About 30 minutes

Cook: About 20 minutes


4 Large Pieces of Foil – about 18 “


1/2 lb. Calamari (Squid) Tubes (tentacles also if you like) cut into rings

16 Large Fresh Shrimp, cleaned and shelled

12 Fresh Mussels, with outside of shells cleaned with a brush under running water

20 Small Clams  ( I like Littlenecks or Cockles for this dish but any will do!) – outer shells brushed under running water to clean


2  6-8 oz. Lobster Tails, each cut in half with meat loosened from the shell


2-3 Italian Sausage Links – cut into rounds

2 Large Cloves Fresh Garlic, chopped finely

3-4 Small Yukon Gold Potatoes – cut up in small pieces – skins on (I like to microwave these for a couple of minutes first to begin the cooking process.)

1 Fennel Bulb, sliced thinly

4 Springs Fresh Tarragon

1 Tbsp. Fresh Basil – chopped

4 Slices Fresh Orange + 1 Squeeze of fresh juice per packet

Dash Red Pepper Flakes per packet

Pinch of Saffron per packet

Kosher Salt and Fresh Pepper to taste

About 1/2 Cup Crushed San Marzano tomatoes per packet

Splash of Dry White wine per packet

Splash of Clam Juice per packet

Dash of Sambuca per packet (optional but a great addition!)

Drizzle of Extra Virgin Olive Oil per packet


DON’T  be discouraged by the number of ingredients here. This recipe comes together 1-2-3! Enlist your guest to help!

Get all of your ingredients ready and lined up to go.

Lay out the foil sheets and evenly distribute the seafood, sausage, potatoes, fennel, and garlic on the bottom half of each sheet.

You might want to curl the foil edges upward a bit so that liquid does not run out.

Then top these ingredients with the tomatoes next – followed by the herbs, orange, orange juice squeeze, red pepper, saffron, salt, pepper, wine, clam juice and Sambuca.

End with a nice drizzle of Extra Virgin.

Frutti di mare 1

Fold the top half of foil sheet over the bottom half with the ingredients on it and quickly roll up the edges around 3 sides tightly!

Place them on a platter and take them to the grill.

Frutti di mare 2

The grill should be very hot – around 450 degrees. Close the top of the grill and cook 20 minutes.

Remove the packets and give each guest one of them. Caution them to open carefully as the steam coming out is HOT! If any of the clams or mussels have not opened, return the packet to the grill for 4-5 minutes. Some of these  are stubborn! If still not open, discard them.

Place a bowl in the center of the table for discarded shells.


When you see how easy FRUTTI DI MARE ON THE GRILL is to make – you’ll want to make this all summer long!


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Key Lime Gelato

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Buon giorno!

Welcome to Margaritaville! Errr – Linda’s Italian Table with a lime twist?? Whatever! It is the warm weather season, and I, for one, am ready for a chilly dessert. This KEY LIME GELATO (with or without Macadamia Nuts – up to you) is just pie in a bowl!!

I suggest making extra because this stuff is gonna disappear fast! It is creamy and limey – made with Key Lime Juice which is bottled and easy to find usually in the baking section at your market. OR.. if you have extra time and access – get yourself some fresh key limes and squeeze your own juice! Either way – if you like the mild lime flavor of Key Limes or Key Lime Pie – marone, you are in for a treat here!

We added just 2-3 drops of green food coloring to give it a little nudge towards a tropical mode. You will NOT want to add more as a tiny bit of food coloring goes a long way, and it is NOT St. Partick’s Day! Besides – Key Limes, as you probably know, are more yellow than green.

A twisty idea on a beverage: Try this gelato whirled in your blender with a little vodka or rum – Serve in a pretty martini or wine glass with a twist of Key Lime or mint.  Good stuff!

So – “put de lime in de coconut and turn yourself around” (sigh.. sometimes I just cannot resist)



(with or without Macadamia Nuts)

Makes: about a quart

Prep: about an hour total + freezing time


2 Cups Heavy Cream

1 Cup Whole Milk

6 Egg Yolks

1 Cup Sugar

Dash of Kosher Salt (important to bring out flavor)

1/3 Cup Key Lime Juice (do NOT use regular lime juice) – see above text for directions in finding it

1 Tsp. Vanilla Extract

2-3 Drops – no more! – green food coloring

1 Cup Very Coarsely chopped Macadamia Nuts (optional)


Heat the cream and milk in a pan until bubbles form on the side. Remove from heat and let cool for about 5 minutes.

Place egg yolks in a bowl along with the sugar and salt – Then beat until light in color. The mixture will thicken.(Just a couple of minutes)

Key Lime Gelato 1

Add a little of the heated milk and cream to the yolks while whisking at same time. Then add a little more – whisking still. Now you can add the yolks mixture to the pan – whisk – and put back on the heat at medium.

Cook, stirring constantly, so that it does not separate, until it coats the back of a wooden spoon and you can make a little “road” through the coating with your finger.

Key Lime Gelato 2

This is a custard! Let the mixture cool for about 10 minutes.

Pour into a bowl.

Then add the vanilla extract, key lime juice, and food coloring. Stir in.

Key Lime Gelato 3

Place plastic wrap directly on the surface of the custard. Refrigerate for several hours or overnight is best. It will become thick.

Key Lime Gelato 4

When ready to make – pour mixture into your ice cream maker and follow your machine directions.

When it is finished or towards the end of the process – add the nuts if using. Incorporate. Note: I chill my Macadamias before adding so as not to raise the temperature of the gelato when added.

Key Lime Gelato 5

Freeze for several hours until ready to eat. Gelato is best eaten slightly soft. So if your gelato freezes hard – let it sit out for a bit to soften.

Key Lime Gelato 6

There it is! KEY LIME GELATO!  A little Italy in the tropics!


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Steak With Red Pepper Sauce

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Buon giorno!

Steak or bistecca ,as the Italians call it, can be a rather routine pleasure…UNLESS it is complimented by something special which pairs so divinely with it as to make it pop with flavor. Fire up the coals!! STEAK WITH RED PEPPER SAUCE is just one of those dishes that perfectly illustrates this. Not only does the sauce “dress” the meat in a way that is lovely on the plate, but also, it lifts every bite with a flavor so well matched to the beef that it makes you wonder why you aren’t serving it this way all the time! This steak preparation will be a hit with your guests and family and also will win your heart because it is soooo easy!

The beef: You can use almost any steak cut you like for this, but I like the flatiron steak or, as it is also called, the shoulder top blade steak. It is not terribly expensive, and is well suited to the use of an overnight marinade with simple ingredients. I like to whack it a little with a mallet and pierce it some to help tenderize it. The marinade does the rest and gives it lovely added flavor without being the “star” and fighting with the magnificent sauce yet to come.

The sauce: I can’t say enough about this beautiful roasted red pepper sauce or the way it marries to the meat when served. The sauce can be made ahead and frozen or refrigerated. It is up to you whether you have the time or inclination to roast your own peppers. If you do, you can find an easy recipe HERE! The sauce becomes even easier when you use one of the good bottled varieties of roasted peppers available at the grocer. In this event, I like to use the jar of WHOLE peppers not the ones sliced or cut. Patting them dry is recommended.

Double down: This recipe can serve 4 but my strong recommendation is doubling the meat amount, as this stuff will fly off the plate.

The aftermath: Just pray that you have leftovers! The next day, the leftover sliced steak with the sauce makes amazing paninis and also contributes to the best steak and eggs you will ever enjoy.

Italians are famous for enjoying steak and peppers. However, this is an experience altogether different!


Serves: about 4

Prep: 45 minutes

Cook: about 15 minutes

1 Flatiron Steak (approx 1 3/4 lb.) or any type of steak you like


2 Cloves Fresh Garlic – sliced

3/4 Cup Olive Oil

1/4 Cup Fresh Lemon Juice

1 Tbsp. Fresh Thyme Leaves or Lemon Thyme Leaves

1 tsp. Dried Oregano

Plenty of Kosher Salt and Freshly Ground Black Pepper to taste

Pound the steak a little with a mallet or heavy object and pierce it with sharp end of mallet or a knife in several places.

Whisk above ingredients for marinade together and marinate steak several hours or preferably overnight, turning once during marinating.

Steak with Red Pepper Sauce - marinating

Discard the marinade and grill your steak to taste  – let rest 10 minutes – then slice to serve. Pour a little of the sauce on the meat as pictured or serve the sauce on the side—or both!


1 Cup Roasted Red Peppers (Look HERE to roast your own) or use whole roasted red peppers from jar drained and patted dry

1/2 Cup Almonds

1 Garlic Clove

Dash of Red Pepper Flakes

1 Tbsp. Fresh Lemon Juice

1/4 Tsp. Dried Oregano

1 Tsp. Fresh Thyme Leaves or Lemon Thyme Leaves

1/8 Tsp. Sugar

3 Rounded Tbsp. Mayonnaise

2 Tbsp.Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Fresh Parsley for garnish

Place all above ingredients for sauce except the parsley into a blender, Vitamix, or food processor.

Red Pepper Sauce 1

Blend well until smooth.

Red Pepper Sauce 2

You can make this gorgeous red sauce ahead and refrigerate or freeze until ready to use. The recipe makes about 1 1/4 cups of sauce which is enough for 2 steaks.

Serve the sauce at room temperature with your sliced steak—or even lamb!

Make extra and look forward to leftovers for sandwiches, paninis, and a steak and eggs breakfast treat not to be believed.

Some say there is nothing better than steak and peppers… unless it is STEAK WITH RED PEPPER SAUCE! Steak served with this sauce is transformative. You will love it! This is one of those times, you might want to grab a bottle of the best Barolo you can afford and sit back and enjoy! A marriage made in heaven… or maybe in Italy!


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July: Amalfi Clams

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Simply the Best Clams Ever!

Amalfi Clams 3 with script

Buon giorno!

Did I just say the best clams EVER??? I did and I do! You will want these AMALFI CLAMS on your summer menus. Whether you offer them as a first course, appetizer, or main event, prepare yourself for the raves! In fact I highly recommend making twice a much as you planned. These are just that wonderful. This is truly a dish to remember.

The Amalfi coast is known for their phenomenal seafood and seafood preparations. The squid, the mussels, the crab, the clams, the cuttlefish and sea urchins – it is a treasure trove of wonder when one thinks of the bounty that comes from this area.The tiny clams, in particular, that they serve are tender and sweet.

In making the clams for this recipe, I highly recommend using Manila Clams or the small Littlenecks. You can use the larger ones but this dish is a little more delicate and I think better with the smaller clams. The clams will emit liquid, salt, and flavor. Therefore you will not see salt in the ingredients list. If you taste them, after cooking, and still think they need it – then add the salt – but this is one of those flavor experiences that is best created by the ingredients themselves. All you need to do is add them!

I would serve this dish anytime, but it just seems better in the heat of the summer when you let your senses drift to dreams of the gentle Amalfi breezes during this season. Simply taste the broth, and just float, as they say.

If you serve this one as a main course, I would suggest rice rather than pasta. This is such a delicate dish that pasta is almost too much for it. I especially love serving it, on its own, in bowls, as a first course or appetizer, with plenty of broth and a crusty grilled sliced of bread with olive oil. You need nothing else — unless of course, it is the remainder of that bottle of Prosecco you just used to make it!

Does the tiny bit of Sambuca make a difference and what is Sambuca doing in the dish anyway? Good question – who asked it? Oh! that was moi! The Sambuca gives it a slight edge. It is similar to the use of Pernod by the French in Bouillabaisse and by me in my Zuppa di Pesce! Without this little kick – it just isn’t the same – but please just a touch.

Vieni sul mar,
vieni a vogar,
sentirai l’ebbrezza
del tuo marinar.

(la – la la – la -la…)

Serves: 2

Prep: 15 minutes

Cook: 16-18 minutes


2 dozen Fresh Littleneck Clams or Manila Clams

4 Tbsp. Butter

2 Tbsp. Olive Oil

1 Whole Shallot (usually a double bulb)

1 Cup Finely chopped Sweet Peppers – I like the mini peppers

1 Fennel Bulb – chopped

Dash Red Pepper flakes

2 Cloves Fresh Garlic chopped finely

Pinch of Saffron Threads

1 Cup Prosecco (or Cava or Champagne)

1-2 Tsp. Sambuca (or Pernod)

3 Tbsp. Chopped Fresh Italian Parsley

A generous squeeze of fresh Lemon

Some Fennel fronds for garnish – These are the fine and delicate greens that emanate from the fennel bulb. They smell wonderful and make a great garnish.


Scrub your clams lightly with a brush under some running water and set them aside in the refrigerator while you prepare. Do not seal them up as they are living things and need to breathe. Think about it – you wouldn’t want someone sealing you up in a ziploc bag until dinner time!

Melt your butter in the olive oil and add the peppers, shallots, fennel and red pepper flakes. Cook on Medium High about 5 minutes.

Amalfi Clams 1

Add garlic and cook another minute being careful not to brown or burn the garlic.

Add your clams!

Crush the saffron threads with your fingers and add them to the Prosecco. Now pour the Prosecco and Sambuca into the pan.

Amalfi Clams 2

Add the parsley and quickly cover the pan.

Simmer about 8-10 minutes. If your clams are large you may need a few more minutes. Make sure ALL the clams open, and discard any that do not. Larger clams might take a couple of minutes more.

Give a quick squeeze of the lemon.

There are two ways to serve the loveliness of these AMALFI CLAMS:  Serve them piled high in a bowl with a large grilled slice of crusty bread brushed with olive oil OR you can serve them over rice. Either way – you will love them and serve them often as I do. There is simply no better summertime seafood dish than this one!

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Sicilian Couscous Salad

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Buon giorno!

Couscous – Italian?? Really? Yes and yes! In Sicily, it is called Cuscusu. This SICILIAN COUSCOUS SALAD  is certainly something you may find in Sicily. You will definitely find it on the Northern coast in Trapani where they often serve it with assorted fish. How does this happen? In my cooking classes, we talk quite a bit about the influences of history and conquerors of old putting their stamp on ingredients and recipes. Take a little trip back in time with me.

The island of Sicily had the fortune or misfortune, depending on your point of view, of being the “main dish” on the table of battle for centuries dating back to ancient times for many of its surrounding land hungry neighbors. These included the Greeks – evidenced in Agrigento in the Valley of the Temples, with the remains of “Acropolis-like” structures, built and left by ancient conquering hordes.

Valley of the Temples

The Romans put in their two cents as well. Then along came the Arabs of North Africa from 827-1061. With them came a tremendous influence in food and ingredients. The Arabs brought berries, apricots, almonds, spices, pistachios, rice, and sugar among other food items which became staples on the island. One of the dishes that became a part of the cuisine of Sicily under the occupation of the Arab conquerors was couscous. It is a popular ingredient even today – from the tiny kernel type to the larger pearl variety.

Ingredients: This SICILIAN COUSCOUS SALAD is a beautiful reflection of the Sicilian adoption of the ingredient, couscous. It is a lovely representation of the healthy recipes of the Mediterranean Diet.The large pearl or Israeli couscous is perfect for it. In Sicily, it is sometimes called “fregola”. It cooks quickly and is easy to work with.

Pearl Couscous

The greens used are “mache” or “mache rosettes – also referenced as “lamb’s lettuce”. This is a beautiful sweet and somewhat nutty lettuce. You may fall in love with it, as I have. Guests always ask what it is and love its tender sweetness. Another reason to love it is that it is beautiful to serve. The rosettes look like flowers on the plate. OK – so it’s French! In fact, it has been used and grown in France since the 17th century. No matter where it is from – it is a lovely lettuce. You must try it!

Mache rosettes

I like a touch of sweetness in the ingredients for this salad – thus the mango and some insanely good ginger honey beets. You can find the baby ones already prepared at Whole Foods sold in packages. If you don’t have access to these – Make your own! Peel some small beets and drizzle them with olive oil, honey and throw in some candied ginger pieces or slices of fresh ginger. Close them up in a foil packet and roast them for about 50 minutes in a 450 oven. Let them sit a few minutes and then open the packet. You can make them ahead and refrigerate them.

Goat cheese provides some savory and the toasted pignoli are such a Sicilian delight and add a nutty crunch. Just before serving, you will add a drizzle of a Balsamic reduction or glaze. If you have Saba – a wonderful reduced form of Balsamico – this would be just perfect!

This is simply a gorgeous salad to serve in warmer months – sooo fresh tasting. It reminds me of the Mediterranean breezes present on the island of Sicily during this time of year.


Serves: about 4

Prep: 30 minutes


1 Cup uncooked Pearl or Israeli Couscous

1 Cup Chopped Fresh Mango

1/4 C. Basil

Drizzle of Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Drizzle of Wine Vinegar

Salt and Pepper to taste

1/2 C. toasted pignoli (pine nuts)

Large handful of Mache or Mache Rosettes (or other tender sweet greens)

3 oz. Goat Cheese

Small Ginger Honey Beets – if using tiny ones – about 2 per person (See instructions above for making your own!)

Balsamic Vinegar or Balsamic Reduction or Balsamic Glaze – if you have Saba – this is the time to use it!

Fresh cut chives and/or Chive Flowers


Cook the couscous – usually 1 C. couscous to 1 /4 C. Water – Bring to Boil – Cover and Simmer about 10 minutes. Strain if needed when done.

Chop the Mango and Basil and add to the couscous along with the Oil and Vinegar, Salt and pepper.

Add the pignoli and gently mix together.

Couscous Salad

Set aside or refrigerate. You can make this early in the day.

When ready to serve – Place some mache on each plate. Spoon some of the couscous mixture on top .

Just before serving, add some goat cheese and beet pieces to each plate.

Drizzle lightly with a little Balsamic glaze or Saba for a touch of added sweetness.  Sprinkle with chives – Serve!

Try this SICILIAN COUSCOUS SALAD as a side, a first course, or a simple salad. A guaranteed hit out of the park! (Ahhh the baseball references!)


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Orzo with Campari Tomatoes

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Orzo finish

Buon giorno!

Sometimes the simplest things just hit the mark. ORZO WITH CAMPARI TOMATOES is one of those simple sides that is great with everything. It is appropriate with so many meat and fish meals, is attractive on your table, and never gets old. Is it just plain old pasta with tomatoes? NO! Orzo is a lovely “rice like” pasta without the graininess. It cooks quickly and holds its shape well. The flavor in this dish is fresh fresh fresh!

Can’t you use any tomato? The answer is of course you can, BUT if you want to get the full “bang” out of this dish – you will use only Campari Tomatoes. These are the always perfect little gems sold in the box at your grocer. They are available all year not just in the summer. The flavor of these tomatoes is distinctive and unequalled in sweetness. They are so sweet that they balance the savory quality of this side dish just perfectly. If you use other tomatoes – the dish will be fine but you will miss the unique sweet flavor that these Campari Tomatoes add to the dish.

Herbs: You will want to use FRESH herbs in this one. The result is simply not the same with dried. Choose from which you prefer of these two herbs and also from what you have – Either fresh parsley or fresh basil will do it.

Garlic: Again you will want fresh garlic here and be sure to chop it very finely.

A versatile dish! Serve it hot or cold (room temp). Either way is lovely. To add a little something – turn it into a salad with a little Red Wine Vinegar. This is especially nice in the warmer months when you are “on the patio” and eating outside. The dish travels well! If you make it ahead, be sure to taste for seasoning just before you serve as pasta often absorbs flavors and needs refreshing.

Make this one of your go-to sides!


Serves: 4-6

Prep: 20 minutes + pasta cook time


1/2 lb. Orzo pasta cooked according to package directions

6 Campari Tomatoes – chopped coarsely (Just look at these beauties)

Campari Tomatoes roasted_001

2 Cloves fresh garlic chopped finely

1/4-1/3 C. Chopped fresh Italian parsley or fresh Basil

Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Kosher Salt and fresh black pepper to taste


Prepare your orzo as package directs.

Chop the Campari Tomatoes, garlic, and, herbs. Add them to the orzo.


Drizzle generously with your favorite Extra Virgin Olive Oil. Add salt and pepper to taste.


If you like, you can prepare your Orzo with Campari Tomatoes ahead and serve it at room temp or cold by adding some red wine vinegar and making it a salad! Always refresh your seasoning when making ahead.


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Braised Radicchio

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Redicchio Brasato

Radicchio finish 1 with script

Buon giorno!

Northern Italians have their favorite veggies, and Radicchio is one of them. They grill it and serve it in salads. They also use it frequently in polenta dishes and in their risottos. BRAISED RADICCHIO or Redicchio Bresato  is a Northern Italian preparation featuring this beautiful ruby vegetable, on its own, with some classic Northern ingredients. It is an easy prep, with a delicious result. Topped with one of the Cheeses of the North, Gorgonzola, it offers a beautiful combination of savory, sweet, and sharp.



Serves: about 4

Prep: 15 minutes

Cook: 15 minutes


4 Tbsp. Olive Oil

4 Heads Radicchio, cleaned and quartered lengthwise

Finely Sliced Red Onion

1/3 C. Golden Raisins, soaked for about 1/2 hour in warm water and then drained

A couple of Sprigs Fresh Rosemary

3/4 C. Wild Mushrooms – tiny ones if possible or slice the larger ones

1 Tbsp. White Wine Vinegar

Splash Dry White Wine

Pinch sugar

Kosher Salt and Pepper to taste

Gorgonzola crumbled into bits for topping – Try to avoid the prepackaged Gorgonzola which is dry.

Drizzle of Extra Virgin Olive Oil if desired to finish


Rinse your radicchio and cut off the bottom root area – quarter the heads.

Radicchio 1

Heat the olive oil in a pan and cook the onion until just tender – about 4 minutes.

Then add the vinegar, wine, sugar, and salt and pepper to taste. Stir.

Add the radicchio, rosemary, drained raisins, and mushrooms. Add water and and season to taste with Salt and Pepper.

Radicchio 2

Cover the pan and let simmer for 8-10 minutes. Check after 8 minutes.

Place in a serving dish or individual plates and top with Gorgonzola. Drizzle with Extra Virgin if desired  – and serve!

BRAISED RADICCHIO is so easy to prepare and is a perfect choice for a side dish to grilled meats and fish.


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Spiedini alla Romana

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Crostini alla Provatura

Spiedini alla Romana finish 1 with script

Buon giorno!

Spiedini?? What? But there is no meat! Lesson: Spiedini refers to  the skewers and can relate to different types. SPIEDINI ALLA ROMANA is an extraordinary and memorable form of kebabs or skewers made of bread, cheese, and topped with a dreamy light anchovy sauce. Anchovy ? Before you run from the room screaming , those of you who have an aversion to these little fish, consider this: In this dish, anchovies provide unmistakable but still subtle flavor without anyone knowing they are there as a really a critical ingredient in the sauce. All together, these ingredients provide an unforgettable and rather addictive first course, appetizer, or addition to any meal. Guarantee: Eat one and you can’t wait until the next one!

Clue: When anchovies are chopped into tiny pieces, added to a sauce, and cooked slightly, they seem to melt into it – providing flavor – but they are almost undetectable. Also – they are a required ingredient in this particular sauce –  so after reading all this, if you still have an aversion, advising  that there is no proper substitute, you may continue to run screaming from the room and on to another recipe.

Those of you who chose wisely to remain in the room – smile knowingly and continue reading.

A Little History: This is one of those Italian regional dishes which I love to talk about. It is from Lazio – the region of Rome – and the region from which my mother, Loretta’s family, came. The food of this region is lovely, distinctive, and has its signature dishes . SPIEDINI ALLA ROMANA  is one of them and actually has another name – Crostini Alla Provatura because it is traditionally prepared from a soft egg shaped cheese, small in size called Provatura. This preparation calls for the skewered cheese and bread to be cooked over a wood fire and basted occasionally with melted butter.

Most preparations now fry the skewered bread and cheese in a pan with olive oil, although you will see the occasional recipe using batter before frying. I find the batter unnecessary and heavy, lending itself to a sometimes soggy exterior. Simply frying the bread without coating it is easy and quick and is in the Italian style of just frying the bread which Italians seem to love to do ( with good reason) every chance they get!

Style: It is your choice as to how large you make these. For a first course, you might like them a little larger. As an appetizer, served on small plates, you might like them smaller so your guests can just pick up the skewers and eat them without a knife and fork.

I also like to serve them as part of a light meal for “on the patio” dining in the warmer months. Add a stuffed artichoke and a lovely wine and you have a meal!

Spiedini Combo with artichoke

This dish is so delicious and lovely that that I can’t rave about it quite enough. You will just have to see for yourself how the flavors blend and enhance the crisply fried skewers to the point where no one really cares about the rest of the meal. Actually, think about that – this dish may save you hours in the kitchen! Just watch!


Serves: 4

Prep: 30 minutes

Cook: about 4 minutes


4 Stacks of 4 rectangular pieces of thickly sliced bread, crusts off, (preferably a dense Italian type) – stale is best or let the bread slices sit out for a few hours

8 Oz. Fresh Mozzarella, cut into slices or cubes slightly smaller that bread slices

1/4 C. Olive Oil

6 Anchovies packed in oil, patted dry with paper towels and chopped into tiny pieces

3 Tbsp. Butter

1/3 C. Dry Vermouth or any dry white wine

2 Tbsp. Fresh chopped Basil

2 Tsp. Fresh chopped Oregano

Dash Hot Pepper Flakes

2 Tbsp. Capers, rinsed and drained

1 good squeeze of Fresh Lemon Juice

(S&P only if needed – Usually the anchovies take care of salt needs)

Sprinkle of grated Parmigiano-Reggiano or Pecorino


See the ingredients list for suggestions on the bread.

Spiedini 1

Skewer your bread cubes alternating with Mozzarella cubes. I suggest using the shorter wood skewers you can find at most grocers.

Spiedini 3

Heat oil in a fry pan to VERY hot. Add your skewers to the hot oil. Leave a couple of minutes just to sear, and turn once. Having your oil hot is key here. You can peek at them to see if it is time to turn them.

Spiedini 4

Once seared on both sides, remove them to a plate and sprinkle with Parmigiano.

In the same pan, add the chopped anchovies and butter. Cook a minute, stirring, and add the wine, herbs, pepper, and capers.

Spiedini 2

Cook another minute, then squeeze in lemon juice. Stir – DONE!

Spoon this delicious sauce over your fried skewers, making sure some of the herbs and capers stay on top of each one.

Serve immediately!

OMG! You are in for a treat with these SPIEDINI ALLA ROMANA!  Serve them with a beautiful crisp and dry Italian white wine  – perhaps like an Arneis from the rolling hills of the Roero area in Piemonte – light and lovely with these flavors.


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February: Cannellini Bean Salad with Rosemary Focaccia Croutons

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Bean Salad Finish 3 with script

Buon giorno!

I often tout the qualities of beans in my posts. I also like to mention the importance of beans in Italian cooking. The simplicity of ingredients in Italian cooking makes it the perfect cuisine for beans to shine. In fact, I can’t even imagine Italian cuisine without frequent use of them. Often you’ll see them front and center as the main course rather than as a side dish. Here you see them as the main ingredient in a seemingly simple and rustic CANNELLINI BEAN SALAD WITH FOCACCIA CROUTONS. One bite of this amazing dish and you’ll see why I have given it Recipe of the Month status. The flavor in the dish is complex with the herbs giving it an earthy essence. The Lemon Dressing adds another level of flavor without overpowering the ingredients cooked into the beans.

This salad is so hearty and tasty that you can serve it as your main course as well as a side or salad. It calls for some prosciutto, but vegetarians would be just as happy with this beautiful salad by omitting the meat.  You are welcome to use dried beans which require a long cooking time, but this dish makes up well using the canned cannellini beans requiring much less time. You can make it ahead and refrigerate, but the croutons should NOT be added until you serve so that they won’t get soft.

This post is kind of a “twofer” in that you also get Focaccia and an interesting use for it in the croutons. The ROSEMARY FOCACCIA fills your kitchen with a lovely aroma. You’ll make your croutons and be happy for the leftover to eat with your meal or fried with eggs the next morning. Oh – what could be better than this?!

As an Italian, I love using all kinds of beans in cooking. However, when you make this salad, you’ll see why it is a BIG FAVORITE for me.

Bean Salad Finish 2 with script



Makes: 1  9 x 13 loaf

Prep: 3 hours

Cook: 12-15 minutes


1 C. lukewarm water

1 package Active Dry Yeast

1 1/2 Tsp. Honey

2 1/2 C. All Purpose Flour divided 1 C. and 1 1/2 C.

1/4 C. Extra Virgin Olive Oil

1 Tsp. Kosher Salt

3 Tbsp. Fresh Rosemary Leaves + a little more for top

Coarse Salt for top of bread

Extra Virgin Olive Oil for drizzling


Mix the cup of water with the yeast and honey. Let it sit for about 5 minutes, and then add 1 cup of flour and the 1/4 C. oil. Mix together with a spoon and let it sit another 5 minutes.

Now add the 1 1/2 C. Flour, salt, and Rosemary.

Mix together with clean hands and knead just a few minutes until the dough is smooth and elastic. Sprinkle with a little flour if sticky.

Rosemary Focaccia dough

Set the ball in an oiled bowl and rub the outside of the dough with the oil on your hands.

Cover and let rise in a warm place about an hour and a half.

Place the dough in an oiled pan 13 x 9 and stretch it to fit the inside of the pan. Push on it with your fingers and just keep working it into the rectangular shape to fill it. Put a little flour on your fingers if sticky. Then dimple the dough with a floured finger (making dents with your fingers)

Put it aside, covered loosely with a warm towel, in a warm place to rise again in the pan for about another 30 minutes. The 2nd rise will not be as great as the first.

Drizzle with Extra Virgin Olive Oil and sprinkle with coarse salt and some Rosemary.

Bake in a 450 oven for about 12-15 minutes until the top is golden.

Rosemary Focaccia finish with script

Drizzle again with Extra Virgin Olive Oil as soon as it comes out of the oven. Let the focaccia cool – then cut into the amount of croutons you’d like to use. Slice the rest to eat or freeze. The croutons freeze well also.

Focaccia Croutons


Prep: 1 hour

Serves: 4-6


3 Tbsp. Olive Oil

1 Garlic Clove – chopped finely

1/2 Onion – chopped

1 C. Chopped Prosciutto

Pinch Red Pepper Flakes

1/2 Tsp. Dried Oregano

2 Cans Cannellini Beans, rinsed and drained

2 Tbsp. Fresh Sage – chopped

2 Tbsp. Fresh Rosemary – chopped

1 Bay Leaf

1 1/2 C. Chicken Broth

2 C. Fresh Arugula

Lemon Dressing (see recipe below)

Shavings of Parmigiano-Reggiano or Asiago Cheese

Focaccia Croutons


Cook the onion, garlic, prosciutto, red pepper, and oregano in the oil on Medium High for a couple of minutes.

Bean Salad 1

Add the beans, sage, rosemary, bay leaf, and chicken broth to the pan. Bring to a boil and reduce the heat to simmer, covered, for 5 minutes.

Bean Salad 3

Drain and discard liquid along with the Bay Leaf.

Add the arugula to the beans, and toss gently.

Bean Salad 5

Add the lemon dressing to the arugula and beans, and toss again gently.

Garnish with Focaccia Croutons and Cheese shavings.

(Note: if you make the salad ahead, do not add the croutons until serving time – so they won’t soften.)



1/2 C. Extra Virgin Olive Oil – Use a nice one for this

1 Tbsp. Wine Vinegar

1/4 C. Fresh Lemon Juice

Kosher Salt and Fresh Black Pepper to taste – use enough salt to bring out the flavors!


Mix the ingredients for the dressing together and set aside for the salad.

Bean Salad 4

This CANNELLINI BEAN SALAD WITH ROSEMARY FOCACCIA CROUTONS is so lovely, it will be a favorite year round. It has so much flavor and interest and is a perfect choice for lent, summer dining on the patio, or anytime! Taste it, and you will see why it is the Recipe of the Month!


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Pork Tenderloin with Peach Composta

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Peach Sauce finish 2 with script

Buon giorno!

Anyone familiar with the Italian culture of cooking or has grown up, as I have, in an Italian home, knows how Italians value pork. More than any other meat, this is always mentioned in Italian cookbooks and the old traditional recipes. Italians just love their pork!

A couple of piggies from my father’s hometown – Casale, Italy!

Pigs - Casale

It seems fitting to talk about using up some of those amazing peaches in the markets right now and maybe to “marry” some of them to a delicious and easy cut of pork – thus PORK TENDERLOIN WITH PEACH COMPOSTA!

How can you miss? Cook your pork tenderloin in your favorite way – roast or grill. Reminder not to “over dress” or over flavor your pork as you don’t want it to fight with the composta and to also let the peaches “shine”. Remember that pork tenderloin does not have a lot of flavor on its own because of the lack of fat. Ride to the rescue with the Peach Composta – by creating a delicious and tangy peach concoction that is sweet and gives that usually tasteless lean pork cut a kick!

This sauce or composta is so easy to make. Aside from serving it with pork, it gives an amazing lift to grilled veal chops or chicken as well.

As always – I depend on the best in Heritage pork for all of my pork dishes – and that is –  pork cuts from Circle B Ranch Where you get your meat is so important. The pork from Circle B is superior in tenderness and flavor reflecting how the pigs are raised. As my mother, Loretta, used to say referring to upbringing – “They were just raised right!”

Let’s hop to it! Andiamo!


Serves: about 4

Prep: 15 minutes for sauce

Cook: about 15 minutes for sauce



1 1/2 lb. Pork Tenderloin

Fresh Garlic for rubbing

Olive Oil

Salt and Pepper


2 Tbsp. Olive Oil

2 Shallots, chopped finely

2 Large Fresh Peaches, peeled chopped in cubes – can use an extra peach if you like

1 Tbsp. Brown Sugar

1 Tsp. Dijon Mustard

Pinch of Allspice

Pinch of Red Pepper Flakes

1/2 Tbsp. Balsamic Vinegar

1/8 C. Water

1/2 C. Dry White Wine

1 Tbsp. Chopped Fresh Basil

Salt and Pepper to taste

Capers for garnish



Rub the pork tenderloin all over with a cut side of a piece of fresh garlic.

Drizzle all sides with a little olive oil.

Salt and Pepper all sides of pork.

Roast or grill the pork as you usually like. (Roast at about 450 for 15-20 minutes approx. Grill time will depend on how hot your grill is.

Make sauce ahead or while pork cooks.

Roast or grill your pork tenderloin.

Let the meat rest about 10-15 minutes to retain the juices before slicing.


Cook the shallots in oil for about a minute.

Peach Sauce 1

Add the peaches, brown sugar, mustard, red pepper, vinegar, allspice.

Cook about 2 minutes.

Peach Sauce 2

Add the water and wine, basil, salt and pepper.

Cook another few minutes on medium. You want the mixture to cook down and thicken a bit.

Peaches b

Taste for seasoning and adjust – remembering that salt is key here. You want enough in there to bring out all the flavors.

Slice the pork thickly. It should be slightly pink in the center – not overcooked! Let the meat swim with the peaches in the beautiful sea of composta!

Although some characterize pork as a white meat, it has enough “heft” to go with a good light or even medium bodied red. It is most often what I personally serve with this dish. Serve this PORK TENDERLOIN WITH PEACH COMPOSTA  with a lovely Valpolicella  or Dolcetto and you can’t go wrong.

This recipe also makes interesting pork sliders, paninis, or sandwiches with the delicious peach sauce. Veal chops “love” this preparation as well.


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Soft Shell Crabs Italian Style

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Mangia le moleche!

Softshell crab 2 with script

Buon giorno!

Sometimes being “crabby” is a good thing!

crabs 2

It’s that time again! Yes, it’s that special time of year, from late spring and through the summer months, in the US when crabs shed their hard shells like the ones you see in the photo above. The soft shell crabs are soft enough to eat WHOLE! Ahhhh—When their season arrives, I can’t wait to see them in the fish markets. One scrumptious way to enjoy them is lightly fried with a little roasted red pepper sauce – or as I like to call them – SOFT SHELL CRABS ITALIAN STYLE. Once you try these – you too will become one of those who longs for their season each year.

Italian crabs? Really? Si!  In Italy, the crabs are much smaller, but no less delectable than the blue crabs of the US. Their seasonal shedding of their shells is quite similar, though to our crabs here in this country. Italian crabs or moleche (mo-lekka) two seasons, fall and spring. The seasons are short and usually celebrated in Northern Italy in the Veneto region. You either time it right or you don’t – che peccato!  In the Venice area, you can actually find farms where they raise them. Often they are served with polenta.

Probably my favorite way to enjoy these amazing critters is coated and lightly fried  – open face on fried Italian bread  – with a cold roasted red pepper sauce. You will be amazed at how easy this is to achieve! The dredging mixture and the red pepper sauce can both be made ahead, and the frying takes just a few minutes. Another good thing – you don’t use much oil.


Serves: 2

Prep: one hour approx.


2 Soft Shell Crabs (they should be ready to cook when purchased – if necessary remove the eyes and mouth)

Olive Oil for frying


1/2 Cup Flour

1 Tbsp. Old Bay Seasoning (found in spice section at grocer or at fish counter)

1 Tsp. Dried Oregano

Dash Cayenne Pepper

Salt and Pepper


3/4 Cup Roasted Red Peppers (make your own or from the jar, drained)

1/3 Cup Mayonnaise

1 Fresh Clove Garlic

1 Tbsp. Fresh Lemon juice

1 Tbsp. Fresh Chopped Italian Parsley


2 Thick slices Italian bread

Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Romaine Lettuce

Italian Parsley for garnish


For the flour dredging mixture – Just mix the ingredients for dredging together well. This can be made ahead and kept in a covered container in the pantry.

For the Roasted Red Pepper Sauce – This can be made ahead and refrigerated. Roast your own peppers or use the ones in the jar, making sure to drain them. Place them in your blender or food processor along with the garlic and whirl until smooth. There will still be tiny bits of pepper – all good! Add the other ingredients for the sauce and whirl to combine. This makes about a cup of sauce. Use the leftover sauce on chicken, fish, or sandwiches!

Sauce ingredients

To construct the sandwich:

Brush the bread with the Extra Virgin – both sides – and lightly fry in a pan or griddle until both sides are golden and crisp.

Place some Romaine Lettuce on top of each slice and drizzle with Extra Virgin and light squeeze of fresh lemon.

Dredge the crab in the flour mixture, coating both sides well.

Heat Olive Oil in a pan and get it very hot. Place the crab in the pan and at medium high, fry the crab lightly on each side until a beautiful golden brown. This takes about 8-10 minutes. Then place the crab on top of the lettuce, belly side up, and drizzle very lightly with Extra Virgin.

Top with the cold or room temperature Red Pepper Sauce and garnish with fresh parsley.

Now your SOFT SHELL CRABS ITALIAN STYLE are ready to eat! Prepare to fall in love! I like mine with a glass of champagne or prosecco  – but I wouldn’t hesitate to serve a gorgeous Rosé or a crisp Sauvignon Blanc.


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Food Photos By Tommy Hanks Photography


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August: Pesto Potatoes

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Pesto Potatoes finish with script

Buon giorno!

They say that in the coastal areas of the region of Liguria, the aroma of pesto permeates the air. This is not the same pesto that you see in the jars at your grocer – far from it! Many who say they do not care for it, have only this rather pathetic version in the jar from which to draw reference. Instead, this is the real thing, made from fresh picked herbs, fresh garlic, nuts (more traditionally pignoli) and the best extra virgin olive oil.

Now THIS is pesto!

Pesto Potatoes 3 with script

Your kitchen will smell like Liguria when you make PESTO POTATOES. This delicious dish, charged with immense flavor, is a beautiful accompaniment to any grilled meat, poultry, or fish.

In Liguria, most people grow their own basil. These days many of us here in the US grow our own as well. Fortunately, in more recent times, it is now always available at our local markets. So we can enjoy this amazing aromatic fresh herb all year round. Pesto can be ours at any time, just as in Liguria, anytime we want to make it. The wonderful thing about it is that it is soooo easy. If you have a few fresh ingredients and a blender – you can make your own! Dine like a true Ligurian, and prepare their signature green sauce for your own “Italian table!”.

PESTO POTATOES are fun to serve. Not only do they taste great ,but also this potato dish makes a beautiful presentation on your table. The potatoes bathe in the beautiful green sauce and more color pops through with the addition of sun dried tomatoes. The sun dried tomatoes also contribute a touch of sweetness brightening this largely savory dish.

These potatoes will disappear quickly! Serve them at your next grilling extravaganza!


Makes: 1 1/2-2 lb. potatoes

Prep: 30 minutes


1 1/2-2 lb. Small White Potatoes – skins on – cooked

2 C. Fresh Basil Leaves

1 Large Clove Fresh Garlic

3/4 C. Toasted Walnuts

1 Tbsp. Fresh Lemon Juice

3/4 C. Grated Parmigiano-Reggiano Cheese

Kosher Salt and Freshly Ground Black Pepper to taste

2/3 C. Extra Virgin Olive Oil

1/2 C. Sun Dried Tomatoes, packed in oil – chopped small

Parmigiano-Reggiano shavings for garnish


Cook your potatoes and then slice them in half – or leave them whole if they are especially small.

Place the basil, garlic, walnuts, lemon juice, grated cheese, salt and pepper in a blender.

Pesto Potatoes 1

Run your blender while adding all of your oil slowly through the top in a stream as the mixture becomes a smooth paste. It will become a beautiful green color.

Pesto Potatoes 2

If it seems too dry – add more oil.

Taste for seasoning. It is important to add enough salt and pepper to bring out the flavor of this sauce.

Pour this pesto sauce over the cooked potatoes and gently toss.

Add the sun dried tomatoes and toss again.

Pesto Potatoes 5

Garnish with shavings of the Parmigiano-Reggiano.

Serve at room temperature.


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Pasta Al Pesto Trapanese

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Trapanese Sauce

Finish - Trapanese with script

Buon giorno!

As pesto goes – this is my all time favorite. The Sicilians have a lock on this one in any “Best Of Pesto” challenge, in my view. PASTA AL PESTO TRAPANESE is not only a delicious pesto sauce – it is one of the most delicious Italian sauces I have had.

One of the wonders of this sauce is that it is made FRESH – all in the blender. Yes – that’s right – all the ingredients go into the blender and whirl away to a beautiful thick sauce. It can’t get any easier, folks! Vegetarians and health conscious individuals will love it! The sauce consists of all good fresh ingredients which are really good for you. It is a very satisfying dish, while maintaining a lightness appreciated for warm weather dining.

This sauce is so versatile. It can be served hot or cold – making it a great summer dish  – great for patio dining – and terrific for a crowd. It is traditionally served with spaghetti, but when I serve it to a larger group buffet style where spaghetti would be difficult to manage, I turn to one of the short chunky pastas for ease of serving and eating. Here you see it served with Rotini pasta or “corkscrews”. It is just as delicious on Rigatoni or Penne. You choose! It makes a beautiful dish to serve for indoor “at the table” dining over spaghetti or pasta fresca. Its lovely pink color and creamy texture makes for a memorable presentation of an authentic regional dish from the island of Sicily.

Sicilian regional food has several differences from the other regions much of which relate to its history of conquerors. Over centuries, Sicily’s occupation by the Moors and the island’s proximity to North Africa account for the region’s use of many interesting ingredients and food preparations that are usually not found in the other regions of Italy. This is illustrated by the frequent use of dried fruits and nuts in Sicilian cooking. This particular dish is named for the famous Sicilian city of Trapani, a trade center, whose position on the coast is very close to Africa.

As Kay said in “The Godfather” – “This Sicilian thing has been going on for two thousand years”. Well, she may not have been referring to their food when she said it, but in that respect, these Sicilians really know what they’re doing! The proof is in the sauce!

The ingredients:Trapanese Sauce requires almonds – an interesting and very different ingredient that one would not think of connected with Italian sauces for pasta. Yet, because this sauce is really a form of pesto, the nuts really work and you don’t taste them much when eating this sauce. The tomatoes provide both color and flavor, and the very freshest and juiciest are advised. They give the sauce its pink color which sets it apart from the pestos we are used to seeing. I have found that Campari Tomatoes work well when I can’t get a really good ripe fresh tomato at the markets. They provide sweetness and the right amount of liquid. Fresh basil, of course, lends familiarity as an ingredient involved in most pestos. The Red Pepper Flakes provide a touch of heat that I particularly enjoy in the sauce – giving it a slight edge. For the cheese – I like a nice sharp Pecorino!

1 Ingredients

2 Almonds

3 Pecorino

This sauce is amazing – warm or cold – you will love serving it! Now if you really want to get serious about the “Sicilian Thing” – throw some capers over each serving! Bellissima!


Serves: 6

Prep: less than 30 minutes


1 lb. Pasta – spaghetti, pasta fresca, or even any of the short chunky pastas

1 – 1  1/3 lb. Fresh Ripe Tomatoes (plum, cherry, grape, Campari – anything ripe!) cut in pieces

1 C. Almonds – skins on are fine – toast them a little to bring out the flavor!

2 Fresh Garlic cloves

1 C. Fresh Basil Leaves

1/4 Tsp. Red Pepper Flakes

Kosher or Sea Salt and freshly ground Black Pepper to taste (salt & pepper really bring out the flavor)

1/2 C. Extra Virgin Olive Oil (this is the time to use the good stuff!)

1/2 C. Grated Pecorino Cheese

FOR GARNISH: Some additional fresh Basil Leaves, Whole Almonds, or even some Capers!


Cook your pasta while you make the sauce.

Place all of your ingredients except for the cheese in a blender or food processor and whirl! (My word for “run the machine”!) You want to create a smooth puree. Use your spoon to get all of the ingredients incorporated. Taste for seasoning and adjust appropriately.

4 Ready to mix - Trapanese

Pour sauce over the cooked spaghetti or whatever type of pasta you are using and toss well.

5 Trapanese Sauce

Now add all of the cheese, and toss again.

Garnish as suggested above.

NO COOKING NECESSARY. This is a fresh sauce served over your warm pasta to serve warm or refrigerate the pasta and serve cold.

You won’t believe how good this is! If you have leftover sauce, all the better. Refrigerate it and serve it over rice or chicken.

The very best wine pairing I can think of with PASTA AL PESTO TRAPANESE would be a lovely Sicilian vino rosso – medium bodied like a Nero d’Avola.


  Comments are welcome in the “Speak Your Mind Area” beneath this post online.



Food Photos By Tommy Hanks Photography


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