Tag Archives: pizza

My Easy Dinner: Pizza with a Fried Egg…Seems so Obvious Now

I know its hard to make dinner after a long day, but… if you don’t make it a monumental task, it can be done! I am one of those people who really likes a little activity in the kitchen in the evening. I have to smell something cooking to feel that “Ah, I’m Home” feeling. Last night this is the quickie dinner I came up with. Why didn’t I think about doing this a long time ago.

Pizza Fried Egg

I had the amazing luck to live in Tuscany, Italy a few years ago and obviously fell in love with the food. I finally tasted authentic Italian pizza and one that stood out to me was a pizza topped off with a fried egg. Eggs are poached and fried and featured as a sort of garnish in all sorts of not-so-obvious dishes…in ramen noodle soups, salads, Mexican dishes, middle eastern dishes…the list is endless. So why not Pizza!

Pizza in Rome

To see how to do it right, check out my post  Pizza in Rome This pizza is called the Montecarlo and it is from an amazing pizzeria in Rome called La Montecarlo

The one thing that can be frustrating  is ordering a pizza that will satisfy everyone. There is the squabble over meat or veggies, black olives or mushrooms and the person like me who wants onions! I solved that one a long time ago by getting a plain pizza and then adding whatever anyone wanted that happened to be in the fridge or pantry. The ONE THING I always have on hand is pesto. Pesto is as common in my fridge as ketchup or mustard. I make a batch of pesto as soon as it runs out. We use it on toast for breakfast, in sandwiches, quick pasta dishes, and you guessed it, on my plain pizza!

fried egg on pizza

Well last night I brought home a large plain pizza and discovered that besides my trusty jar of pesto, there was not much else to scrounge from? Then I remembered my pizza in Italy and problem solved. I warmed up the pizza, slathered on pesto and topped each slice with a softly fried egg, (the egg can also be poached instead of fried). I drizzled a little good quality extra virgin olive oil and a sprinkle of pepper flakes on my egg and it was complete heaven.

Of course you can do what you want. If you have leftover mushroom pizza, or a meat pizza….any pizza can be warmed up and topped with a fried egg and you too can transform the hum-drum into an unctuous delicious meal!

Pizza in Rome

La Montecarlo Pizzeria, Rome

 

MY MANHATTAN ADDICTION (3 extemporary days of fun!)

Staten Island Ferry

Staten Island Ferry

This was merely meant to be a trip to drop off my car to be repaired (by my brother who lives north of Manhattan), and while it was being fixed, I thought it would be nice to take my daughter, who had just escaped from school for the summer, to the city for a quick over-nighter to visit our friend Bird.

Central Park

Central Park

Ide (the sweet daughter!) had been to the city tons of times, but we rarely spent the night, (me always opting for the comfort of my own bed after a day of jam-packed city-ing!). The plan was to drop of the car, take Metro North to Grand Central station, spend the night, and then hijack my friend back with us to rural Pennsylvania for a few days in my newly fixed-up jalopy.

Little Cupcake Bakeshop 30 Prince St. NYC

Little Cupcake Bakeshop
30 Prince St. NYC

Not exactly how it turned out. Here is the story of how this city, (my home for 8 years) lured me into its charismatic arms for 3 whole days and nights! It’s nothing I will ever regret, but more especially, something my daughter will forever remember.

my little niece on a not-so-little zipline!

my little niece on a not-so-little zip-line!

So, dropped of the car and had an amazing lunch with my brother and sister-in-law. I  will wait to wax on about this marvelous little restaurant in Briarcliff Manor, NY, when I go back to eat there again, only this time, with my camera (the one time I leave it in the car – honestly!). Then, it was up to the house to hang out for a few hours with my crazy and cute nieces. In defense of the crazy nieces; it’s not really their fault. I blame a dad who installed a zip-line in the back garden hefty enough for rain forest travel!

whhhoaaa

WAAAHHHH!

As I perused the train schedule to NYC with Jennifer (the sister-in-law!) I mentioned that Pascal (the brother in question) expressed an interest in dinner in the city. My brother loves nothing better than sitting in a nice restaurant being fed, so I harangued him into leaving work early and be our dinner companion, (as well as our transportation!). Off we went with Pascal, Ide, Eve (the most adept at zip-lining and oldest of the nieces) and I to Eataly in Chelsea, the now famous (made so by all the previous blogs about the place) bustling Italian market created by superstar chefs Mario Batali and Lidia Bastianich.

The lovely Flatiron building across from the Eataly market

The lovely Flatiron building across from the Eataly market (with Ide)

When you find a restaurant serving a dish that makes you fall in love with the place, it is a mistake to go anywhere else. I wanted pizza and so our destination was La Pizza La Pasta in the heart of this market. Besides the pizza being reminiscent of the pizza I enjoyed while living in Tuscany for 3 months a couple of years earlier (God, I sound like a pretentious, puffed-up bragger – I’m not!!!), I knew it was the perfect place for Pascal. The culinary delights it had to offer would satiate all of his senses, while also distracting my young niece who was ravenous and tired.

The new Nutella Creperia in Eataly

The new Nutella Creperia in Eataly

While waiting to be beeped for our table (very cool idea: get your name on a list at one of the 9 restaurants and then leave to have a drink, shop or people watch until your table is ready!) we drooled over the fresh fish, bread and pasta, as well as hit the newest addition to Eataly, NYC Nutella. I have dedicated a post on my blog (click THIS) to Nutella because it has been my favorite thing to put on toast since I was a teenager (yes, quite a time ago).

Walls of Nutella!!

Walls of Nutella!!

And, I am not the only addict – the Eataly market opened a “Creperia” dedicated to this thick hazelnut chocolate-y spread a month ago, and now here we were standing in the doorway minutes before our dinner reservation. What to do…..try a pre-dinner crepe of course!

Making nutella crepes in Eataly

Making Nutella crepes in Eataly

The walls of the Creperia were surrounded by mod wooden shelving on which rows upon rows of Nutella from the smallest jars to the biggest were stacked from the floor to the rafters. It was a thrill to see such a quantity of Nutella in one place, and of course impossible for us to leave without trying one between us. The crepes are made to order on hot plates and folded into neat steaming triangles. We all got a bite before dinner and it was an amazing appetizer. If you ever make it to Eataly, leave room for one of these (we most certainly did!).

Yum!

Yum!

Dinner was sumptuous and my brother made sure to get a bite from each plate.

The last of my Pizza at La Pizza La Pasta in Eataly (I did finish it!)

The last of my Pizza at La Pizza La Pasta in Eataly (I did finish it!)

That night, Bird, Ide and myself stayed up late nattering on her bed. I felt like I had entered my daughter’s world, the one where thinking about the next day is not important when there are so many more important things to discuss (which we did into the wee hours). That of course meant getting up late and deciding that the only thing to do was go to Pain de Quotidien for Berry Tarts and coffee (a great chain of french cafes, which I have already written about here).

Raspberry tart, Mixed-berry tart from Pain de Quotidien

Raspberry tart, Mixed-berry tart from Pain de Quotidien

The big dilemma for my daughter was whether to have the raspberry or mixed berry tart? As we ate, we made a plan to visit the Guggenheim Museum on the Upper East Side, and we decided that the best way to get there (or most interesting and fun way) was to walk from where we were (57th st and & 7th Ave)  through Central Park until we reached our destination.

Ide & Bird

Ide & Bird

The berry tarts were amazing and the walk through the park was momentous. It had rained earlier making the paths, grass and trees feel luminous and magical. Everything felt worth exploring, down to the trash cans!

Trash cans or art? - you tell me!

Trash cans or art? – you tell me!

We met lots of dog walkers and petted as many as we could (the dogs of course), and climbed on rocks and marvelled at how the city skyline would suddenly appear above the trees and rocks, and the rolling perfectly manicured hillocks of Central Park. We walked winding narrow paths and traversed magnificent tree-haloed avenues until emerging right below the Metropolitan Museum on 5th Ave and 80th st.

The Beautiful Met Museum

The Beautiful Met Museum

The Met steps were, as usual, thronged with people sitting around and it was hard to pass and not scoot in for a few minutes (impossible to leave once inside!). But I really wanted to take Ide to The Guggenheim. She had seen it so many times in pictures and knew that Frank Lloyd Wright was behind its magical turret-like structure and it really didn’t matter what exhibit was on the walls – it was all about the building itself!

The Guggenheim easily recognizable on the Upper East side

The Guggenheim easily recognizable on the Upper East Side

There is really nothing quite like it and it sticks out like the most wonderous sore thumb in a city full of amazing buildings.

The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum

The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum

The current show was called Italian Futurism, and as cool as it was to see it, the real thrill was winding our way up the spiraled wall to the top. The feeling of intimate space around you disappeared when you looked out from the cement banister across the museum. Looking out gave you the feeling of a vast and never-ending space; a crazy contrast that serves to make us feel both big and small at the same time.

Inside The Guggenheim Museum

Inside The Guggenheim Museum

We were feeling a bit sad when we left as the next part of the day included leaving the city. I called my brother and as luck had it, the car was still not ready. I think he knew that I needed more time with this city and gave me an excuse to stay. When I told Ide that the car was not ready, she jumped for joy and confessed she wanted to go to Eataly for dinner AGAIN – which we did!

Inside The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum

Another perspective (Guggenheim Museum)

And this time it was more superb than the last. I think this was because last minute we decided to order a sort of appetizer pizza that turned out to be the best thing I had tasted on the menu to date. It was like a pizza salad, and set us up for the robust pasta dishes  that followed.

The best pizza topped with arugla, shaved parmiagiano reggiano and cherry tomatoes

The best pizza topped with arugula, shaved Parmigiano Reggiano and cherry tomatoes

So given that we had more time, my daughter figured she could keep us up late two nights in a row and convinced us that going to a movie, which started at 10.40pm, was a reasonable request. Bird and I looked at each other and thought it would take toothpicks (for our eyelids!) and a good dose of caffeine to keep us awake. We managed to get a second wind and rallied.

The Pasta with Short Beef Ragu wasn't so bad either!

The Pasta with Short Beef Ragu wasn’t so bad either!

At 10.25pm we left her apartment and walked to the theatre via the Lincoln centre (which was lit up like a Christmas tree) and saw a movie called “Chef”. Luckily it turned out to be entertaining, and bordered enough on the quirky side to keep me entertained.

The Staten Island Ferry

The Staten Island Ferry

We strolled home at 1am in the morning and decided right then and there that we needed 1 more day. After all, there was the lower part of Manhattan to explore! We made a plan to take the Staten Island Ferry (great way to see the city, as well as get a great view of The Statue of Liberty)  and have lunch in China town…which we did.

The View of Lower Manhattan from the ferry

The View of Lower Manhattan from the ferry

The Staten Island Ferry is such a part of the city for me. When I arrived in Manhattan in 1986 with very shallow pockets, the cheapest thrill in the world could be had via The Staten Island Ferry. It was from the outside rail on The Staten Island Ferry I got my first view of lower Manhattan, the skyline at that time being dominated by the World Trade Center (or Twin Towers) and also my first real live encounter with The Statue of Liberty.

Lady Liberty gracing New York Harbor

Lady Liberty gracing New York Harbor

I have taken this ferry countless times since with family and friends and the The Statue Of Liberty still takes my breath away each time I sail by her. So many people ride the ferry for just that look, and it is impossible not to think about all of those immigrant eyes sailing to the new world searching for comfort in the face of this giant sculpture standing in the middle of New York Harbor.

Riding the Ferry

Riding the Ferry

Since 1905 the ferry has been taking passengers to and from Manhattan at Whitehall Terminal, the southernmost tip of Manhattan (close to Battery Park) to St. George’s Ferry Terminal on Staten Island. This 5-mile commute runs 24/7 365 days of the year carrying 75,000 passengers per day.

Cozy

Cozy

Last Saturday we became one of the 75,000 waiting for the huge doors at the Whitehall Terminal to open which led to the gang plank of the ferry, and I got to take my daughter on a trip I had made over 20 years earlier. Pretty Special.

view from the window

view from the window

We made sure to get a spot by the rail, and the 25-minute ride was full of famous, unforgettable views of Manhattan, Lady Liberty, Ellis Island, the Verrazano–Narrows Bridge, as the wind whipped around us and the plumes of white water from the ferry misted our faces.

Just Ide

Just Ide

Such a monumental ferry ride left us ravenous, so after disembarking we made our way over to China town (via City Hall) for a feast at a delicious hole-in-the-wall that Bird knew about. It is a very handy thing to have a few places in mind when wanting to eat in Chinatown as the hodgepodge of restaurants, fish markets, vegetable stalls and shops selling all manner of trinkets from lucky Chinese cats to fake Gucci watches can bamboozle the most experienced of travelers!

Lunch in Chinatown

Lunch in Chinatown

We arrived back to Bird’s apartment right before most people are thinking about dinner and fell on the bed exhausted and spent. This is how the city beats you up and the idea of another midnight movie came in second place to me cooking dinner and watching a movie in Bird’s cozy little home.

Last minute treat from thecuppcake Bakeshop on Prince st

Last minute treat from The Cupcake Bakeshop on Prince st

I cooked a lovely pasta from ingredients I had bought from Eataly’s market and we settled in for our last night.

Made from food bought at Eatlay's market: Buccatini past with Mortedella and lemon butter

Made from food bought at Eatlay’s market: Bucatini past with Mortadella and lemon butter

The day after we got home we decided that we had to replicate the Nutella Crepes from NYC Nutella in Eataly for dessert for the whole family, and I must say Mario Batali would have been hard-pressed to tell the difference between his and ours (I will post the recipe on its own very soon, so look for it if you want to add something easy and different to your repertoire).

Our Nutella Crepe!

Our Nutella Crepe!

All in all, this was something worth remembering, and so worth writing about. I can read this later and know not to envy anyone’s life but my own.

Ide (Central park, NYC)

Ide (Central park, NYC)

Mother’s Day In New York City With My Two Lovely Children!

I find that a bit of planning can go a long way. I stopped ad-libbing my free time when I had kids and my personal time had been reduced to about 0%!

NYC for Mother's Day

NYC for Mother’s Day

I am a planner when it comes to going on day-long outings. The free spirit in me that just wanted to jump into the car and go where the wind took me was no fun when countless times I ended up eating in crappy restaurants because we were just too tired and hungry to find the best place and also arriving at museums or some other “must-see” spot only to find it closed. Additionally, when you take kids on these outings you can multiply your frustration by 100 when things are not going smoothly.

Not Italy, The Metropolitian Museum of Art in NYC!

Not Italy, The Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC!

I can safely say I have attained a balance when it comes to Day Trips, Weekend Getaways, Vacations and Holidays. Balance is a very beautiful thing when you think about it. For me it means (where trips are concerned anyway) having a plan but also having time built-in for the sheer luxury of time itself.

How Central Park looked this past Sunday

How Central Park looked this past Sunday

For example, this Mother’s Day was planned and it was one I will remember forever. I have found that if I make a plan when it involves a holiday about me specifically (like Mother’s Day and my birthday) it is best to plan it myself. That way I get to do exactly what my heart desires and everyone around me is happy for a couple of reasons; they don’t have to kill themselves trying to guess what I would love to do, and they are just glad to tag along on my selfish adventure (sometimes my plan is to do something on my own, like maybe read undisturbed for a couple of hours!).

The MET

The MET

This may sound heavy-handed and bossy but I assure you I am easygoing and easily pleased when it comes to where to go, what to do and what I want! What I really don’t want on Mother’s Day is a big hoopla with flowers and chocolates and my husband being roped in to giving me something extravagant too! I am not his mother and really hate how commercial this whole day has become. All I ask from my children is that I get to be with them if possible and to do something fun if we can manage it.

One of my favorite artists, alexander Calder. This necklace forged in brass is called "The Jelous husband"

One of my favorite artists, Alexander Calder. This necklace forged in brass is called “The Jealous Husband” (at The MET)

I absolutely love being with my kids and enjoy their company to no end. I have spent motherhood working around their schedule instead of the other way around just to get the most out of my time with them. This has resulted in us being close and easy in each other’s company, and there is no one I’d rather go to a movie, stroll a museum or walk a strange city with. This past Sunday was no exception.

My son had a big history paper looming on the American Civil War and this Mother’s Day I had the perfect excuse to work his project into my plan. His assignment was to write about any aspect of the war and after lots of discussion he came up with looking at the war from the point of view of how Photography changed the general public’s perception of the war. Of course I helped sway him in that direction as I thought it was more interesting than just recounting a battle or talking about the president. This is the first year my two children are not being Home-Schooled by me and I’m afraid I cannot let the school have all the fun or leave them to conduct their entire education. In this regard, I will always be a meddling parent, intent on them making the most of their opportunity to spend their days learning!

What my daughter liked in the modern painting Wing

What my daughter liked in the modern painting Wing (The Potato, 1928, by Jean Miro)

This Sunday I planned to drive to the city, park the car downtown and take the subway to each of our planned destinations: The Metropolitan Museum of Art on the upper East Side and afterwards to Eataly for lunch in the Flatiron District. Yes, only two things planned because I knew from experience that it would only take two things to exhaust the three of us. I am the old lady in the group but I can take a lot more of the city’s stimulation than my children. I find I can tune things out while kids feel bombarded by every little thing; subway rides, traffic noise, side-stepping crowds of people, not to mention all the visual stuff.

P

Photography And The American Civil War Exhibit now until Sept. 2nd at the MET

Anyway, the reason for The Met visit was to see a special exhibit called: Photography and The American Civil War.

As I was looking up information about photo journalism during the war I discovered that this exhibit was at The Met. I was so happy to find such a great resource and built my Mother’s Day outing around seeing it. I was happy, as any excuse to go to Manhattan suited me just fine, and I took the opportunity to visit the European painting wing for my own personal treat while we were there.

Making our way to the exhibit

Making our way to the exhibit

The Civil War exhibit was so well done and very moving. To see those famous photographs up close and personal like that made a foreigner like me, who learned nothing about American History in school (save for their involvement in World War I and II) more informed and further curious about American history and the early years of American politics. A lot of these photographs were very  disturbing to look at (battle fields of dead soldiers, amputees) and I was hoping my children would be able to handle some of the more vivid images on display. Suffice to say that there was no nightmare drama that night so somehow the exhibit was also able to achieve that balance I talked about earlier. If you are lucky enough to be in NYC this summer, you should check it out for yourself (it is up until September 2nd).

Trying to catch pink petals on 5th Ave.

Trying to catch swirling pink petals on 5th Ave.

It was a beautiful Summer day and the walk back to the subway on 5th Avenue by Central Park was as good as it gets in New York. We walked under the cherry blossom trees which were loosing petals so fast it was like a pink snowstorm. The wind was whipping and gusting all around us making our clothes and hair flutter like mad. My daughter tried to chase down some petals as they fell but they were too fast and eluded her grasp at every attempt.

Flatiron building, NYC

Flatiron building, NYC

We took the train to Eataly, an Italian market in the Flatiron District that I have been to a couple of times (Click HERE and HERE to read each piece),  but I wanted to show the kids the place. I was more than pleased to visit there again to have pizza and pasta for lunch! They were excited to see the food that they had become familiar with last year while in Italy for 3 months (click on Italy in the right hand column of this blog to read posts about our trip), and to  sample the pizza and robust pasta dishes they had grown to love while there.

Pizza in Eataly

Pizza in Eataly

Eataly (the giant Italian marketplace created by world-famous chefs Mario Batali and Lidia Bastianich) was bustling with diners (there are 9 places to eat everything Italian!), food shoppers and curious tourists who had heard about this Italian food emporium.

Pasta

Paccheri con Sugo di Mare (Shrimp, calamari, & scallops with tomatoes. white wine and parsley) While my son really loved this dish he said he did not agree with Eataly’s slogan, “Eataly is Italy”. He said “Eataly is not Italy” and while most Italians would love to duck in here for a taste of home, i have to agree with my son. it’s pretty good though.

We bee-lined it for La pizza and La Pasta and got our name on a list for a table to have lunch. We were depraved with hunger and it was hard to walk around seeing luscious food at every turn, while also smelling it. While we waited I bought pici pasta from Siena (at my son’s insistence since he loved pici so much and we had been to Siena, – click here), cooked ham with rosemary and chewy, stick-in-your teeth torrone with hazelnuts from the Piedmont region.

pasta

Tagliatelle with braised Short-rib ragu

 Our friend Bird, who lives in the city, joined us for lunch and the four of us had a hard time deciding on what to have. In the end my kids had dishes that they remembered having in Italy and wanted to compare the two. I had a robust and strong-tasting pizza with anchovies and black olives. We took a bite of each other’s food but were happiest with the one we had ordered.

clean plates all around!

Clean plates all around!

After lunch it was an absolute must to have gelato and coffee to get in the right mindset for the drive home. The walk back to the car in the late afternoon was mostly silent with each of us only having the energy to hold hands and remark on how wonderful a day we were having.

My son asked me if the person who lives here "is rich?" - hmmmm...

My son asked me if the person who lives here “is rich?” – hmmmm…

We got home when it was still light outside and the first question I got when we walked in the door was, “What’s for dinner?”

Our next big trip is for my birthday, and grand plans are already under way!

Escape To New York and Wildly Good Bucatini al Ragu – Inspired By Pasta Bought From Eataly and Of course ITALY!

Chelsea Area, NYC

The Flatiron district, NYC

I escaped to New york City for 24 hours this week to soak up some much-needed cosmopolitan energy and culture. Being stuck in a provincial town as I am, I need to get away to satisfy that part of my that longs for something other than fields of cows, unexciting restaurants (an understatement!), and generic big box clothing and food stores. To have such a wonderful city so close by is a glorious comfort when I need that jolt of stimulation.

The Flatiron Building at the intersection of 5th Ave & Broadway (completed in 1902)

The Flatiron Building at the intersection of 5th Ave & Broadway (completed in 1902)

This trip was planned around not much more than where to have breakfast and where to have dinner while I visited my friend Bird on the Upper West Side. The worst thing you can do in a city like this when it comes to food is to wander the streets and hope you hit on something fabulous. This is a bad approach when it comes to any city, and yes, while it is true that you can stumble upon something great, you are more than likely to end up somewhere a little disappointing or lacking in one way or another.

Balthazar Bakery in Soho

Balthazar Bakery in Soho (established in 1997 and going wildly strong ever since!)

I lived in Manhattan for 8 years and have been visiting it ever since, and my friend has lived there over 20 years, so between the two of us the only problem we have is deciding between the great places we know and the great places we have heard about that are new. We settled on doing a bit of both, having coffee and sticky buns at Balthazar’s in Soho, and eating dinner at the pizza place in Eataly in the Flatiron District. I had never been to the infamous Balthazar’s and I wanted to revisit Eataly (This giant marketplace is the result of the collaboration between two rock stars in the world of food, chefs Mario Batali and Lidia Bastianich – press here to read about my last Eataly visit) to buy pasta and see how the pizza there compared to all of the wonderful pizza I ate in Italy (click here for that story!) last year.

Across from the Flatiron is lovely Eataly; one of my destinations this past monday

Across from the Flatiron is lovely Eataly; one of my destinations this past monday

Suffice is to say that the coffee and pastry from Balthazar’s on Spring Street was divine and I am in shock as to know how I had never been there before? In between lunch and dinner was spent helping my friend shop for clothes in the cool boutiques in Soho before hopping on the R train for my Italian fix at Eataly.

Lovely pasteries to devour with coffee from Balthazar's

Lovely pastries to devour with coffee from Balthazar’s

With time to kill before Pizza I took a gastronomic stroll through the many sumptuous displays of merchandise on offer in Eataly’s Market. I bought some great dried pasta from a company called Rigorosa di Gragnano which hails from the town of Grangnano in the province of Naples. The pasta variety I choose was bucatini, which looks like a thick spaghetti but has a tiny hole running through the center. It is extruded through bronze dies giving the pasta a rough texture which is marvelous for sopping up thick sauces and has a lovely toothsome bite. Of course the next day at home (last night) I had to cook it with just such a sauce, and it was heavenly (recipe below!). This pasta was really great and so worth it ($4.80 for 17.6 oz). My next visit will include more than 1 measly package!

Bucantini

Bucatini pasta by Rigorosa di Gragnano

I also found a pear juice, Succo di Pera, that I had not seen since being in Italy last year, and even thought it was a woefully ridiculous price for a bottle of juice (nearly $7!) I had to buy one as it was the drink my daughter ordered every time we were in an enoteca or cafe  (Which was quite often I’m happy to report). You should have seen her delighted face when I pulled it out of my bag when I arrived home. One would think I gave her permission not to do homework for a week!

Succo di pera Foto,  Succo di pera

Eating pasta in Eataly was delightful. The restaurant was located between the rows of dried pasta and the bakery area of the market. You still got the exciting buzz from the whole place but it felt intimate and cozy at our table (and our server Francesca was adorable!)

Getting rrady for Pizza in Eataly

Getting ready for Pizza in Eataly (the freshly baked bread comes to your table in neatly wrapped parcels)

 The pizza is classic Neapolitan style from their brick ovens, made with fresh mozzarella and San Marzano tomatoes. My pizza was scattered with artichokes, black olives and mushrooms, and, as big as it was, I ate the entire pie without a modicum of guilt!

Eataly

Eataly

I returned thinking what I always think when I leave Manhattan: it was too short a trip. However I cannot even think about complaining as I am so lucky to have the chance to go there as often as I do. Stayed tuned for more vicarious visits to this wonderful city!

Wildly Good Bucatini al Ragu

Wildly Good Bucatini al Ragu (Dinner last night)

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Recipe for Bucatini al Ragu (serves 6)

You will need:

1 1/2 lbs sausage meat (I used a mild Italian chicken sausage, but you can use any sausage you like; a mild, sweet or spicy Italian pork sausage would work fantastic too), casing removed and broken into bite-sized pieces (you can break it straight into your pan as you cook this dish)

3 tbs extra-virgin olive oil

1 medium sweet onion, small dice,

2 celery ribs, including leaves, small dice,

3 cloves garlic, finely chopped,

3 tbs tomato pasta concentrate

42 oz of tomato puree or crushed tomatoes (3 14 0z can or 1 1/2 28oz cans OR 1190 grams)

1 1/2 cups veggie or chicken broth (or bouillon cube and water – my bouillon cubes by Rapunzel are large so I only used 1/2)

1 tsp sea-salt (more to taste)

freshly ground black pepper (more to taste)

1/2 to 1 tsp pepper flakes (optional, but great addition!)

1 lb bucatini pasta (spaghetti will also work)

Method:

* About 5 minutes before you turn off the sauce, put the pasta water on and cook according to instructions. Before draining pasta, scoop out at least 1 cup of the water and reserve to add to your finished sauce if need be*

1 – Put large pot or deep saute pan (mine is 3″) on medium heat and add the oil. add the onions, celery and garlic and cook for about 8 minutes. Add the sausage to the pan, breaking it up with a wooden spoon when it is all in the pan. Cook for about 12 minutes, stirring frequently and breaking up meat into smaller pieces as it cooks.

cook sauce

cook sauce

2 – Add the tomato paste, tomatoes and broth (or water & bouillon cube) to pan and turn heat up. Bring to a bubble, then turn down to a simmer (it should still “tremble” on top slightly). Add the salt, pepper flakes (if using), and several grinds of black pepper and stir. Cover with lid and cook for about 1 hour, stirring occasionally. Turn off sauce and taste for further addition of salt and pepper. Let it sit while pasta is cooking.

cook pasta

cook pasta

3 – Right before or right when you turn off your sauce, cook the pasta. When it is cooked, add drained pasta (not rinsed and remembering to reserve some pasta cooking water) to the sauce and stir. Toss everything together gently. Add some of the reserved pasta water if you want to thin the sauce.

Add pasta adn stir gently

Add pasta and stir gently

Serve in shallow bowls or big dinner plates with extra pepper flakes and Parmigiano Reggiano if you so desire.

serve with Parmiagiano Reggiano cheese if you have it

Serve with Parmigiano Reggiano cheese if you have it

Serve in shallow bowls or big dinner plates with extra pepper flakes and Parmigiano Reggiano if you so desire.

 

June’s Famous Chicken Dinner!

I am missing my sisters back home in Ireland, and thinking about all the lovely food we cooked together. It is many months since my leaving and now there is a hole in my life. I am already plotting on how to see them again as soon as possible.

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Beautiful fields of Rape Flowers close to our house in Ireland

I love every aspect of cooking a meal, from the planning, to the more menial tasks like washing dirt off the potatoes. I find I am the most comfortable when I work alone or rather, it is nice being by myself not feeling lonely at all. That is not to say I don’t like activity while I am getting on with things. Mostly it is quite the opposite, and the din of family and friends coming in and out, or parking themselves for the duration on a chair and chatting with me through the entire process is when I have had my most memorable conversations. 

June's roasted potatoes

June’s roasted potatoes

There is an easiness that comes with cooking and the energy in the kitchen permeates through the entire house, sets the tone. That is why I find it so hard to understand why people choose take-out/away food over something that you can make yourself? When food is brought home in a bag or plastic containers you have missed out on the lovely clatter in the kitchen and the smells that put you in a good mood, that draw everyone together.

June's Roast Chicken with Bread Stuffing

June’s Roast Chicken with Bread Stuffing

Yes, of course there are days that I long for a little cardboard takeout box, complete with the narrow metal handle full of spicy Szechuan chicken, or the big corrugated square housing a pizza with everyone’s favorite toppings on its various quarters. What I’m saying is when I think about food, what comes to mind, is a roasted chicken being pulled from the oven, or the smell that comes from a pot of soup making my taste buds crazy for a taste… for a bite of something. The whole act of cooking creates an atmosphere that a take-out box just cannot compete with!

June making Pizza

June making Pizza

There is not a doubt in my mind that everyone can think of a person  that instantly conjures up the image of a dish that you uniquely associate with them. Sometimes it is the dish you think of first, and then you realize that you are missing someone, and craving their food and their company. I am sitting here on this weekend morning and I swear I can smell June’s Famous Chicken Dinner.

Famous Chicken Dinner

Famous Chicken Dinner

It was dubbed Famous Chicken Dinner by my son a couple of years ago and it is how we request it when we visit. She cannot understand why we attach so much importance to it? When she roasts a whole chicken, this is how it turns out. It is one of her standards and has never been thought of as anything but ordinary, and certainly not something she would dream of making if she was having people over for dinner.

another June Dinner

Another June Dinner

The thing is, she is unaware that when she makes something that is so familiar, so effortless to her, she has ended up perfecting something. She has unconsciously over the years worked out all the kinks in this dish, tweaking the amounts of butter, or salt and changing the herb mix until she got it the way she liked it the best. She did this, and then she left it, because it was perfect and needed no more fussing over. She will laugh if she reads this, but I know I am right. I know that if she made it for me right now, there would be no surprises. It would be exactly what I wanted, and if she changed something because she felt maybe having company meant doing things differently to make it special, she would regret it and wished she had left well enough alone.

The river Barrow at Milford, County Carlow

The river Barrow at Milford, County Carlow, a so familiar place to me

I have never asked for the recipe, which is an odd thing for me. I know it is just a stuffed roasted chicken with carrot and parsnip mash, roasted potatoes and a herby sauce made from the pan drippings, but I think it would be impossible to replicate. It would be just like my trying to master my mother’s stuffing, something I attempt to do each Christmas, and each time fail. I fail to capture that essence that made it taste the way it did. I believe there are some dishes that contain a soul, and this one happens to have June’s. I don’t know if there is a recipe for that.

June's roses

June’s roses

An Original Holiday Gift for Everyone Who Ever Wanted To Make Pizza!

Chef Panza's Pizza Paddles in action!

Chef Panza’s Pizza Paddles in action!

The two things about making pizza that seem scary to people is the idea of having to toss the pizza in the air, where it gracefully twirls, before you catch it in your waiting fist, ready to throw it all over again, AND, shoveling a pizza from a big wooden paddle into the oven without loosing half of the toppings to the back wall of the oven (not to mention having to get it out again with the same unwieldy tool)!

great artisanal pizza right from your own oven!

great artisanal pizza right from your own oven!

I am here to shamelessly promote my friend Chef Panza’s Pizza Paddles. Chef Panza is crazy about lots of things, but two things that come to mind when I think about him begin with the letter”F”, Family and Food, (he is also wild about books, but that’s a whole other story!).

Chef Panza on the job

Chef Panza on the job

He is an architect and I can only imagine how his convoluted brain operates. He built his house over 20 years, adding on bits as the humor or inspiration took him. He is always coming up with inventive tools for doing things (or at least talking about what tool could be made for what job!) and his idea for the Pizza Paddles was one he carried through to the end.

what will i put on my pizza?

What will I put on my pizza?

As with most tools, they are usually created out of necessity. The pizza paddle idea was born from frustration when one night our little chef was making pizza with his three daughters. The girls were having tons of trouble getting their dough (full of toppings) from the big wooden paddle to the pizza stone without loosing some, lots, or all of the cheesy ingredients to the back or bottom of the oven. I’m not talking about little girls either who might have a hard time with any sort of cooking technique. His daughters are fully grown and highly capable! What to do?

pizza paddle for dummies (aka me!)

Pizza paddle for dummies (aka me!)

My friend decided that if the pizza paddle came apart in the middle, the pizza could be positioned over the stone or rack in the oven and simply laid in place by gently pulling the paddles apart allowing the pizza to plop right where you wanted it to cook.

After lots of experimenting, getting a prototype made and finally finding a manufacturer, the Chef Panza Pizza Paddles were invented!

This is how they work:

place the pizza dough on the paddles

Place the pizza dough on the paddles

add your toppings

Add your toppings (the fun bit)

position pizza in the oven

Position pizza in the oven

Gently separate the paddles and the dough will rest on the stone or rack

Gently separate the paddles and the dough will rest on the stone or rack

Et Voila!

Et Voila!

I can do this all day!

I can do this all day!

Retrieving the deliciously baked pizza is just as simple

Retrieving the deliciously baked pizza is just as simple

So now that you have seen them in action you know that making your own wonderful pizza is just a Pizza Paddle away! The other great thing is that they are really inexpensive (under $10) and you don’t have to leave your house to buy a set for you and all of your friends. Click on Pizza Paddle and it will take you straight to Chef Panza’s site.

Let me know if you want Chef Panza's dough recipe.

Let me know if you want Chef Panza’s dough recipe.

Yes, while I agree that it is a little obnoxious to solicit you to buy something, it is also a noble thing to promote something clever, original, and support this one-man-show called Chef Panza, who loves food, his family and cooking for friends and strangers with the same gusto. I would love his little Pizza Paddle business to take off, so am hoping that he is showered with orders for the holidays.

we love pizza

We love pizza

After our pizza making demonstration a few nights ago, the kids made popcorn the old-fashioned way by dangerously wielding a big iron basket full of kernels in Chef Panza’s wood stove. It was a great night.

Much more fun than a  microwave!

Much more fun than a microwave!

Pizza in Rome

My trip to Rome with some friends and students combined education and fun, (overlapping frequently), and, one of the things I really looked forward to, was having lunch. It may seem a little pathetic to be in one of the most beautiful cities in the world, with art and history at every turn, and to be thinking about my stomach, and what deliciousness I could fill it with!

Sweet Cherub in the Church of Sant'Ivo alla Spienza

It was hardly my fault as, on the train ride in from Cortona, and while touring as many Baroque churches as we could at lightening speed before they closed, Mario reminded me several times of the fabulous place he was going to secure us a table for our well-deserved repast.

lunch

When the announcement to break for lunch was made,  Mario bolted through the crowded thoroughfare (that is Rome!) to snag a table. I walked behind with Danielle (our lovely art history expert, and fast friend) smiling in amusement at him zigzagging his way out of sight. Mario’s gusto was for nought however, as no end of charm doled out by him was enough to get us a table for at least 45 minutes. That would have been fine except we only had 75 minutes before we had to be back on our whirlwind baroque tour.

a quick glimpse of the kitchen

Plan B was put into action immediately. There was a quick gastronomic exchange between himself and Danielle, and off he went again! Our destination was Pizzeria La Montecarlo. It was a veritable madhouse, inside and out. There were people clammering for tables from every angle, and so it was a mystery to me as to how Mario was able to talk his way into getting our party of 5 a table almost instantly? Possibly something to do with the fact that Rome is as familiar to him as his backyard, and the waiter recognised him! Being in company such as his, in a place like this, certainly had it’s advantages (making note that the next time I go to Rome, he will be by my side).

Typical Roman Fried Food

I was finally having the restaurant experience I had dreamed of before I arrived in Italy. It was crowded to the point of exploding, waiters were loud, laughing and joking with customers, and in the same instance balking orders at each other, and all of this din was music to my ears. Getting to our table was a game of dodging and side stepping waiters carried enormous platters of pizza or glasses with carafes of vino della casa!

This waiter could carry any amount of pizza!

We squeezed into our table and had menus in our hands, and wine on the table in a flash. These waiters were like machines, but possessed that lovely Italian charm and relaxed easy demeanour of someone who had all the time in the world to stop and chat at their leisure. The energy in the room was intoxicating, and I was very happy to let it wash over me, and sweep me up in this celebration of people getting to sit down together and eat something splendid.

Andrea' pizza; Pizza con prosciutto and Danielle's Pizza con cipollini (onions)

Danielle said we should try a platter of typical roman fried food to start, which we did, along with 5 pizzas. This was going to be a feast, and on looking around the room, everyone else appeared to have the same celebratory sense, with food teetering on the edges of tables.

Mario had the Montecarlo pizza. The piece de resistance was the fried egg on top. The trick was to eat the piece with the egg on it last, as by that time, it is cooked to unctuous perfection.

The fried food was one of those things you could eat all day long (like when you open a bag of potato chips, and no matter how hard you try, you can’t stop eating until they are all gone!). We had fried mozzarella balls, covered in a cornmeal batter, along with rice balls, zucchini blossoms stuffed with cheese, and olives stuffed with anchovies. It was hard to leave room for my pizza, but I sat on my hands to stop me from completely filling up on these jewels of oily, battered goodness.

Our pizza arrived in a flurry and as we ate, I marvelled as waiters sailed by carrying tray upon tray of pizzas in Cirque de Soleil style! There was something so energizing about being in a place like pizzeria Montecarlo at the height of the lunch rush. It made me eat my food in a more frantic way, like it was my last meal, and each bite precious and memorable.

In the distance; Trinita dei Monti at the top of the Spanish Steps.

We all got swept up in a wonderful food moment. It was sunday in Rome and everyone was out and about savouring what they could of the beautiful day, and I glad to be among them.