Easter 2009 – A Most Beautiful Day

April 12th, 2009 gerinancy Posted in Islands of Happiness, Recipes No Comments »

Salad

Ham, I know,  is traditional for the Easter celebration.  However, my Dad, the Chief, requested a Porterhouse steak on the grill.  So I worked the menu around the steak.  Of course there was the harbinger of Spring, asparagus.  It is a sight for sore eyes, especially for Northerners.  I quite understand the pining of Spring when you live up North, as the North and its long, bone chilling winters are my roots.  Suddenly, there is asparagus in the supermarket and you breathe a sigh of relief, knowing that Spring and its warm breezes, daffodils and forsythia are not far off.Freshly steamed asparagus

My menu included mushrooms, which I sauteed with butter, olive oil, garlic, shallots, fresh chopped parsley, oregano, and Marsala wine. Delectable and most excellent with steak.  I also found those wonderful miniature Yukon golds again.  This time I gave them a light coating of olive oil and salt, wrapped them in tin foil, and placed them on the grill to cook. My Dad had rave reviews for them.  Actually, he had rave reviews for the whole meal, which makes me smile inside and want to cook more.    Miniature Yukon Golds

And as for the salad, I make my Mom’s traditional “rub the bowl with garlic” version that has been handed down through 4 Italian generations in my family.  This time I added in asparagus which I had lightly steamed and chilled.

It is Easter and it is Spring.  It is a season of rebirth and renewal.  The earth rejoices with new life.  It has most certainly been and continues to be a blessing of a day in every way.

Please do try this salad and tell me how you like it.  My dear friend, Agi, has been making it ever since I served it to her over 10 years ago.

Renew….refresh…..relax.

Happy Easter to All!

Peeking through the flowers on the dinner table

Rub the Bowl with Garlic Salad

1-Clean a few cloves of fresh garlic (This does NOT work with garlic powder)

2-Sprinkle a small amout of sea salt into a wooden salad bowl

3-Rub the cut side of the garlic with the salt all over the bowl.  The salt releases the essential juices from the garlic.

4-Add in your favorite fresh salad greens.  We like red leaf lettuce, Romaine, ripe tomato, and for Easter, I added in the fresh steamed and chilled asparagus.

5-Add olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper to taste and toss well.

Always delicious!

My Mini Flower Arrangement for the Easter Dinner (from my garden)


Mom’s Ultra Thin Home Fries

March 30th, 2009 gerinancy Posted in Recipes, Simple things No Comments »

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Tonight we sort of had a breakfast and brunch type of food for dinner.  Necessity is the mother of invention, and I must say that the best meals evolve from whatever one happens to have left over around the house.  I had some sauteed pepper and onions left from a couple of days ago.  I heated them in my small skillet, added a handful of diced mozzarella, and then whipped up two eggs, poured it over the top, covered and lowered the heat, and voila, it turned out to be a delcious frittata.

I had found some amazing miniature Yukon Golds at my local green market on Saturday.  I had made a fish fry and baked them as an accompaniment.  About a dozen were left over just sitting in a bowl in the fridge.  I decided to make my Mom’s famous ultra thin and crispy home fries.  My husband, Wayne, absolutely loves anything potato, and if it is a home fry, well that just sends him home.

My mother’s method for these is so simple, yet delectably mouth watering.  The secret is the “chilled potato”.  Take out a nice large skillet that you are very familiar with and absolutely know that no sticking will occur.  Pour in about 1/4 inch of olive oil and when it is good and hot, drop in your thinly sliced, chilled potatoes.  You are blessed if you can find these small Yukon Golds.  Add salt and pepper to taste, and just a dash of garlic powder.

Let the potatoes brown on one side for a minute or two, and then flip them over to crisp up on the other side.  Repeat this over and over, until you have a pan full of the best in town crispy home fries ever!!!!

We ate every morsel. Even the tiny crispy pieces clinging to the side of the pan.  Now that’s a potato worth writing about.  (Thank you again, Mom.  I know she is smiling down on me.)


Chilly Day Tuscan Soup Pot

March 22nd, 2009 gerinancy Posted in Islands of Happiness, Recipes No Comments »

Tuscan soup and gluten free French rolls

A hearty one-dish meal for those wintry evenings.  We even have some of those bone chilling days in Orlando, Florida.  Wayne and I welcome a bowl of this steamy, delicious soup packed with a variety of vegetables and beans.  As an accompaniment, I love Gillian’s French gluten free rolls, toasted and buttered (pictured above).

Ingredients

4 Tablespoons good quality olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
3 large stalks celery, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, minced
3 large carrots, diced
3 cans of beans, your choice, kidney, chick peas, or cannellini
3 cups washed and torn escarole leaves
1 large (28 oz) can whole tomatoes, diced (I love Dei Fratelli brand-close to fresh)
Bay leaf
1/2-1 teaspoon dried thyme, to your taste
1/2 cup fresh chopped Italian parsley
1/2 teaspoon Italian seasoning
1-2 precooked chopped Italian sausages
3 quarts chicken broth
salt and pepper to taste

Method

In a large soup pot, saute onion, celery, garlic and carrot together for several minutes, until flavors emerge.

Add beans, broth, and seasonings.

Add torn escarole leaves  once soup starts to simmer.

Add sausage and season to taste with salt and pepper.

Bring to boil, then lower heat, and simmer for about 1 hour.

Check your seasoning and adjust.

Serve piping hot in soup bowls and shave some fresh Parmigiana on top.

Delicious!


A Windy March Day, Spicy Sausage, and Gratitude

March 1st, 2009 gerinancy Posted in Quick and Easy, Recipes, Simple things No Comments »

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 It is a beautiful March day here in Orlando.   These are the sublime days that we Floridians live for.  The windows are open and the breeze is rustling the palms out back.  The artistic March winds are painting lovely formations on the surface of our little lake.  My windchimes resound with music.  

Today I tried Niman Ranch Spicy Italian Uncured Sausage.  It is made with pork  raised without antibiotics or hormones and vegetarian fed. It is also gluten free! This is the second Niman Ranch product I have tried, and it turned out to be excellent.  The chilly and windy day created perfect conditions to step outside while you are cooking, and then come back in the house to become enamored with those delicious aromas!!!!  

I sauteed peppers and onions to go with the sausage, and then I served it up on a gluten free bun.  Unfortunately, I had run out of Gillians french rolls.  They are the best out there.  I served it a toasted Kinnikinnick hot dog bun, and it was quite tasty.  But watch out, because the spicy sausage lives up to its name with a little bit of a kick!

I sit in the living room later and think back.  The peppers and onions sautee in a pan. A lovely cool breeze arrives to enhance their aroma.  The sausage sizzles.  There is the sound of dinner plates being stacked to be brought to the table. People who love you enjoying the fruits of your labor.  It is like the entire experience of the meal has given me a warm hug, and that spells “comfort food” to me.

 

Spicy Gluten Free Sausage, Pepper and Onions

Ingredients

  1. 1 large onion sliced
  2. 2 red peppers, cleaned and sliced
  3. 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  4. 1 large clove of garlic, finely chopped
  5. 1/2 teaspoon dried Italian blend seasoning
  6. 1/2 jar of your favorite marinated roasted peppers
  7. Salt and pepper to taste
  8. 1 package Niman Ranch Spicy Italian Uncured Sausage

Method

  • Brown the sausages per package directions, and set aside; pour off fat
  • Place olive oil, onions, pepper, garlic, Italian seasoning, salt and pepper into hot skillet
  • Saute together until onions are slightly carmelized and peppers are almost tender
  • Add marinated roasted pepper; heat through
  • Add sausage to pepper mixture
  • Serve on toasted gluten free rolls or buns

 

 


Italian Lentils Eduardo (Lenticchie)

February 22nd, 2009 gerinancy Posted in Islands of Happiness, Recipes 3 Comments »

Italian Lentils Eduardo (Lenticchie)

This is my 88 year old Dad’s recipe.   He cooked it yesterday at home and brought it over today so that we could all enjoy it together for dinner.  Yes, he still lives alone, and he still drives, and yes, he still cooks.  He is healthy, sharp of mind, and vibrant.  The only challenge he has is his hearing, and if that is all, well, bless his heart! I told him that I wanted to add this recipe to my blog, and he insisted I call it  ”Italian Lentils Eduardo”.  That’s because his name is Edward.  I call him Daddy-o.  Daddy-o AKA Chief AKA EduardoMy husband calls him “Chief”.  His nick name is Chief, ever since he told Wayne and me the story of  his grandfather, “Chiefie”, who taught him to play poker and pinochle.  Chiefie also smoked cigars, and my Dad enjoys a good cigar himself to this day (as you can see in this current picture).

Daddy-0, also known as Chief and Eduardo, is also very opinionated in the kitchen when I am doing the cooking.  He has to stir the pot, in many ways, so to speak.  My Mom used to find his culinary bossiness very annoying, and now I well understand.  But at 88 years old, you have well earned your rights to be opinionated in every realm, and along with his opinions come a plethora of wisdom.   I make sure I hear and appreciate every nuance of wisdom he offers.

So, tonight, after dinner, this amazing man, my Dad,  jotted down on a tablet of paper his “lenticchie” recipe.  He asked for paper and pencil.  He said he had to write it all down and think it through, before he could tell me what he did.  I sat across from him with my lap top patiently waiting for the disclosure of ingredients and method.  Two generations and two methods of transcription to provide you with a very unique and delicious dish.  He is thrilled that I am sharing his recipe with the world, and he also wanted me to tell you that he contributes his longevity to eating a lot of lentils and a lot of legumes.

Daddy-o, Chief, Eduardo, call him anything, but don’t call him late for dinner!

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb. dry lentil beans
  • 6 cups water
  • 1 can chicken broth
  • 6 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • 2 carrots, peeled, chopped
  • 3 stalks celery, chopped
  • 2 medium onions, chopped
  • 2/3 cup fresh Italian flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
  • 1 can (28 oz) chopped Italian tomatoes
  • 1/3 cup good quality olive oil
  • salt and black pepper to taste

 

Method:

Sort and wash lentils. Place in large saucepan with water and chicken broth. Cook until tender about
one hour.

To prepare Dad’s mirepoix of vegetables:  Saute garlic in oil until lightly golden. Add onions. Lower heat, cover, and
simmer together until transparent. Uncover and add ¼ cup water, celery, carrots, parsley, tomatoes, salt and black pepper to taste. Simmer for one hour.

Then add completely cooked lentils to mirepoix of vegetables.

Simmer together for 5- 10 minutes.

Serve alone with bread or on top of gluten free pasta or brown rice.


The Proverbial White Clam Sauce (Pasta alle Vongole)

February 20th, 2009 gerinancy Posted in Memory Garden, Recipes No Comments »

White clam sauce with gluten free pasta

I just adore pasta fixed any which way, BUT, and this is a big BUT, no sauce like white clam sauce has this crazy effect on me.    I do believe that I fall in love with my pasta.  The aroma is wonderful.  It is like standing on the beach and a lovely, fresh ocean breeze circulates your face. It is truly a dish like no other pasta dish.  White clam sauce stands alone.  There are many variations of tomato sauce for pasta, but white clam sauce is unique unto itself, and truly, you don’t want to be adding all kinds of extra things to this dish, because its simplicity is what makes it “roar”!

My first encounter with this dish was, of course, my Mom’s.  Her white clam sauce was very simple, and consequently, very delicious.  She only used fresh clams.  The rest was olive oil, garlic and plenty of it, fresh flat leaf parsley, and a shake of salt and pepper to taste.  I watched a well known cook the other day on television make clam sauce,  and I really felt she violated the dish when she left out the garlic!  I found myself shaking my head and not liking the show, as I was taught at an early age that the garlic is an essential ingredient.

It’s a no brainer that my Mom’s white clam sauce was always tops in my mind, until the day that I traveled to Rome in my late twenties.  I remember ordering it in a tiny restaurant  in the vicinity of the Spanish Steps.  It was amazing, and what made it so amazing were the size of the clams.  They were so tiny, and the pasta was covered with about 30-40 plus of them.  I had never had clams that were so sweet, so tender, or so full of flavor.  Again, it was the sum of its parts that yielded the perfect masterpiece.  Yes, I was making a lot of yummy noises while eating that dish.  The ingredients in Italy are very different than here in the United States.  I could actually start a whole blog on just that topic.  Each neighborhood has its own garden plentiful with fresh vegetables and herbs.  It is even a very common thing for a restaurant to have its own garden in the back or side of a hill.  Your salad at dinner was probably growing out there just that afternoon, and that’s what makes it taste so fresh, crisp, and alive.

So, let’s get back to reality here.  It goes without saying, and also may I ask your forgiveness, that my gluten free pasta with white clam sauce rendition cannot compare to the sublime experience of eating it in Rome.   I won’t be replicating that experience for you, sad to say.

However, it is quick, easy, and may I add, that it has “oceans” of flavor.

Va Bene!  (Okay, in Italian).

Ingredients

  • 3 cans (6.5 oz. size) chopped clams
  • (I love Bar Harbor brand, if you can find it near you)
  • 5-6 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
  • Large handful freshly chopped flat leaf parsley
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1 small bottle clam juice
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon hot pepper flakes
  • 1 1/4 pounds gluten free pasta, your choice ( I like Tinkyada Fettucine)


Method

  1. Sautee chopped garlic in olive oil until cooked, but not brown
  2. Add red pepper flakes to hot oil and move around several seconds to release their fire
  3. Add clams with their juice
  4. Add bottle of clam juice
  5. Add chopped parsley
  6. Season with salt and pepper to taste
  7. Bring to a simmer, then cover, take off heat and set aside
  8. Boil your pasta to desired doneness
  9. Drain and pour hot clam sauce over it
  10. Toss and serve

A Few Words on Gluten Free Sandwiches

January 16th, 2009 gerinancy Posted in Great Finds, Recipes No Comments »

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Admittedly, since I have become gluten free, I don’t get very excited about sandwiches. I am sure that you will agree that there are many mediocre gluten free breads out there. In fact, there are many yucky gluten free breads out there. Unfortunately, many of us work and have hectic schedules that don’t leave time for the tasty home baked versions. You just have to painstakingly and courageously trial them all, until finally one just sits right on your very own palate. There are many, many varieties available to buy in stores and on the web, and there are many recommendations by others, as well, but the bread thing, for me anyway, is very personal. Truly, I have not found many gluten free sandwich breads that wow me. Most of the time, it is the combination of your favorite sandwich bread with what’s inside the sandwich that makes it worth telling about for sure!

Today, I ate one of those amazing gluten free sandwiches worth a tale or two. My Mom’s favorite sandwich (and being very much her prodigy) was a BLT! What a very wise woman. She just savored every bite. It had to have a lot of mayonnaise. She just loved mayonnaise. Her eyes would roll as she ate it, and she would make yummy noises. Consequently, whenever I eat one, she floods my thoughts.

Today, I built a BLT to die for, that is, to live for! I tried a new bacon I had never had before called Niman Ranch brand maple, uncured and gluten free. Delicious with a capital “D”! It smelled heavenly sizzling in the pan. My three cats were lined up at the stove with their nostrils wiggling and meowing and dreaming for some to come their way. I used a lovely Ugly Ripe tomato and some crisp Red Leaf lettuce leaves. Now for the bread, I happen to have a freshly purchased loaf of Glutino Flax Seed Bread. I do believe that they have made some improvements with this bread, as I had not bought it in awhile, and it seemed more flavorful this time around. The slices are light and just perfect when toasted. I proceeded to build my scrumptious and memorable gluten free BLT! The Niman Ranch bacon just made the sandwich. It was not too smoky or sweet and just thick enough. I enjoyed every morsel and every mouthful. Small pieces of bacon and tomato covered with mayo fell out on my plate as I devoured it. I ate each remaining escaped piece with gusto. I am writing this and I can still taste it.

That’s what makes a gluten free sandwich so wonderful. It’s the total picture. It is the total experience. It is the total sandwich, a sum of its parts. This was undoubtedly one of those “islands of happiness” that my Mom always talked about. I thank you, Niman Ranch.I thank you, Glutino, especially, if you improved your product. I thank my cats for their adoring company.

But, most of all, I thank you, Mom.


La Melanzana (Eggplant in Italian)

January 11th, 2009 gerinancy Posted in Recipes, Travel bites No Comments »

Penne Dash of Sorrento is an eggplant pasta dish that my husband and I discovered while on our honeymoon on the Amalfi Border, Italy.I grew up in an Italian household, but I had never had such a dish. It had been my dream to visit the Amalfi Border in Italy for many, many years. I saved and cherished an article on the beauty and breathtaking views of the area written in National Geographic Traveler for 10 years. When I met Wayne,

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I told him about my dream, and our trip there became two dreams come true, i.e. finding someone wonderful to share my life with and a visit to this amazingly beautiful stretch of towns built into the side of hills from Naples to Sorrento to Salerno. We encountered this eggplant dish at dinner one evening in our hotel. There was something very unique in flavor, and although we asked everyone along the way about the ingredients, everyone inadvertently omitted one of the most important ingredients. When we returned, I purchased the simple repertoire of eggplant, garlic, oil, mozzarella, plum tomatoes, and parmigiana cheese. I made the dish, and it looked fantastic. We both took a bite and simultaneously cheesewine1.jpglooked at eachother, and almost said together, “Something is missing”. I did a little more research and discovered that our rendition was missing “Mozzarella di Bufala Affumicato”, otherwise known as Smoked Buffalo Mozzarella. I made the dish again using smoked mozzarella (unfortunately not the imported Buffalo version), but it definitely put the punch back in the dish. Try this on your spouse, your friends, your family. It is a magical use of the incredible la melanzana, that is, eggplant. You will love it.

 

Penne Dash of Sorrento

Ingredients

1/2-8oz Smoked Braided Mozzarella (need the smoked type)

2-Small Eggplants, peeled and chopped (small are best)

4-Ripe Plum Tomatoes (skinned and chopped)

3 to 4-Cloves of Garlic, finely chopped

1-Pound Penne Pasta (Tinkyada or Gluten Free Bionature are good picks)

3/4-Small Ball Poly-o Mozzarella, dicedFresh grated parmigiana cheese

Handful fresh basil leaves, roughly chopped

About ¼ cup good quality olive oil (you may need just a little more)

Method

Have all your ingredients chopped and lined up to go for this dish. Put your water onto boil for the pasta.When the water boils, drop your fresh whole tomatoes in the water for about 2 minutes.Remove and drain. Skin will come right off with a knife. Chop and set aside.Take half of the oil and sauté quickly diced eggplant. Set aside.Sauté chopped garlic in remainder of olive oil until tender; do not burn as it will make your sauce bitter.

Keep moving it in the sizzling oil with a spatula or spoon.Add your chopped plum tomatoes juice and all. Simmer for a minute. Add your eggplant.Add salt and freshly cracked pepper to taste. Cover and simmer for about 5 minutes.Salt your pasta water. Put your penne on to boil. When done, drain. Save about ¾ cup of the macaroni water when you drain the pasta.Put the drained pasta right into the skillet with the tomato/eggplant mixture. Add diced mozzarella cheeses, parmigiana to taste, freshly chopped basil and mix.

Cover, turn off heat and let the cheeses melt into the pasta. You may need to add just a little macaroni water. You be the judge of that.Serve immediately.(A nice salad, crusty Italian bread and table wine would complete the meal).

Buona appetito!praiano_lion_pan3.jpg

Wayne and me in La Taverna del Leone, Positano, Italy (a rustic pizzeria with an antipasto spread like no other. Italian food to die for!)


Any Shape Pasta with Artichoke Hearts and Sun Dried Tomatoes

July 10th, 2008 gerinancy Posted in Recipes, Simple things No Comments »

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It was a stormy, rainy summer evening. I had gone for a walk and got caught in the rain. It was rather fun, but as soon as I got back home and changed clothes, I knew I was in for the evening. I was hungry and did not want to trek back out for groceries. I took inventory of what I had on hand for dinner and came up with this dish. As I moved the garlic through the simmering olive oil in the skillet, I realized that this delicious aroma is one of my favorite childhood memories. Every Sunday morning, my Italian Mom would prepare a pot of spaghetti sauce. She would begin the process with the infamous simmering garlic and oil combo. The scent lingers deliciously in my mind. I also realized how easy it is to cook up something quick but equally delicious and nutritious. The best part is accomplishing a delightful dish like this with so few ingredients. The tomatoes, artichokes, garlic, and olive oil come packed with health enhancing phytochemicals, which I have outlined below. My husband and I just love this one…..so yummy!

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Ingredients

¼ cup good quality olive oil

6 garlic cloves, finely chopped

½ cup sundried tomatoes, rehydrated and thinly sliced

1 package frozen artichoke hearts

3 large plum tomatoes, skin removed, chopped

Handful fresh basil, chopped

Salt and black pepper to taste

16 oz. Tinkyada penne pasta

Parmigiana (grated) to sprinkle on top

Method

Cook pasta per package directions unitl al dente. While water boils and pasta cooks, sauté garlic in olive oil. Do not brown or burn. Add both type of tomatoes and continue to sauté in the olive oil and garlic for a few minutes over low heat. Add the defrosted artichoke hearts and salt and pepper to taste, cover and simmer for a few minutes. Toss in fresh basil at end of a few minutes. Mix cooked, drained pasta into sauce adding some reserved pasta water to loosen up. Serve with a sprinkle of parmigiana cheese.

  • Artichokes-contains a flavonoid phytochemical that offers anticancer protection through its ability to act as an antioxidant
  • Tomatoes-cooked tomatoes, especially those cooked in oil, are rich sources of lycopene, thought to be responsible for protecting against prostate cancer ;they are also a rich source of beta-carotene
  • Garlic-contains the phytochemicals allicin and ajoene, thought to be responsibe for lowering cholesterol, lowering blood pressure, and possibly reducing the risk of stomach cancer
  • Olive oil- rich in polyphenols, substances that have been found to be powerful antioxidants capable of protecting against certain types of disease; add a splash of extra virgin olive oil at the end while mixing the pasta with the sauce for an extra dose of polyphenols;extra virgin olive oil is richest in polyphenols

Potato Leek Soup (That Flour stuff most definitely optional)

March 30th, 2008 gerinancy Posted in Recipes No Comments »

I made potato leek soup today for the first time in my life. I found some very fresh enormous leeks at my neighborhood produce store. I just had to take them home.I reviewed many different leek soup recipes on the web, and then created my own version. Many of the recipes contained “flour”. Of course being gluten intolerant, I did

Leeks

not use flour. Quite frankly, I questioned the use of this ingredient, as potatoes, as we all know, are natural thickening agents. Just as I surmised, one does not need flour! This soup is gluten free without manipulation. It is pretty simple to put together and the best part is eating it. Delish! And your house is going to smell really wonderful with this one!

Sunday’s Potato Leek Soup

Serves: 6-8 hearty bowls
Prep time: 20 minutes
Cooking time: 45 minutes

3-4 large leeks
6 medium potatoes, peeled and chopped
2 bay leaves
Freshly ground black pepper
4 sprigs fresh thyme
4 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup white wine
5 cups chicken broth
Salt to taste
1/2 cup Half and Half cream
2 tablespoons chopped chives

Trim off the dark green ends of leeks. Save a small portion of the dark end. Wash and set aside. Discard the rest of the dark green ends. Cut white part of leeks in half lengthwise. Wash under cold running water thoroughly, as there is a lot of sand inside the leek layers. Dry them with a paper towel. Rough chop the leeks.

In a large soup pot over medium heat, melt the butter and add the chopped leeks. Season with fresh ground pepper and salt. Pour over the wine. Bring to boil and then simmer leek-butter-wine combo for 5-7 minutes. Add the chopped potatoes, saved green portion of leeks, thyme, bay leaf, chicken broth. Season to taste with additional salt and pepper, if needed. Bring to boil, then cover and simmer about 40 minutes until potatoes are soft and soup is very flavorful. Remove the green ends and thyme sprigs and bay leaves. Puree soup in batches in a blender or food processor.

Stir in the half and half and adjust the seasoning, if necessary. Serve with chopped chives sprinkled on top and a few more twists of fresh black pepper from the grinder.