Can’t, Fahgettaboudit!

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I still haven’t gotten over my trip to Italy this summer.  While decorating my Christmas tree, I was thinking about the differences between “Americanized” Italian food and the food in Italy.  Tonight I felt like something Italian and comforting.  Eggplant parmesan sounded good, and it happens to be red and green.  Hello…. Christmas colors!   While taking a cooking class in Rome, a Roman Chef taught me how to make the perfect pomodoro sauce.  You have to make this sauce.  It is absolutely perfect.

Time-1 hour

Servings- 4 to 8

Ingredients for Pomodoro

2 28 ounce Whole peeled tomatoes (San Marzano), 2 shallots halved, 3 cloves of garlic smashed, 4 leaves of fresh basil, handful of thyme bundled with twine and 1 tsp of kosher or sea salt.

Ingredients for breading of Eggplant

8 ounces Italian Panko breadcrumbs, 5 eggs, 1 cup of flour, 2 eggplants sliced into 16 slices no larger than 1/2 inch thick, 1.5 L Extra light olive oil, parsley, parmigiano-reggiano cheese, 1-6 oz package of shredded mozzarella cheese and salt.

Preparation of Pomodoro

Blend whole peeled tomatoes until desired consistency.  Add tomatoes to sauce pot and add shallots, garlic, basil, thyme and salt.  Bring to a low boil and add lid then bring down to a low simmer.  Simmer for 40 minutes with lid on then take lid off for last 20 minutes for a thicker sauce.  The Chef in Rome said, “You Americans like chopped onions and garlic in your sauce.”  The Italians like the flavor the onions and garlic impart but don’t like it in the sauce.  They leave things almost whole so they can fish them out when the sauce is ready.  It’s easier to make and actually tastes better.  Life changing!

Preparation of Eggplant

Pre-heat oven to 4oo degrees.  Place olive oil in pot and bring to 350-365 degrees.  Slice eggplant into 16 slices with skin on.  Prepare breading station by placing the flour in a platter with 1/2 tsp of salt.  The 5 eggs should be mixed and in its own platter.  The breadcrumbs in it’s own platter with 1/2 tsp of salt and some parmigiano-reggiano cheese.  

Breading order- flour then egg and lastly breadcrumbs

When oil is between 350-365 degrees gently add breaded eggplant into olive oil and fry until golden brown on both sides.  Set eggplant on a raised metal rack so eggplant doesn’t sit in oil.  

I like to assemble the eggplant layered like a lasagna in its own dish.  Start with sauce then eggplant, mozzarella cheese, parmigiana-reggiano cheese and repeat.  The last layer add some fresh parsley and bake for 20 to 25 minutes until cheese is melted and bubbling.  

Ready for baking

This can be layered in a larger pyrex like a lasagna if desired.  Enjoy!

Manga Manga

That’s Amore

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Fish / Pasta


Positano Inspired Seafood Pasta

My family and I visited Spain and Italy this summer.   I was so inspired by the food, drink and the culture we experienced.  The food in Italy was not what I expected.  I found it to be simplistic, not in a negative way.  I think in the United States we add more cream and coat our pasta with more sauce.  In Italy the pastas texture is by far and away better than what we experience in the states.  The sauce lightly dresses the pasta and the use of olive oil is in the forefront of the flavors you taste.   One of my favorite meals was in the Campania region of Italy, Positano.  This should be of know surprise since the Campania region is known for their volcanic fertile soil.  Mount Vesuvius blesses this region because it’s soil produces some of the best tasting tomatoes, lemons and buffalo mozzarella.   The charming vertical city of Positano is a coastal town along the Amalfi coast.


The best meal we had all vacation was at Chez Black Restaurant.  If you visit Positano you can’t miss it.  Chez Black is beachfront encircled by terraces of homes and hotels rising on the limestone mountains of the Amalfi Coast.  I ordered the seafood pasta and a glass of white wine.


The pasta and seafood were perfectly cooked.  The sauce was a mixture of pomodoro, seafood flavor and olive oil.  The white wine was crisp and refreshing and a perfect counterpoint to my dish.  After eating I went shopping and found the perfect made in Italy Ceramic Dish to recreate this meal with.


We dipped out feet in the ocean then grabbed some gelato on our way out.  It was absolutely perfect.


After being home for a week and adjusting to the time change.  I was determined to recreate my seafood pasta.  What I came up with is almost exactly the same flavors I remember.

Time- 40 minutes



1 lb of high grade Italian spaghetti from Italy, 2 cups of pomodoro sauce, 1 1/2 cups of white wine, 1/2 cup of jarred clam juice, 3 TBS of shallots diced, 1 TBS of chopped fresh fennel, 2 garlic cloves chopped, 1/2 Serrano pepper chopped, zest of 1 lemon, olive oil to coat pan and handful of parsley chopped.

The amount of seafood depends on the amount of people you are cooking for.  Here is a guideline I like to follow.

2 scallops, 2 shrimp, 3 mussels, 3 little neck clams per person.  This is just a guide so add whatever seafood you enjoy.  However, the shellfish are very important they add the pot liquor that makes this dish delicious.


It’s very important to prep all the ingredients before cooking.  In a bowl of ice water scrub and debeard the shellfish.  Chop all the shallots, garlic, serrano pepper, fennel, and parsley.  Pat dry the scallops and shrimp with a paper towel.  Fill a large pot with water and bring to a boil.  In a large skillet coat the pan with olive oil and turn to medium heat. When oil is hot season shrimp and scallops with salt and pan fry.  The shrimp will be ready in 2-3 minutes.  The scallops may take a little longer.



When shrimp and scallops are golden brown set aside on platter.


Using the same skillet add the shallots, serrano peppers, fennel and garlic.  Sauté for a few minutes then add mussels, clams, wine, clam juice and turn burner to high and cover with lid and bring to a boil.

When your large pot of water comes to a boil season water with kosher salt and drop pasta and cook for 7 minutes.


Once the pot is at it’s boiling point the shellfish will open in approximately 4 minutes.  Shake the pan with lid on to help the shellfish open.  Lift lid and any shellfish that didn’t open discard occasionally clams may take more time if you are using manilla clams.  Give it a couple more minutes but if they don’t open they are dead and throw away the clam.  Once all the shellfish is cooked add the pomodoro sauce.  When pasta is ready drain and add to the skillet and mix together.  Return scallops and shrimp to the dish and finish with lemon zest, parsley and drizzle some finishing olive oil.  Transfer to serving platter.


Buon Appetito!

Cook’s note

  1.  If you are not using your own pomodoro I vouch that this brand of jarred sauce works great.  I can’t speak to any other jarred sauce.  San Marzano pomodoro.  You can find it on Amazon or Whole Foods.



2.   When platting add another drizzle of olive oil to pasta.  You should taste it on your      lips when you eat the pasta.



Breakfast Perfection

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Cheesy Jalapeño and Shallot Hash Brown with Bacon and Eggs

Imagine a perfectly crispy, cheesy and spicy hash brown that has sprinkled bacon and sunny side eggs on top.  It’s heaven in your mouth.  Sometimes my kitchen is the best breakfast spot in town.  I want to go somewhere and order this!  It’s so ridiculously delicious.  Let me teach you how to make it so you can experience breakfast perfection!

Time-20 minutes

Servings-1 or 2


1 Large Russet Potato, 2-3 eggs, 2 slices of bacon, 1/2 jalapeño grated, 1/4 cup of shredded Mexican cheese, 1 1/2 tsp of grated shallot, 2 tsp olive oil, 1/2 tsp of butter, cilantro, green onion and salt to taste.


Cook bacon to desired crispiness and set aside.  Peel and Grate 1 large russet potato. IMG_2602

If you have cheesecloth place hash-browns in it and squeeze out the excess water.  If you don’t have cheesecloth just use your hands.  Removing the excess water will ensure a crispy hash brown.


Grate jalapeño and shallot.

In a 12 inch non-stick skillet on medium heat add olive oil and butter.  Spread out hash browns in skillet and sprinkle jalapeños and shallots to one side.  Add salt to taste.


With a heat resistant spatula pat down hash browns while padding in the sides to create a tight circle.  Once edges start to brown, slightly lift hash browns to peek if its golden brown.  If it’s golden brown place a plate on top and flip pan over then slide uncooked hash browns in skillet.  Season browned hash browns with a pinch of salt.

Add Mexican blend cheese.  While cheese is melting fry your eggs in the style you enjoy them.


Once cheese is melted the hash browns will be crispy on other side.  The hash brown will slide out onto plate.  Break bacon into bite size pieces and plate.


Add eggs and chopped cilantro and green onions for garnish.


You are welcome, insert sarcasm.

St. Patrick’s Day alla Mexicana

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Beef / Mexican

Corned Beef Flautas with Shamrock Shaped Avocado-Tomatillo Salsa

When I was a kid, my Mother would make these canned corned beef hash tacos.  We used to eat them with ketchup spiked with Tabasco sauce.  My Mom worked full time while raising four children.  She managed to cook for us, take us to sporting events, and be team Mom.  She had tasty recipes that seemed to whip up in no time.    Her well stocked pantry was her way of feeding us fast.  Eating out was not really an option.  The corned beef hash tacos were delicious.  However, that was pretty much my exposure to corned beef.  I’ve never made a corned beef brisket for St. Patrick’s Day until now.  The brisket cooked in the slow cooker reminded me of the shredded beef found in a taco or flauta.  That’s how this recipe was developed.  It is my take on merging my childhood memories with some holiday whimsy.


Time-Active 1 hour Inactive 3 hours


  • 2-3 lbs of Corned Beef, 3 cups of water
  • 3 Large Avocados, 5 Tomatillos, 1/2 onion, 3 cloves of garlic, juice of 1 lemon, 1 1/2 tsp of kosher salt.
  • 12 soft flour tortillas fajita size, 3 cups of oil
  • Crema and cilantro for garnish


Place Corned Beef in slow cooker on high for 3 hours with 3 cups of water.  Cook until pull apart tender.


Once cooked it should look like this.  Once cooled pull apart and give meat a perpendicular chop and set aside.


Scoop avocado from skin and remove husks from tomatillos.  Then place all ingredients for Avocado salsa in blender.IMG_2167

Blend until smooth.  This avocado salsa will yield four cups and can be stored air tight for 3 days.


Pre heat oven to 400 degrees.  In a 12 inch skillet add 3 cups of vegetable oil on medium high heat. Have oil get to at least 350 degrees.  Then gently place flour tortilla in oil for a few seconds per side and set aside on a cooling rack so tortilla does not sit in its own oil.  Repeat until 12 flour tortillas are slightly fried.  This method allows for your flautas to remain crunchy and not oily.

Once all your tortillas are fried start filling them with corned beef.  Place all of them in a baking sheet and bake for 15-20 minutes.


The flautas will be slightly browned and tortilla will be crunchy and meat won’t be to oily.  Place cooked flautas on a shamrock shaped bed of avocado salsa.  Garnish with cream and cilantro.


Cheers to a Happy St. Patrick’s Day


Lazy Lady Soup

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Black Bean Soup

It’s cold and raining outside and I don’t want to go to the market.  Black bean soup is a recipe that can easily be made if you properly stock your pantry.  When I don’t feel like making a big to-do about food but I want something home cooked, it’s time for pantry soup.   I call this my “lazy lady soup” because I get a lot of help from the grocery store.  Keep these canned food items in the pantry so you have a meal that is ready, set and go.


Time-45 minutes


(4) 15.5 oz cans of black beans, 32 oz chicken stock, 14.5 oz stewed chopped tomatoes, 1/2 green pepper chopped or approx 1 cup, 1/2 red pepper chopped, 1 cup of pre-chopped onions, 5 cloves of garlic minced, 1 1/2 tsp of kosher salt and 4 strips of bacon chopped.  Creama, cilantro, lime wedges, jalapeños  and tortilla strips optional.


On medium-high heat add chopped bacon into pot.  Render bacon fat and when bacon starts to brown add the onions, red and green peppers.  Sauté for 5-10 minutes to soften vegetables.


Once vegetables are softened add garlic and incorporate for 2 minutes then add canned tomatoes including juices.  Cook for another 5 minutes to break down tomatoes.  Open black beans and drain juice and rinse.


Then add black beans to pot.


Add chicken stock and puree with an hand immersion blender.  Blend until smooth and bring to a boil.  Add salt and reduce for 5 minutes.  During this time you can make tortilla strips,  chop cilantro and lime wedges.


Make fancy design with creama using a squirt bottle.  Add tortilla strips and cilantro.  Enjoy with a squeeze of lime or chopped jalapeño for some heat.


Cook’s Note

  1.  To learn how to design with squirt bottles see blog Nana’s Hot Chocolate.
  2. To learn how to make tortilla strips see blog Chicken Soup for the Soul
  3. This is great with grilled chipotle shrimp as well to make a substantial meal.
  4. If you can find pre chopped green and red peppers as well this soup is even easier.
  5. A well stocked pantry will save you, add these items to your grocery list.  IMG_2035