A few weeks ago I published a YouTube video on How To Make Zucchini Blossom Beignet, a simple fried zucchini blossom recipe that anyone can make at home. Since then I have received many requests for stuffed zucchini blossoms. I am sharing three favorite recipes: stuffed with mozzarella and prosciutto; stuffed with goat cheese, oven-dried tomatoes, and tapenade; and finally stuffed with ricotta, lemon, and basil. The possibilities are limitless. Other favorites include stuffing with various mousses and ratatouille. Pour yourself a glass of rose and let’s get cooking.
Anyone who knows me well enough will quickly conclude that somewhere along the line, a few Italian chromosomes must have snuck in and taken a big swim in my gene pool. I love rustic Italian cuisine far too much for it to simply be a mere coincidence. One of my favorite things to make is pizza at home. It’s actually quite easy to do and very satisfying on many different levels. The added bonuses are the wonderful smells of pizzas baking in your oven and being able to modify one any way you want.
I don’t know how life is where you’re at or how well you are holding up during the quarantine. But in my home, we are starting to have trouble remembering which day it is or whether or not we took a shower in the last 24 hours. Life is quickly becoming a blur between dawn and darkness.
The highlight of each day is our family lunch. It’s actually the one time we come together as a family and forget all the troubles of the world, even just for an hour. Our mealtime ritual is always the same. I plan a meal, open the wine, my 9-year-old sets the table while I cook, and then my wife Lisa stops working to join us.
Creamy Provencal chickpea soup, also known as Fourmade, is at its very core a hearty soup made by an impoverished people to provide an inexpensive and healthy yet filling meal. It’s surprisingly rich and luxurious tasting. So much so that even my 9-year-old son is convinced it has cream in it. Once you make the basic recipe try embellishing with leeks, chickpeas, grated Parmesan, cooked rice or even croutons fried in olive oil. …
Every year, my wife Lisa and I host a white truffle dinner for six of our close friends where we explore the sensational marriage between white truffles and older Barolo wines. I am always reluctant to post about white truffles because their price is so extravagant and it sometimes feels a bit elitist, but this year is different – they are cheap (well, cheap for white truffles) and most food lovers can afford a self-indulgent splurge to end 2018 in style.
ISO: Sexy White Truffles
This is the absolute best season for white truffles that I have seen in my 30-year career as chef and lover/eater of all things delicious. It’s in sharp contrast of last year when Italy was plagued with massive droughts and truffle shortages which caused the white truffle market to skyrocket into obscene prices hovering around the $5,000/pound stratosphere. This year, not only is the quality one hundred times better, but prices are about 20% of what they were last year and they keep going down. Now is time to take the leap and try preparing white truffles at home.…
Today’s recipe is a mash-up of three different dishes I made throughout my culinary career. The main part comes from my very first chef job at the Bakery Restaurant way back in 1985 when I worked for the late, great chef Louis Szathmary. One of his signature dishes was a fantastic slow-cooked pork roast stuffed with cserkesz kolbasz, a smoked sausage made from both beef and pork. The second component comes from Pili Pili, a southern French restaurant in Chicago whose menu traveled the Mediterranean like a luxury yacht hellbent on gastronomic discovery. I used to spit roast a pork rack over apple wood that I served in a milk sauce loosely based on a delicious maiale al latte, pork loin in milk sauce. The third part is a simple and homey squash gnocchi quickly tossed in brown butter and sage. The three were all found in one of my old kitchen journals and the resulting combination is an ‘aha dish’ perfect for the holidays!
Celebrate Spring with Vignarola
Vignarola is an Italian vegetable stew that gloriously celebrates spring in all her glory. It’s comprised of young, tender artichokes, fava beans, sweet peas, spring onions and lettuce braised in a light broth punctuated with fresh mint and lemon. After reading several variations of Vignarola, also called Frittedda in Sicily, I concluded Italians are a lot like people from Provence: everyone will argue about what is authentic and what is blasphemous concerning recipes. With vignarola, the arguments seem to center around: do you add guanciale or not; is fennel accepted or not; is it even legal to add potatoes?
I am reminded of my own heated conversations with my Marseille born mother Mishou over how to make a proper ratatouille. She advocated cutting everything larger than I usually do, and slowly stewing it together. She correctly points out that my version is more a restaurant one than a home styled one, as all the ingredients are cut finely, cooked separately, then mixed together at the last moment.
As a small child, I believed in two things; Santa Claus and the virtues of a simple grilled Loup de mer, or branzino as it is more commonly called in the US. Loup de mer is a Mediterranean sea bass with a delicate flesh and addictively delicious crunchy skin when grilled. Get your coals white hot, put dried fennel branches on top then the fish and let the licorice smoky flavors pleasantly permeate your fish, lending a feeling of being in Provence. There is no greater act of love than sharing a wonderful meal you cook with the people dear to you. Remember, good food can happen anywhere, this one is especially good cooked over an outdoor fire, preferably deep in woods, with loved ones and a few bottles of great wine….
I recently did an Italian pop-up in Portland and the undisputed star of the show was my gnocchi tossed in a Tocco di Carne sauce with shaved parmesan and drizzled with Paniole, a beautiful extra virgin olive oil from the Ciacci family, owners of the great Brunello estate Mocali.
My six-year-old Beau constantly hounds me to cook circle pasta, his own name for gnocchi. Beau’s love for all things Italian (and especially red) emerged during his “red” phase prompted when my friend Marco Cameli, perhaps the best pasta cook on planet earth, visited from Italy several years ago. Marco was auditioning to be my sous chef at a restaurant in southern California and stayed with my family for a week. Every night we cooked dinner together and I always begged Marco to cook a pasta course. Little Beau and I joyously ate numerous plates of bucatini all’Amatriciana, spaghetti in simple tomato sauces, and perhaps the absolutely best Carbonara of my entire life.
I wanted to be a skinny little ballerina but I was a voluptuous little Italian girl whose dad had meatballs on the table every night. Lady Gaga
Chicken and Ricotta Polpettine, Pomodoro Sauce
- 1 pound ground chicken dark meat
- 1/2 cup breadcrumbs
- 4 ounces whole milk ricotta
- 1 egg beaten
- 1/3 cup grated parmesan
- 1 clove garlic mashed
- 2 grates fresh nutmeg
- sea salt and black pepper
- chopped basil and/or parsley
- 1 quart tomato sauce
Mix everything together in a large bowl by hand, except the sauce,
Form at least 16 meatballs and drop them in a hot saute pan with olive oil and butter. I generally use a nonstick pan to avoid the melting cheese sticking.
Saute till golden brown then finish in a 400 degree oven for five minutes.
Heat sauce up, add meatballs and enjoy!