Monday, August 29, 2011

Easy Labor Day Weekend Ideas

Couscous salad topped with grilled veggies, serve with grilled pita and you'll have the perfect lunch,

or serve it as a side with any roast you might be putting on the grill.

Nothing makes me happier than seeing a platter filled with grilled veggies drizzled with olive oil and balsamic glaze!

A perfect side dish with any grilled meats.

Or slabs of grilled sweet onions with dollops of warm gorgonzola.

For an extremely fresh salad that you can't stop eating, try this Zucchini Carpaccio

Salad. Paper thin slices of fresh zucchini tossed with baby arugula, shredded Parmigiano Reggiano, garlic, lemon zest and olive oil. Topped with toasted walnuts.

For a quick dessert take advantage of all the beautiful apricots that are still available.

Stuff them with sweetened mascarpone and plop a blackberry on top, drizzle with honey or agave and stick them under your broiler. Garnish with pistachio's.

Keep it simple and savor every last bit of all the beautiful summer produce.

Buon Appetito!

Monday, August 22, 2011

Grilled Pork Loin with Tuscan Herbs and the Winners to my Giveaway

We often cook a pork roast on the grill, I've made so many different versions of it but my favorite way is to slice it open and stuff it with herbs. I have to admit I never have been good at opening one up properly, I would usually have one side thicker than the other. It wasn't until I saw this video that it finally clicked and I got it! Please go and check it out, it's so easy to do and the end result will be a perfect spiral of herbs.

Speaking of herbs, I was inspired to make my own tuscan herb mix after recently reading Judy's post on porchetta, she spoke about how the butchers at the Central Market in San Lorenzo Tuscany each have their own personal herbal mix that they use for their porchetta usually consisting of a blend of sage, rosemary and salt with some adding in black pepper and fennel. She had a link on her blog which showed her version, and as I was reading it she also linked to David Lebovitz who made his own version as well.

This is a terrific way to use up all your herbs, I happen to have a ton of sage growing and I never know what to do with it, I almost feel guilty just letting it go. I can't explain how good this mix is I can't wait to make more my stash is getting low and now I've become obsessed with it!

There's no real recipe here, it's impossible to be exact, but I took Davids advice using 3 parts sage to one part rosemary, 8 cloves of garlic and 1 tablespoon of salt, I also added lots of black pepper and crushed fennel seeds to mine. The hardest part is picking all the leaves off the rosemary and sage branches, it's time consuming but I did it while I was watching TV and the time went by fast, after that it was a piece of cake! I placed everything into my food processor and pulsed it a few times being careful not to liquefy the mix, then spread it out on a large baking sheet to dry for 3 days.

All the flavors intensify, its the perfect complement to grilled or roasted meats and vegetables.

Figs always go well with pork so I decided to make a very quick Fig and Rosemary Spread using 1lb of dried mission figs** 2tbl of fresh chopped rosemary** zest of 1 orange**1 cup of orange juice**1tbl honey**1/2 cup water**salt and pepper. Place everything in a covered saucepan over medium heat, bring to a boil then simmer about 30 minutes until thick. Strain and reserve liquid, if needed add additional water to the fig liquid to total 3/4 cup. Put fig mixture into a food processor and process until smooth. Store the fig spread in an airtight container, refrigerated. Recipe from Savory Baking

So if you find yourself with leftover pork roast, change it up and make this panini! Crusty bread layered with herby pork, fig, spicy arugula and roasted red pepper, crispy and warm, oozing with fontina cheese! Need I say more??

Thank you for all the wonderful comments and emails I received for my blogiversay, I really appreciated each and every one! My 11 year old granddaughter picked the 4 winners to my giveaway and they are, .... Patrice ... Imbottito ... Fallon ... and ... Maryann S.

Please email me at with your address so I can get it out to you. Thanks again everyone!

Monday, August 15, 2011

Proud Italian Cook is 4 Today! and a Giveaway

Today, August 15Th is the Italian holiday called Ferragosto and the day I started my blog, it's very fitting since it's a holiday that revolves around family, friends and food. It's hard to believe it's been 4 years already? It seems like only yesterday that I wrote my first post! I still feel exactly the same way about basil today.

When I reflect back on these past 4 years all I can say is that I'm grateful, grateful that I started this little blog and that I'm part of such a supportive community of people who share a little bit of themselves everyday and who inspire the heck out of me!

If you were to ask me which posts are some of my favorites I would have to say the ones that involve my family and friends, like the time my son ran his first marathon, or the post about my daughter, daughter-in-law and niece walking in The Chicago 3-Day for breast cancer, our picnics at Ravinia, the birth of my granddaughter, making ravioli together and Timpano. Foodie trips with my friends like this and this have become popular, I get quite a few emails requesting I do more.

I must say though that the most emails I've ever gotten on a post so far was the one I did about neckbones, silly me I didn't think anyone would even be interested in it other than my own family so I didn't even post the recipe! but to this day I'm still getting heartfelt emails from readers thanking me for writing that post and bringing back memories they had that were tied to that humble meal, apparently there's a lot of fellow neckbone eaters out there! According to my stats, this has been one of my most popular posts, along with this.

I could go on and on why I love blogging but really I just simply want to say thank you, thank you to all my loyal readers those who have stuck by me since the beginning, actual friends who I've come to know so well. Thank you to all those new to my blog, to my many subscribers, Facebook friends, and those who take the time to write me a personal email, I truly appreciate each and every one of your comments! A special thanks goes out to my husband Tony for always being my number one fan as well as my family and friends.

I don't know whats in store for the next year, but I'll just keep doing what I'm doing and enjoying it every step of the way!

For a small token of my appreciation I'm giving away 4 gifts for 4 years, each will consist of an amazing bottle of Mandarano Balsamic Glaze, (you're going to love how this enhances all your food!), plus The Silver Spoon Pasta cookbook by Phaidon, (because you know I love my pasta, and I love all the Phaidon cookbooks!) The winners will be picked by my 11 year old granddaughter and announced on Monday August 22nd in my next blog post. Just leave a comment and if you'd like I'd love to hear what your favorite Italian dish is. Thanks again everyone!

Monday, August 8, 2011

Sugar Sweet Cherry Tomatoes

I heart cherry tomatoes, especially with the different combinations of color. The possibilities are endless on what you can do with them. Like little jewels to accessorize your food!

Fortunately for me, now is the time that I'm guaranteed a big bowl full every time I step into my garden!

I've been stuffing them with creamy goat cheese, one bite wonders busting with flavor! Warning... Be careful they're like eating candy you can't stop!

I constantly roast them on sheet pans, bathing the tiny tomatoes in olive oil and shaved garlic, then I tuck them away in my fridge for later use.

Like when I toss them into my scrambled eggs for breakfast along with lots of green onions and serve it on top of crusty Italian bread toast. Simple, but out of this world!

When you roast them the juice seeps from the tomatoes into the garlicky oil and it becomes the perfect sauce for your pasta, add shaved Parmesan cheese and fresh basil. It's as close to perfection as you're going to get!

Thanks again to my friend Linda for sending me the seeds to grow these adorable round zucchini, after I roasted them I stuffed my pasta into it's perfect edible bowl!

Buon Appetito!

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Summer in the City!

Recently we had family visiting us from Florida, we decided to spend the day in the city acting like tourists. We walked up and down Michigan Ave. ending at Millennium Park. The sky's were blue and the weather was perfect, we lucked out with no extreme heat that day!

Along the way we even saw Marilyn, all 26ft. of her in her most famous pose.
Very awesome!

Visited the Observatory in the John Hancock building. I might be partial but I have to say Chicago is such a beautiful city!

Looking down the Chicago River and gazing up at Trump Chicago

Al Fresco dining was everywhere

Horse drawn carriage rides

People watching and taking in the sights

There's always some kind of running event going on in the city of Chicago but Girls on the Run was special to me this year because my granddaughter and her best friend participated in their first 5K.

Here they are warming up before the run.

Girls on the Run is a life changing experience for girls ages 8 to 13, their goal is to encourage positive, emotional, social, mental, spiritual and physical development. Here's the metal she received.

You didn't think I'd leave without showing you some of the food we've been partaking in now did you? Not in one day of course.

Hope you're enjoying your summer!