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Posted 10/30/2011

A Taste of an Italian American Halloween

When I think back to my first Halloween, like the rest of us, I can’t remember it. Sure there are the bits and pieces my mom tells me about, but those are her memories. I , personally, can’t recall what my first piece of Halloween candy tasted like. I don’t know if it was chocolate or fruity, if it melted in my hands or if I rubbed it all over my face, my mom and then through my hair. I probably did. I’m not sure if I went trick or treating or how my mom dressed me up, though there is an old picture floating around that will probably haunt me for the rest of my life. It’s me, as a baby, in a clown outfit. Red shoes. Red nose. Red mouth. Sticky fingers. I may not remember, but I know I did not like it.

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Posted 10/28/2011

Sicily: Home of Caponata

Sicilian cooking, like Sicily itself, has been influenced over the centuries by so many different cultures that this island probably has as much claim to the title of “melting pot” as does the United States. One of the signatures of Sicilian cuisine is the marriage of sweet and sour flavors in one dish – a signature that is, perhaps, best captured in the island’s most famous dish: caponata.

Traditional Sicilian caponata (or capunata in the Sicilian dialect) is a mixture of several different cooked vegetables with sweetened vinegar and capers. The vegetables used in the dish vary depending on who’s making it and what’s on hand, but most wouldn’t consider it a traditional caponata if it didn’t have eggplants. Other vegetables that may be in caponata include celery, bell peppers, onions, and carrots, and many recipes call for olives. Some call for raisins to heighten the sweetness, and I’ve even had it with apples thrown in. Continue Reading…

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Posted 10/22/2011

The Slow Food Challenge

“Tell me what you eat and I’ll tell you who you are” Jean-Anthelme Brillat-Savarin

Nobody likes being told what to do, especially when it comes to the food that we consume on a daily basis. Having been nagged countless times as a child to eat all my vegetables because, as most parents like to put it, there are “starving kids in Africa,” I now take my food choices very personally. I’m sure that Mr. Brillat-Savarin would turn over in his grave if he learned of my obsession with premium ice cream, nachos and a few other food groups that I kindly decline to mention in this post. Continue Reading…

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Posted 10/12/2011

Book Review: Aftertaste-A Novel In Five Courses

Cassoulet? Hmmph, sounds like Casserole. My first thoughts as I rumple through the last few pages of Meredith Mileti’s new book, Aftertaste: A Novel in Five Courses. Cassoulet, biscotti, mixed green salad, anti pasti, pizza…all recipes. A nice touch for a book about food, but not much of a help when you’re trying to figure out how the book ends.

My initial attempt to review Aftertaste brought me right back to high school. Back then, the trick for completing an in depth book report involved reading the last few pages first to find out how the story ends, then flipping through the rest of it, skimming chapters and reading only enough to sound authoritative when writing the paper. See my dilemma? Recipes were not going to tell me anything about the book…or so I thought.

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Posted 10/12/2011

Carciofi alla Fiesolana (Braised Artichokes)

Artichokes, along with beets and mushrooms represent for me a moment of growth for my palate. I still remember clearly (you know those memories you cannot shake off) my parents trying to force me to eat those tough raw green leaves when I was a kid: they could not convince me, no matter the effort. There are many flavors you get to enjoy in life, only after you have developed a sense, an affinity for them.  I tried to convince both my daughters that Artichoke Leaves in”Pinzimonio” (eating raw vegetables dipped in evo, salt and pepper) are really good for them, and I told them of how Tuscan and traditional the whole “experience” is. They just looked at me sideways and move on. Continue Reading…

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Posted 10/04/2011

Introducing, PEACE AND PASTA!

It’s funny what can inspire an idea. Sometimes it’s pure chance. A conversation. A picture. A sequence of unrelated events. Each potentially random, and each perfectly capable of coming together, making sense and planting the seed for something good to grow. Other times, it can be out of necessity. Sometimes, it’s a combination of both. When it comes to the reason behind the Peace and Pasta Apparel Line, I would say it is an equal amount of luck, dedication and your help. Many designs are in fact the direct result of social media interaction; I went straight into twitter and bluntly asked for help. And help came.

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Posted 09/29/2011

A Florentine bartender turns heads in New York

Cod-infused gin gives a different slant to a Bloody Mary, a Martini is spiced up with Mexican worms, while vodka on the rocks is literally on the rocks, perhaps with some vermouth-infused black Mongolian stones. Well-loved Italian ingredients such as baccalà (salted cod), eggplant, balsamic vinegar, Parmesan cheese and mascarpone are not what you normally think of putting into a cocktail, yet this forward-thinking Italian bartender has no qualms about turning tonight’s dinner into a drink.

Hailing from Florence, where the bartender worked at some of the Renaissance city’s best bars, Cristina Bini has been making headlines recently for her unusual cocktails, particularly her use of insects, but there’s much more to it than adding yuck-factor with some spicy Mexican worms or crispy scorpions to your drink. Continue Reading…

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Posted 09/25/2011

Milan: City of Ossobuco

Say the word “Milan” and, most likely, things like fashion and banking come to mind. If you’re particularly aware of Italian art, you might even think of Leonardo da Vinci’s “Last Supper,” which is located in the city. Great food, however, is probably not among the things most people would associate with Milan.

But like any city or region in Italy, Milan has some signature dishes to offer the world. Even in this relatively fast-paced Italian city, the locals take slow food seriously. Continue Reading…

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Posted 09/22/2011

What’s In A Name? Sauce vs. Gravy

I was always an inquisitive child. Inquisitive, nose-y and easily perplexed. The aerodynamics of birds. Where babies came from. Lint.  In general, these were the compelling mysteries of my life as a 5 year old. And as an Italian, born and raised in Brooklyn,  NY, the mecca of Italian-American cuisine, it only makes sense that the source of a lot of my questions and confusion was also linked to food in some way, shape or form. Continue Reading…

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